No. 10s come in all shapes, sizes and styles in Premier League

No. 10s come in all shapes, sizes and styles in Premier League
From ESPN - September 22, 2017

Just in case you'd managed to forget about him, former Tottenham and Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood emerged from the shadows this week to provide his views on youth football in a television debate show. One of his complaints, among many others, was that too many youth footballers in England consider themselves No. 10s.

This was a particularly peculiar complaint considering one of English football's failings over the past few decades is the inability to produce talented, creative, gifted No. 10s capable of roaming between the lines. Incidentally, Sherwood has previously said that players "call themselves No. 10s" only "because they do not score enough goals."

But a cursory glance across the Premier League reveals a huge variety of players fielded in the No. 10 role so far this season -- from those who never score to those who ca not stop scoring. Below are five players who play very different No. 10 roles.

The driving midfielder: Steven Davis, Southampton

There's a type of No. 10 that is unquestionably a midfielder rather than a forward. Southampton's Steven Davis, for example, has enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign playing at the top of the Saints' midfield trio, leading by example while wearing the captain's armband. He scored an early winner at Selhurst Park last weekend.

Davis is more of a box-to-box player, a runner who provides his teammates with positive balls into the final third and dynamic off-the-ball movement to prompt quick passing combinations.

That Selhurst Park winner, though, was very much the exception to the rule. While a useful midfielder and a perennially underrated footballer, Davis' end product is sorely lacking, and his goal-scoring return of 10 goals in 172 Premier League appearances for Southampton is somewhat pitiful, even when considering he's usually been fielded in a deeper starting position.

In this role, Davis is a very British type of No. 10, a driving midfielder pushed into a more advanced position. He does not boast genuine creativity, he's not wonderfully gifted in possession, but his energy and attacking intent mean he's arguably more suited to this advanced role despite the fact that his goal-scoring and assisting figures will never be impressive.

The outright assister: Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

Manager Arsene Wenger's switch to a 3-4-3 system means Ozil has generally been fielded as more of an inside-right in recent months, but for the vast majority of his Arsenal career the German has been fielded as Arsenal's No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 system.

From that position, Ozil's role is almost solely about the simple concept of playing the final pass, having ghosted into unnoticed positions between the lines. Ozil does not generally contribute much in deeper positions -- he does not drift into midfield to dictate play, nor is he particularly impressive in terms of his goal scoring. Ozil is solely about assists.

In that respect, Ozil is -- sometimes -- unbeatable. He has been the leading assister in Bundesliga, La Liga, Premier League and Champions League campaigns, and few other players are so overwhelmingly selfless in the final third, eternally looking to feed teammates rather than shoot. He's a very Arsenal player.

Yet this also remains one of Ozil's shortcomings. When Ozil was fielded behind Olivier Giroud, a player who likes to hold up possession and wait for runners to sprint past him, Arsenal often lacked penetrative runs in the final third, depending upon movement from wide or Aaron Ramsey's bursts from deeper.

The midfielder-forward hybrid: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

Dele Alli grew up considering himself a midfielder. He idolised Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, the two obvious choices considering Alli's position and age, and immediately impressed at Tottenham in 2015 with driving midfield runs and trickery in tight spaces.


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