Would anybody else be brave enough to play with no ‘no.9’?
The narrow view that a team must always employ a traditional number-9 figure is something which historically Britain has tended to do. The strong reluctance to dismiss anything other than 4-4-2 has now been widely blamed for England’s failings at recent international tournaments but England have been aware of the false-9 for decades, having painfully witnessed its benefits first-hand over 50-years ago. In 1953 Hungary faced England at Wembley and demolished the home side 6-3, becoming the first team from outside the British Isles to win at the famous stadium. More embarrassing than the actual score-line was the manner of defeat, as England were shown to be technically and tactically inferior with Hungary’s false-9 of Nandor Hidegkuti running riot alongside Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis, in a formation not too dissimilar to the one Barcelona now use. Although radical changes were made to the English game in the wake of that defeat, a wider acceptance of the false-9 or creative number-10 was forgotten.
So why aren’t every team now following suit with its success?
Back to Spain and the rise of Messi probably helped dictate this formation for Barcelona, more than a conscious decision of its need. With manager Pep Guardiola needing to get the prodigal Argentine in the game as much as possible and to cause havoc from central areas, not just from out wide where he had been usually deployed. Of course there is only one Lionel Messi, but it also helps when you have players in the class of Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, and Pedro who are now joined by Fabregas and Sanchez who can play that style and interchange at will. Could anybody else be brave enough to play with no ‘number-9’?
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