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Modern Football: Explaining the Fall of Kaka, Ganso and the Rise of Arturo Vidal

TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 16:  Andrea Pirlo (R) of Juventus FC celebrates his goal with team-mates Kwadwo Asamoah during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Atalanta BC at Juventus Arena on December 16, 2012 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 19, 2012

In football, we often speak about the development of the game and how "modernised" a player is.

Writing about how versatile Christian Eriksen is yesterday underlined the importance of mobility and adaptability in a player, but it also made it much easier to see how certain players are simply left behind.

The example used in the above article is Ganso, and we can touch on him and a few others to illustrate what's really required in 2012.

 

What is a "modern player"?

Last month, I wrote this article on five examples of this so-called modern player. It wasn't a ranking, it wasn't the top five. It was, quite simply, five examples.

The underlying characteristics shared by all these players are mobility, agility, versatility and equal technical and physical prowess.

Arturo Vidal, in particular, is one of the most well-rounded footballers the game has ever seen. The Chilean international is a complete work horse, but he also creates, scores and tackles like it's second nature to him.

His international teammate, Mauricio Isla, is as versatile and physical as they come, but still retains the technical skills to thrive in a Juventus team currently romping Serie A.

Cast your eyes over the Old Lady's squad—are there any players in the starting XI who aren't multi-talented? Even Andrea Pirlo can move when he needs to at 33 years of age.

 

Bordering on extinct

This modern player, or this new breed if you will, has been threatening to usurp the specialist for some time.

Chris Atkins wrote this excellent piece in July regarding the contrasting fortunes of Brazilian starlets Neymar and Ganso. Where the former had adapted his game, added a tinge of robustness, and mastered several positions, the latter was still stuck in the stone age.

Essentially, Ganso is an old-school No. 10 who likes to sit between the lines and dictate the play. But there's a problem with this—we've already seen the fall of Juan Roman Riquelme and Kaka in the past decade, and they utilise the exact same role.

The enganche is dead, or it is at least an expired art for the languid player whose only skill is to create. 

Who played as Udinese's playmaker last season? Kwadwo Asamoah. Where is he now? Playing as a left-wing-back for the Bianconeri under Antonio Conte.

If Asamoah can perform well enough as a No. 10 to attract the interest of Juve, then instantly thrive in a completely different and alien role of wing-back, then who needs Ganso? or Kaka?

 

Goodbye specialists

Paolo Bandini of The Guardian wrote this enlightening piece featuring quotes from legendary AC Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi, with the Italian maestro explaining his stance on the game:

I see kids who are 14 or 15 years old who are already specialists. But football is not a sport of specialists.

I was watching the under-15s the other day—14-year-old boys—and the central defenders arrived and all they did was mark their man. They took themselves out of the game.

This is suffering, this is not joy, this is not football. If someone does just one thing over and over, they will get better at that thing. But is football just one thing?

The former Italy manager has been adamant for well over a decade that specialists are useless. Claude Makelele and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would not get into this man's team. In fact, he would probably sell them as soon as possible. He likes all-round players who contribute in every phase of play.

Instead, he would take Sergio Busquets—a man who can tackle, read the game and pass. Over Kaka, he would take Mesut Ozil—there's a reason why the German is a successful trequartista, and it's because he's robust, balanced and agile as well as devastatingly creative.

 

Conclusion

There's still room for the one-dimensional player, but that window is closing fast.

Michael Cox's analysis of Aston Villa's treatment of Richard Dunne, Shay Given and Darren Bent is spot on—it's been clear for a while now that these players don't offer enough in multiple phases of play to convince Paul Lambert of their talents.

If Dunne was fit, he would be sat on the bench, and it's highly unlikely the Villans will renew his contract next year.

Villa are nothing close to a powerhouse, but their astute manager is aware of what's needed. If the "modern player rule" extends to these kinds of sides, it won't be long before the Givens and Dunnes of this world play exclusively in the second tier of football.

 

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