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Different tactical systems mean different duties for individual players

October 23rd, 2012 SB Tang No comments

Earlier tonight, I wrote during the second half of the Barcelona v Celtic Champions League group game at the Camp Nou:

Where was Song (Barca’s only nominal holding midfielder) in that 2 v 2 Celtic counter-attack which Wanyama fluffed!?

It was left to poor Xavi to hare back to support the two exposed Barca centre-backs. The man’s got enough on his mind, what with his symphony orchestra conducting duties and all …

In response, a gentleman named Dave Konopka emailed The Guardian to say:

I love how SB Tang apparently thinks that Song “holds” or otherwise plays defense. As a loyal Arsenal fan, I can tell you with absolute certainty that three things will happen whenever Alexandre Song plays. 1) He will play at least one incredibly incisive pass. 2) He will never be in position to break up a counter-attack. 3) He will commit a lot of fouls. This is why Arsenal are playing better defensively after selling Song, even if Arteta is far from a prototypical defensive midfielder.

Unfortunately, The Guardian didn’t have time to publish my response to Mr Konopka so here it is in full:

Dear Mr Konopka

Um, yeah mate, I reckon we’re in agreement — my point was that Song isn’t actually performing his function in this Barca side as the one and only holding midfielder, hence my reference to him as “Barca’s only nominal holding midfielder”.

Arsenal’s tactical system last season and this season is slightly different from Barca’s.

Arsenal typically play a midfield triangle with a deeper-lying two man base (last season it was any two of Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Frimpong or Coquelin) and only one more advanced creative midfielder (this season: Cazorla, Cazorla and, if Cazoral ever gets injured, a life-size cardboard cut-out of Happy Gilmore) supporting their lone striker, so Song could afford to lope forward and play his trade mark scoop passes for Van Persie to volley home. (As a Liverpool fan, Van Persie’s volley at Anfield still gives me cold sweats at night.)

By contrast, at Barca, Song is expected to play centre-back or function as the one and only nominal holding midfielder in their central midfield triangle which typically features two (you know who) playing high.

In short, different tactical systems mean different duties for individual players.

Cheers

SB