Saturday, January 3, 2015

Defensive Midfielder: The Unsung Hero and The Silent Warrior

In case you meet any children who really enthusiast about football and you ask him who is his favorite football player, in this day, they will apparently say a group of these footballers, like Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Frank Lampard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, etc. It is very rare for those children to say player like Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Danielle De Rossi, Michael Carrick as their favorite football players. This also happens to the most people who do not like and do not really know about football. They will apparently express the same things about their favorite footballers. However, in girl cases, their favorite player is every footballers who has good-looking and cool faces. LoL.

That phenomena is merely natural remembering those mentioned player are clearly amazing and always consistent in performance. Furthermore, the case of favorite player for most people is normally affected by the amount of goals, assist, dribble, and saves that created by the players, individually. That’s why the name like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manuel Neuer, are more familiar than players like Sergio Busquets, Michael Carrick and Xabi Alonso or other players who has role as defensive midfielder, or the holding midfielder.

Why the defensive midfielder is not very famous compared to other players in other position even though they are also excellent footballers?

It is because of the role. The role as defensive midfielder.

What is it like being defensive midfielder?

This position is basically a midfielder who has prior job to protect the defense from the opposition’s attack. Usually the player will stand slightly deeper than the attacking midfielder. When the opposition’s attack is coming, this player is the first man who responsible to break down the attack. This player is also the man who has to win the ball in every rebound in the middle of pitch. To fulfill this task, this player really needs to be superb in his physical attributes.

Furthermore, player who stand on this position has the clear view of the pitch. Therefore, in attacking scenario, this man is the one who responsible to distribute the ball from the defender to the playmaker or even to the forward directly. Every direction of the ball whether it goes to the right or left, it will come to this position first. Sometimes, this player is called as “The Water Carrier”. That’s why not only physical attributes that needed by the holding midfielder, but also excellent positioning, good vision, and ability to read the game so that this player knows exactly where to deliver the ball, whether it goes to the middle of the pitch, to the wide players, or even to the further forward by long-range passes.

Based on the description above, we can see here that the job of the defensive midfielder is really pivotal. Both attacking and defending scenario really need the presence of this player. Every goal that created by the strikers and assisted by the playmakers, is coming from this player delivery. If there is only minimum threat in defense, it is because this player is able to keep the opponent’s playmakers silent during 90 minutes game.

Unfortunately, this defensive midfielder job is really hard to be seen by the people who do not really know about football. People who only cares about the beauty of the goal, will never understand about the importance of this position. Most people will only appreciate the goalscorer and the assister whenever the goal is created and they will also thank to the defender and goalkeeper whenever the team is having the clean-sheet, whereas this defensive midfielder is always there contributing and helping the team on both in attacking and defending.

Not only on the pitch, these players are also barely recognized for their talent and hard work outside of the pitch. In football worlds, very small numbers of players in this position is awarded by the FIFA or other football association. In most competition, the individuals awards that usually given is for The Top Goalscorer, The Best Goalkeeper, The Best Players. As long as I know very small number of defensive midfielder who could win the awards as The World Best Footballer of the year. 

Defensive Midfielder in Modern Football.

The role of the defensive midfielder is being more important in the modern football. In modern football, 4-5-1 formation and its variation (4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3), are the most common formation compared to 4-4-2 and 3-5-2. 4-5-1 formation focus on the strength of the midfield as the main balance for the team. Therefore 4-5-1 scheme and its variation always require a group of excellent midfielders as well as the defensive midfielder.

I can say that Carlo Ancelotti with AC Milan (in 2003-2007) and Jose Mourinho with Chelsea (2004-2007) are the two man who created the defensive midfielder in the 4-5-1 scheme became so important. Don Carlo put the duo of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso as The Elegant-Destroyer Defensive Midfielder in AC Milan Team at that time. With that, he succeed to bring 2 UCL trophies to AC Milan’s cabinet. On the other hand, The Special One was relying Claude Makelele as the Anchor Man to protect John Terry’s defense and to start-up the Chelsea’s Attack by performing simple passes. With Makelele in front of Chelsea defense, Mourinho can maximize the ability of Frank Lampard to lead and to conduct the Chelsea Attack. Mourinho brought 2 Premier League Titles in a row to Stamford Bridge using that scheme.
Chelsea in 2004/2005 season and AC Milan in 2006/2007 season that used to exploit the importance of holding midfielder role

Because of that succees, Andrea Pirlo is well-known as Regista, the playmaker who stays in the back. Meanwhile, Claude Makelele was prominent with his Anchor Man roles that always known as the midfielder who always protect the defense and only performing simple pass to build the attack. Sometimes people called Makelele's position in Chelsea as The Makelele Role. Since the success of these 2 men, a lot of quality players in this position are showing up following their senior.

I will pick 3 defensive midfielders that I think are the best example in current best defensive midfielder in the world. Those are Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sergio Busquets, and Xabi Alonso.

Unlike Andrea Pirlo and Claude Makelele, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sergio Busquets are the type of defensive midfielder who hold the pivotal roles in the possession game. For Schweinsteiger, as matter of fact, it was not his original role, he was a winger in his early career in Bayern Munich. But when Van Gaal came to Munich in 2007, Schweinsteiger was given the holding midfielder roles since then. Alongside with Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos in midfield, Schweini take Bayern to win the Continental Treble Winner in 2013. In addition, Joachim Loew, as the Coach of Germany National Team, also followed Van Gaal to give Schweinsteiger the holding midfielder roles in Die Nationalmannschaft. When Germany crowned World Cup 2014, Schweinsteiger played this roles all the time. While he held the pivotal roles, Mario Goetze, Toni Kroos, and Mesut Ozil are ordered to go further forwared finding space and creating an assist to Thomas Mueller or Miroslav Klose.

On the other hand, Sergio Busquets was raised and developed by Pep Guardiola to be the anchor man in front of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique. Excellent positioning, sharp vision, and ability to read the game are the key talent of this man. In Barcelona, Busquets has roles to start-up the famous Tiki-Taka scheme. Every direction of the ball in Tiki-Taka scheme was coming to his position first before it goes Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, or Leo Messi. His consistent performer as holding midfielder guarantee his own place as first team holding midfielder in Barcelona and also in Spain National Team despite there are a lot of quality players in his position. He even forced some other prominent defensive midfielders like Seydou Keita, Yaya Toure, Javier Mascherano, and Alex Song to go to the bench in Barcelona. I was ever so blind about this man because of his diving act in UCL Semifinal 2010 against Inter Milan. It happened for years but when I tried to open myself, seeing from objective view, I really admit that this guy is truly a world class defensive midfielder.

Xabi Alonso. For me he is the most complete defensive midfielder in the world right now. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sergio Busquets are so outstanding in bulding game play for possession football. However, they are slightly prone to the opponent’s attack. Yet, Xabi is exceptional. He has been excellent for so many years either in attacking or defending. He has been proved in so many occasions to play several roles as holding midfielder in different game play. In Liverpool, he was more likely as Regista, the same roles that played by Andrea Pirlo in AC Milan. He also adapted so good with the Kick and Rush styles of English football. In Madrid he was even become a complete defensive midfielder. He played two roles in the same times. He was a Regista as well as Anchor Man during his spell in Real Madrid. He was the key man behind the Deadly Counter Attack of Real Madrid in Mourinho’s and Ancelotti’s era. And now, in Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola’s command, he is playing as holding midfielder like what Bastian and Busquets did in their teams. With Xabi Alonso filling his pivotal position in his team, Pep is really enjoying his time coaching the group of talented player in Bavarians Land.

And now, recently, I found my new favorite defensive midfielder, it is Nemanja Matic. This Serbian defensive midfielder who play for Chelsea, has strong in physique, good in positioning, excellent in passing, and balance between defending and attacking. He proved himself as one of the future best with his consistent performance. He was even able to neutralize Yaya Toure's domination among English Premier Division midfielder. I really hope he can develop further and became one of the best defensive midfielder in the world. Now, some people already touted him as the new Makelele in Chelsea. 

But still, even with their hard work on the pitch, these amazing defensive midfielder will always be difficult to be as famous as their teammates. Many people will see that Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, and Manuel Neuer are more important to Bayern due to their assists, goals, and goalkeeper saves than Schweinsteiger. Sergio Busquets will never surpass the popularity of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez despite he is the one who start-up the Tiki-Taka scheme in Barcelona. And also, Xabi Alonso will never be as famous as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Sergio Ramos, whereas he was the man behind the Real Madrid’s fast counter attack. And now, in Chelsea, most people think that excellent performance of Chelsea is because of Fabregas and Diego Costa presence. Yes, it is right, but still, Nemanja Matic is the man who always consistent to keep the attack and defense of Chelsea remain in balance.

As my conclusions in this writing, forever and ever, whatever it takes, this position always offers the pivotal roles in the football team without so much recognition. Defensive Midfielder will always be The Man who will be called The Unsung Hero and The Silent Warrior in Football.

1 comment:

  1. For me he is the most complete defensive midfielder in the world right now, let's join us taruhan bola online