A team’s ‘number 10’, also known as a playmaker, has become a more and more important figure for most sides in the modern game. They have the freedom to float around the pitch and express their creativity in assisting their teammates to score and often create goals from nothing. It raises the question, however, whether one could actually lead their side to any titles?
We have seen, particularly in recent years, that past Premier League winners have had an important playmaker in their ranks, such as Manchester City in 2012 for whom David Silva created and scored numerous goals.
So far, this season has been no different with regards to a team’s reliance on the creative attacking midfielder. Look at Arsenal’s record signing in superstar Mesut Ozil for £42m. The German has hit the ground running and has already assisted seven of Arsenal’s Premier League goals this season, as well as scoring four himself, but can he actually lead his side to the title?
It’s of little doubt that Ozil has helped propel Arsenal to former heights and a dominance which has somewhat eluded them in more recent years, but a playmaker – not Ozil specifically – can’t win his team a title alone. The three sides in the Premier League with perhaps the most gifted attacking midfielders are Arsenal, City and Chelsea, but even though Arsenal are top at the halfway stage, the favourites this season are arguably City, because as well as talent and depth in their attacking midfielders, they also have an amazing strike force and it is this that wins titles.
No matter how talented the likes of Ozil, Mata, Cazorla, Hazard or Oscar are, every team needs their talisman to carry the burden of scoring the chances that the aforementioned players create for them. Looking at all the Premier League title winning sides, the most important figure for them has largely been their striker. Look at how influential Robin van Persie was in Manchester United’s title win last season.
The season before – though David Silva was instrumental – Sergio Aguero was even better, his importance amplified after he scored that famous last minute goal against QPR to win City the title. Alan Shearer back in 1995 with Blackburn, Cole and Yorke in 1999 for United’s treble, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp for the Invincibles, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo for multiple United titles. The list goes on and it is undeniable that strikers win games, so consistent goal scorers win titles.
With the exception of Chelsea’s titles in 2005 and 2006, a time when Didier Drogba was still finding his feet in the Premier League, when the Ivorian hit the form of his life in 2010, it’s no coincidence that the Blues lifted the trophy that year also, not to mention their Champions League and FA Cup glory in 2012, also aided by one Didier Drogba.
Back to the present day and without a prominent striker, Arsenal and Chelsea will fall behind in the title race in the long term. Olivier Giroud has improved since his debut season, but recently suffered a lapse in goal scoring form for Arsenal. Though he holds up the ball well for his teammates and works hard, he isn’t of the world class calibre needed to lead a title winning line. Ozil and the rest of Arsenal’s midfield will need someone more consistent in front of them.
The same can be said for Chelsea as it seems that the only position in which they lack quality and consistency is up front. It’s been proven in recent games, when they struggle to kill off opponents, that despite the wealth of talent there, their attacking midfield still need someone in front of them to score. Six Premier League goals between strikers Torres, Eto’o and Ba is something more readily associated with teams fighting relegation.
It is Manchester City’s balance and depth in the creative midfield and striking positions which make them favourites to be champions come May. They are the only complete squad in the league. Aguero and Negredo are formidable and even if City had to call up backups in Jovetic or Dzeko, there are still goals in them, especially with Toure, Silva, Nasri and Navas feeding them.
Arsenal and Chelsea have the creativity, but without the proper firepower they will fall behind. The same imbalance can be said about Liverpool and Manchester United, though they suffer from the opposite problem. Though Suarez has been unreal of late and he and Sturridge have formed a great partnership, they still lack that special something in the midfield to assist them. Van Persie and Rooney also need more creativity behind them, whereas Spurs seem to be lacking consistency in all areas.
It could well have been a very different season had Rooney gone to Chelsea, Suarez to Arsenal and any creative playmaker to United. This coming transfer window will certainly make for an interesting one.