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Meet Fredy Guarín, Internazionale's Unorthodox No. 10

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 14:  Fredy Guarin of FC Inter Milan during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match between FC Internazionale Milano and CFR 1907 Cluj at San Siro Stadium on February 14, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 14, 2013

Fredy Guarin is a different kind of footballer.

The former FC Porto player, who was transferred to Internazionale in July 2012 for €13.5 million, is an attacking midfielder who puts a twist on the classic No. 10 position.

We're used to seeing the creative, diminutive player occupy the role behind the striker, and the likes of Juan Roman Riquelme, Kaka and Mesut Ozil have dominated our imaginations over the past several decades.

Guarin plays in the No. 10 role himself, but he's far from the prototypical playmaker—in fact, you might say he's the complete opposite.

The Colombian is a big physical presence; he's just over 6' tall, packs on the muscle and can get going with some speed. In Portugal, he played a more orthodox midfield role without standing out, so it was odd to see Inter pick him up for a pretty big price.

But he's been deployed further forward in order to invert the midfield triangle we've become accustomed to seeing: anchoring midfielders just in front of the defence as a screen, creators further forward.

Guarin playing further up is advantageous for two reasons.

Firstly, he can tackle, and that means Inter have an increased chance of winning the ball back higher up the pitch.

It's not unlike Sergio Busquets' more advanced role against Milan on Tuesday, where the Spaniard was close to Massimo Ambrosini for long periods and robbed him on more than one occasion.

Secondly, he's able to surge forward from deep with power and knows there's a security blanket of up to three defensive midfielders behind him. He can start attacks on his own and physically drag his team up the field when under pressure.

Guarin is like a train when he gets going, and to unleash him fully (Yaya Toure style), he needs to be played in a more advanced role.

When he does win the ball back high up the pitch, his task is to immediately lay it off to the more creative types. That's where Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano's pace and movement is so important—can the defenders react quickly enough to track them?

Andrea Stramaccioni is not on his own in using this tactic, but it is rare. Mario Mandzukic fulfilled a similar, if more limited, role at Euro 2012, and Ivan Rakitic has played it for Sevilla this season.

It could become much more normal, and in September 2012, we visited that possibility.

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