We all know how important midfield is to a team’s cause in football, especially in this era of the game. Managers create their team’s base keeping the midfield section first in mind, so we’ll analyse today as to how a fluid midfield can be a catalyst for success in this strenuous modern-day football warfare.
We will be analysing the midfield structures of two English teams today who are sharing the top two positions in Premier League at present – Leicester City(1st) and Tottenham Hotspur(2nd).
Both Pochettino and Ranieri rely on their free-flowing midfield to carve out success.
If you’re first and second in the most frantic league after 75% of games played, then you’ve something very different which others are not able to track or are just unable to cope with it. Both Spurs and Leicester have managers who mostly rely on fluidity in midfield to carve out successes we’re witnessing in front of our eyes.
We’ll first take general look at both of their formations and then analyse both midfields one by one while in the process try to learn as to how a free-flowing midfield can do wonders :-
The above two are general shape and formation of Spurs and Leicester, Ranieri opts for a 4-4-2 flat formation with Kante and Drinkwater being at the heart of midfield; Mahrez and Albrighton patrolling the wing area; Okazaki just in behind the striker Vardy.
For Spurs, Pochettino goes with a stable 4-2-3-1 where Dier and Dembele control the midfield; Alli, Eriksen and Son/Lamela play in quite a narrow forward three behind Harry Kane.
Up next, we’ll analyse the midfield shape of leaders Leicester and learn about them a bit in the process :-
Now as we see the image above, Kante and Drinkwater are there in the centre of everything, take an instance that the opposition team is attacking from right-hand side, Albrighton tracks back and support Fuchs in wider area, Kante will go and fill in the gap between the centre-back and fullback which blocks the overlapping from midfielders, Drinkwater tracks back centrally marking the run of the attacking midfielder and helping out centre-back pair. While both Kante and Drinkwater are doing their defensive duties, Okazaki drops back a bit and takes up the position centrally with Vardy upfront always to keep the centre-backs under check, now the other way around; if the attack is ventured from left-hand side by opposition then Mahrez helps Simpson in defending crosses, Drinkwater now takes up the position in between the centre-back and fullback, Kante goes behind centrally to help the centre-backs. This is a continued process of their defending routine, just happens automatically to all the players and it seems all are easily accustomed to it.
While on the ball, Leicester play out from wide positions into the feet of either Mahrez or Albrighton, most of the time they play in early balls into the box giving Vardy and Okazaki a chance to test the back-line, Kante and Drinkwater also make inroad runs in and around the box to fill in the attacking numbers.
The main catalyst for success in Leicester is N’Golo Kante whose running all over the pitch and doing the defensive plus forward running duty makes him a player to watch out for in near future.
If we see the working of Leicester’s midfield shape, it seems like a poetry in motion kinda stuff, it feels like a process is started and all players are fitting in it and completing their jobs with very little fail. Flexible and Fluid midfield just makes things look simpler and they deservingly lead the table of the Barclays Premier League.
Up next, let’s take a look at the midfield shape of Tottenham and learn few key things about them too as to how they’re second in this league :-
We look at the image above, Dier and Dembele here are at centre of all the things. Dier is the deeper of two helping the centre-backs, Dembele on the other hand, knits the moves from deeper positions with marauding runs using his strength or play it into one of the three forward players. While defending, Son/Lamela and Alli help their fullbacks stopping crosses, Dembele and Dier together track back centrally to not allow any free space to manoeuver for the opposition. In that moment, Eriksen takes up the position centrally like Okazaki does for Leicester, ready to pounce on the second ball and start the counter. This cycle is also a continued one and it never seems to break or tire at any point of time which is a key factor.
While in possession, attack mainly starts from Dembele picking either of Alli or Son/Lamela, the trio of Eriksen, Alli and Son/Lamela are narrow when they are attacking resulting in overlap runs by fullbacks Walker and Rose, while the fullbacks are forward on overlaps, Dier sweeps up that wide gap if counter is imposed and danger is being cleared. Alli and Son/Lamela try to find the gap between a centre-back and fullback with Kane and Eriksen in the box as presence for centre-backs to deal with.
For me, the main catalyst of Spurs resurgence this year is the evolution and stability in the midfield, they just are like poetry in motion covering all aspects of the game and featuring in key moments of the game to snatch it.
Overall, if we look at both teams’ shape, we get to know slightly different things but one main aspect remained common in both of them, i.e, fluid, free-flowing midfield driving the team on both fronts of the pitch and being the main catalyst for success so far.
Ranieri and Pochettino have been superb in how they’ve managed to mould respective mid-table teams into a title-winning one, sudden rise of both the teams is something to behold and should be an inspiration for other mid-table teams and so called ‘big boys’ to gear up and challenge them.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 22nd February, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans