While it’s, arguably, impossible to determine which position is the most important in a soccer team, the number 10 position features prominently in such discussions. The playmaker largely dictates the progression of a team’s attacking sequence and is usually directly involved in creating goals, making it one of the most eye-catching positions on the pitch. Recent advances in tactical knowledge coupled with changes in the pace of the game make the modern interpretation of the position different from that of a few decades ago. We examine how.

A brief history

Although the specific roles of the playmaker changes depending on the coach’s preferred formation, some features are essential to the position. A playmaker in the classic sense is usually the most creative player in the squad. These players might not necessarily be the fittest or most athletic but they possess a football brain and technique that inevitably makes them the focal point in attack. The traditional number 10 either plays as a second striker, supporting the main striker by dragging opposing defenders out of position with a quick movement, or plays in the ‘hole’ directly behind the striker where they can dribble, pick out killer passes, or shoot at goal. The classic playmaker is freed from defensive duty, allowing them to roam the pitch and read the game. This level of freedom makes it possible for a playmaker to pick their moment and change games in an instant.

Tactical changes

The term playmaker is still often used interchangeably with attacking midfielder but both have come to mean different things. While it is true that a playmaker often occupies the central attacking position, it has also become common for a team’s playmaker to play behind the midfield line or even in defense. Many playmakers today dictate the flow of play from deep in midfield without getting frequently involved in the final third. Changes in the modern game mean the playmaker today, as part of a well-oiled machine, is required to keep pace with the rest of the team and perform multiple duties. A  number 10 in the traditional form will today be seen as slowing the team down, as evidenced by the travails of Mesut Ozil at Arsenal.

Number 10 today

It is unlikely, given current trends in the game, that the traditional number 10 will make a comeback. However, as the continuous evolution of the game has brought the classic number 9 back into prominence, it is also possible that the traditional playmaker will return in a modified form. Playmakers with all the qualities of a classic number 10 bar the lazy grace. The exploits of Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes in the 2020/2021 season shows that flair players can still dominate the narrative as long as they can adapt to the demands of the modern game.

There are few players with the technique of a traditional number 10 in the Premier League but their presence has changed the English game, even influencing events off the pitch. Punters noted the impact of Bruno Fernandes on Manchester United bets last season. A trend that might ultimately lead highly rated betting sites like www.casimba.com to include sports betting on their platforms.