By Mihail Vladimirov.
We all love the player that scores and gets assists. Those guys whose moments of genius at the end of an attacking move directly create the goals that get our teams to glory. And why not? The professionals, however – the coaches, the directors, the scouts, and so on – are capable of seeing things outside the box. Or, rather, inside the box. The large technical box of cogs and gears which power the team and allow those creative players to shine.
These people know that a player who only plays sideways and backwards passes can be useful. By doing so, the team can recycle possession. The classic example of a player who managed to break out of these stereotypes is Claude Makélélé. Florentino Perez and Vincente del Bosque thought him surplus to requirements at the Galactico Real Madrid. For France and for Chelsea he became so indispensible that they’ve named the defensive midfield position after him.
Last season after Kenny Dalglish took over Dirk Kuyt stole the headlines on a number of occasions; but every time he did it was because he was playing up front and scoring goals. His “best” performances (Manchester United where he scored three, and his goals against Fulham, Birmingham City and Newcastle United) according to the press were never when he was doing a crucial job marshalling the right wing.
Goals are important. But to deliver them you need the right platform. You have to be in possession, so you need someone to steal the ball from the opposition; you need to get the ball to advanced positions (unless you have found a player who can score regularly from 63 yards), so you need someone to pass to you. More importantly than that, you need to create the space to receive, control and strike the ball, and this process usually involves the entire team moving around, pulling markers out of position and creating holes. Even Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo – even Maradona in 1986 – need players around them to provide passes. Not every dribble can be against Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick. All of this is part of tactical balance which every team needs and every manager must instil.
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