Tactical Twins: Bayern's Javi Martinez and Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin
Next up in our series of tactical twins is an analytic glance at two of the finest holding midfielders in world football right now.
Javi Martinez moved from Athletic Bilbao to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2012, costing the German champions a princely €40 million. It was a club-record fee, and the Spaniard's slow start had the Bayern faithful a little worried during the early stages, but he's now blossomed into a world-class asset.
Morgan Schneiderlin took a more modest route: A £1 million deal in 2007 took him to then-Championship side Southampton, and he's been down to League One before experiencing the English Premier League.
So why are these players, sourced in extremely different manners, tactical twins?
First and foremost, they play the same position.
Javi Martinez and Morgan Schneiderlin have mastered the holding midfield role, ensuring their respective sides always have a safety blanket in place going forward.
Schneiderlin, a prolific tackler and interceptor, led the Premier League with 139 interceptions, as a comparatively weaker Saints side came under a lot of pressure throughout the season.
He also averaged 4.1 successful tackles per game, ruling the centre of midfield.
Die Bayern danced their way to the title this season and often dominated games, so Martinez's stats are considerably less impressive. Don't let that fool you, though, as he totalled eight tackles and five interceptions across 180 minutes when Bayern faced Barcelona in the Champions League.
Both excel in either a double-pivot or as a sole anchor, but that's just their position on paper.
Martinez's experiences as a centre-back at Athletic Bilbao have actually unlocked the inner demon, allowing him to realise he is a superb reader of the game.
He stepped out of Marcelo Bielsa's defensive line at Bilbao in an aggressive manner to intercept passes, and he's used that training to transform his midfield play.
Schneiderlin has always been aggressive but holds his line of engagement particularly well alongside Jack Cork in midfield.
Essentially, they both represent ball-hounds: Stepping out at a careful, considered time to hunt down the opposition and create turnovers, they are used as primary weapons to initiate counterattacks by their respective managers.
Schneiderlin has played the large majority of the season in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Under Nigel Adkins he was more reserved as Southampton tended to soak up pressure in the early stages of games, while under Mauricio Pochettino he's been released to create chaos.
At just 24 years of age, Martinez is easily one of the most (tactically) cultured players in today's game. He's proved able in a 4-3-3, 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2.
Jupp Heynckes' rigid defensive lines suit him down to the ground, and having the elite presence of Bastian Schweinsteiger at his side helps too.
Physically, mentally and tactically they are very similar players.
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