Mesut Ozil and the dying breed of the No.10
Over the past few years, the role of the No.10 has been crucial to football, especially to the Premier League, but recently, such a role has become surplus to requirements for football clubs.
With teams often preferring to play a balanced 4-3-3 formation, the role of the creative playmaker often falls to one of the three in midfield, who is often also tasked with some defensive work. This has led to several playmakers to either end up on the bench, or else playing on the wings.
A pure example of this is the ongoing dilemma with Mesut Ozil. One cannot fault his quality on the ball, with his vision being exceptional in the modern game, yet Unai Emery has used him sparingly so far this season, since he does not have the defensive instinct to track back and help his team defend. With Emery utilising a 4-4-2 formation in the past few games, Ozil's role has become more and more unclear, with him not having the right qualities to fit in at either position in their midfield. Many feel that he is lazy, yet in the past he has shown that his cutting-edge is heavily needed at Arsenal.
Another example of the dying position of the No.10 is Juan Mata. Yes Mata has been playing consistently over the last few seasons, but he has rarely been used as a playmaker in behind the striker, often being deployed on the right-wing instead. With Jesse Lingard's breakthrough into the first-11, Mata has seen his playing-time limited to cameos off of the bench and starts in less important fixtures, such as the FA Cup and league games against weaker opposition.
Philippe Coutinho, who was bought for a staggering fee by Barcelona, has been rarely used in his Barcelona career, and when he has played, he has often played in the left-wing position.
So who are the few remaining No.10's that still play in their natural position?
There are not many that still play consistently, but one of which is Christian Eriksen, with Tottenham's style of play being suited to his qualities in midfield. The Dane struggled with injuries earlier on in the season, but now with the absence of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, he has become the focal point of the Tottenham attack, often adapting their play to suit his qualities.
The major change that has been brought about in world football is through the emergence of the box-to-box playmaker. This has been seen through Paul Pogba's new role under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as well as Aaron Ramsey's role in the Arsenal team. These players are expected to be the creative spark in the team, whilst also being disciplined enough to track back and defend. The end result of such a change has been fruitful, with Ramsey's numbers being far more impressive than those of Ozil, and Pogba has shined under Solskjaer, scoring 6 goals and having 5 assists ever since the Norwegian took over.
Whether the role of the No.10 will die out or not in the future is still in question, but the role has been ever-changing in the past few seasons.