Editorials

The evolution of deep-lying playmakers and their role in modern football

The playmakers are supposed to be the sole creative outlet for a team- the one who acts as the bridge between the defense and attack of a team. A deep-lying playmaker is one of the most versatile players who frequently drop in the defensive line when there is an attack from the opposition but at the same time, are one of the essential players who provide the first of the touches for a possible counter-attack. With their great vision, they also find in space between the opposition play to facilitate the chances for the attackers. They fit into most formations and systems seamlessly and provide an extra dimension and edge to attack while occasionally carrying out the tedious work in defense.

In Italy, a deep-lying play-maker is often called a “regista”, which roughly translates into “Director”, bringing out his importance to a team. He is the one who is supposed to ‘direct’ the gameplay-pull the strings and bring out chances and open up the spaces for his team to breathe and play comfortably.

In modern days, Andrea Pirlo personified the ideal Regista. A deep-lying playmaker, who controlled the tempo, played beautifully weighted passes and through balls and was the creative heart of his team.

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However, as the game became more and more about pressing and not man marking, the role of the regista changed. Not only Creating and controlling the game remained but also shielding the defence became important. The game today is about space. And thus, the classical role of Regista has evolved into the role of a PIVOT.

And who else could be an epitome of a pivot than Sergio Busquets himself! As long ago as 2008, when Busquets was just 20, Johan Cruyff, was hailing his importance.

“Positionally, he seems like a veteran with or without the ball,” he said. “With the ball he makes what is difficult look easy: he disposes of the ball with one or two touches. Without the ball, he gives us a lesson: that of being in the right place to intercept and running just to recover the ball.”

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The primary role:

Primarily, a playmaker is supposed to sit between the defense and attack and look for opportunities by playing short passes in all direction. Their responsibility also involves not losing possession of the ball in the centre of the park, thereby avoiding counter-attacks by opposition teams. They dictate play from a rather withdrawn position when compared to modern-day number 10s; playing behind your everyday attacking mid-fielder and ahead of the centre back.

Position:

The best part of these playmakers is their ability to fit in all formations- be it 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. They adapt to the formations and can drop to defense in case of an opposition attack and can quickly change the stance of the game by being the quintessential feature in providing the accurate passes and opening the possibilities of a counter-attack. Even in general, with a position from where he can view the attack of their team, he reads the passes which can lead to a better chance of getting the ball through the opposing defenses and into the heart of the goal.

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Skillset:

Decorated players in the deep-lying mid-fielder role are usually blessed with plenty of vision, creativity and finesse. They should be able to spot a run or a free player faster than the opposition defender and get the ball to him. They should be able to visualise a potential move 2 or 3 steps beforehand and should be able to kick start the same often.

The passing range of such players is usually very expansive and covers the entire ground. Be it a 60-yard cross-field pass or a deft one-two with a nearby teammate, they should be able to do it with minimum fuss and unmatched accuracy.

Their touch too is the top drawer as they are expected not to lose possession and to guide the attack. With opponents trying hard to retain possession, they should have timeless composure on the ball, playing with it almost as it is a part of their body.

Characteristics:

They make a high amount of short passes while attempting to find space and openings to dispatch the ball forward. They are the ones who are the first few to absorb the pressings from the oppositions and playing the right passes to avoid the ball going to their box.

While on the prowl, they can be seen just in front of the center backs; usually collecting the ball and building up threatening moves. In more attack-minded teams like the current day Real Madrid and Manchester United, deep-lying play-makers can be mostly seen roaming around the halfway line and holding off the entire opposition team while directing passes to remote corners of the field.

While, it is evident that the role of a deep-lying playmaker is one of the toughest jobs and needs players with great calibre, yet mostly these players go unappreciated.

People generally tend to look at the great attacks of the teams but fail to notice the pass which opened up the attacking chance.

This is the reason why some of the most skilled players are not appreciated enough.

Del Bosque once quoted on Sergio Busquets: “You watach the game, you don’t see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the whole game.”

Like him, one can never forget legends like Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and Paul Scholes whose great ability to read the game made their teams the best in their respective era.

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It is high time that we finally appreciate these less glamorous players and understand the big responsibilities they are carrying out, with great success.

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