Characteristics of Three Midfielders in a Three-Man Midfield

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  • Part 1: "Characteristics of 3 Midfielders in a 3-Man Midfield" by Max Allegri "Characteristics of Three Midfielders in a Three-Man Midfield." Massimiliano "Max" Allegri, the current manager of AC Milan, presented his research during the 2004/2005 "Corso Master" (Master's Course.) His thesis was 18 pages in length and included many uncomplicated diagrams. You may click the link above to download a PDF file to view the original in Italian. A Much-Traveled Midfielder He was born in Livorno in 1967 and began by playing with his hometown team's youth sector. Allegri made his Serie A debut in 1992 with Pescara. He also had spells with Cagliari, Perugia, Padova and Napoli, respectively. While at Pescara, Allegri had a career-high of 12 goals in one season; however, he was never capped by the senior level Azzurri. Coaching Honors  Panchina d'Oro in 2007-2008 with Sassuolo in Serie C1.  Serie C1 Scudetto with Sassuolo in 2007-2008.  Panchina d'Oro in 2008-2009 with Cagliari in Serie A.  Serie A Coach of the Year in 2010-2011 with AC Milan in Serie A.  Serie A Scudetto with AC Milan in 2010-2011.  Italian Super Cup with AC Milan in 2011. Translator's Note: The Panchina d'Oro (Golden Bench) is an award given by fellow coaches. Let's see what Mister Allegri had to say in his intriguing excerpts from Part 1. Discussion Items 1. His introduction. 2. On the requisites of a key midfielder: The Regista/Number 4 player. 3. On the characteristics of the two inside midfielders (Numbers 8 and 10). 1. His introduction: In modern football, various and different styles of play are applied which are utilized by taking into account the physical, technical and psychological characteristics that a manager has at his disposal. I will present a few playing systems focused on roles in the midfield. But I won't digress on systems to adopt based on
  • characteristics of the next opposing team. Because this would take the discussion too far outside of my intended task. This last year that just ended (the footballing season of 2004/2005) was my second experience as a manager. I was forced to make virtue out of necessity with regards to a choice of a style of play seeing that I didn't know all of the characteristics of individual players of a club, SPAL, that I had at my disposal. In fact, I had only joined the team a day before what was to be the same day the team departed for preseason training. I therefore had to think a little bit before selecting a playing module to make the team play. In such a way as to be able to take advantage of the potential of individual players, one by one, to become acquainted with them. In the beginning, I thought of adopting a 4-4-2, which was a style that at least assured a good defensive cover. Then, due to reasons due to a reduced roster caused by various injuries, I moved to a 4- 3-3. In the first eight games, we played using the 4-3-3. Later on, I changed the midfield structure in the sense to play with a low-lying playmaker (the number 4 player). I inverted the midfield triangle and made the team play with two holding midfielders and an advanced trequartista (the number 8 or 10 players). And always keeping the two wingers and target striker in attack with a four-man defensive line. Translator's Note 1. Mr. Allegri used the terms of regista and vertice basso, the number 4 player who in this example lines up in the "low summit" of a triangle, quite frequently in his thesis. Consulting his diagrams would provide more clarity with this concept; however, I will try to reproduce one (4-3-3) from this section. He also refers to players by their traditional shirt numbers.  Andrea Pirlo is a good current example of a regista in the vertice basso position both at Juventus and with the Azzurri. The literal term of regista means, "movie director," in Italian. 9 11 7 10 8 4 3 6 5 2 2. On the requisites of a key midfielder: The Regista/Number 4 Player: The technical and tactical qualities of the three midfielders must be very different to those who chose to play with a number 4 in front of the defense and two inside midfielders (numbers 8 and 10). Or with the numbers 8 and 10 in front of four defenders. With a trequartista, the number 10, in front of the two midfielders. I will begin to discuss the characteristics of individual players (midfielders). And then segue to articulate the advantages/disadvantages that you'll find when the team is, or is not, in possession of the ball. A Triangle with the Number 4 (vertice basso = the low summit position of 4) 10 8 4 The ideal midfielder in front of the defense (number 4/regista) would be above all endowed with:  Have a great deal of charisma in such a way to be able to better command the numbers 8 and 10 midfielders when not in possession of the ball and the three attackers, numbers 7, 9 and 11, respectively.
  •  For example, when the opposing team begins a play, the number 4/regista has to allow time for the two wingers, numbers 7 and 11, to come out, and for the numbers 8 and 10 midfielders to cut inside forward. At the same time, number 9 goes to close down the possibility of back pass from the opponent's D player to his teammate, C. Important: When the team finishes its play, the regista/number 4 has a duty to immediately recall the two midfielders and three attackers to place themselves in their proper positions to be able to win the ball back.  In a case when three attackers are cut out of the ball recovery phase, the behavior of the three midfielders and four defenders will be as follows: 1. Don't jump out but slow down the opponent's action by rotating. 2. The number 8 comes out on his rival number 3 outside man, number 4 takes the place of number 8, and number 10, by dropping down, pushes toward the center. In the situation where you have to defend with six defenders on an attack with the ball in the middle, likewise: 1. Don't jump out but slow down the pace. 2. The regista/number 4 looks to put himself in the shadow of his rival, A, who has the ball, limiting his time and space of play. And calling for number 8 to cover him from behind while the back four defenders remain compact. The number 4, "the regista", must also be endowed with:  Good technique to be able to give time of play to his team.  An outstanding positional sense (without tactics) to be able to play short balls when there is a need to move the ball around. And therefore always be able to lose his marker in such a way to play a role as a point of reference for all of his other teammates.  An outstanding long and precise kick to be able to quickly transform a defensive play into an offensive one (such as the counterattack), or above all, to be able to change the line of play when his team is being pressed. Lastly, to be able to easily find the opposite part of the pitch where the rival team is presumably less covered.  He must also be capable of pushing the ball up quickly to create chances and must never lose his position. Because in the non-possession phase, he can offer cover (he acts as a screen) for your defenders by looking to go forward to block vertical or diagonal plays by opposing players, defenders or midfielders, who are in favor of their own attackers.  A great technical sense, therefore, seems to be the most relevant specific quality for a footballer who is tasked with these duties. His offensive insertions will be few and far between during the game. This is due not to leave the central zone of the pitch unguarded. The team expects that he will be the one to provide balance in a nerve center of the pitch. 3. On the characteristics of the two inside midfielders (numbers 8 and 10):
  • Compared to the central midfielder, the two internal ones (numbers 8 and 10) have to be in possession of good running ability. Above all, because given that the team plays with a center forward and two wingers, there are many times when they have to insert themselves into the attacking zone without the ball. The insertion times in the various offensive solutions are fundamental to be able to arrive with a shot on goal from outside the box. Or to go and close out the play by transmitting eventual combinations (movements) that come to be built, above all, on the other side of the pitch. For example, with a cross. Usually, one of the two (traditionally, the number 10), must:  Be able to create numerical superiority (getting by his marker) through dribbling.  Know how to perfectly execute a pass.  Have a good shot from afar.  And above all, be able to push up the action quickly (verticalize) to be able to create positive chances for the three attackers to finish off. Compared to the number 10, the number 8 must:  Have greater tactical qualities.  Help out his midfielder companions more.  Work in a more-measured way when the team doesn't have the ball.  Help out the central midfielder to give balance to the team and to recover balls from the opposing side. Even if the number 8 has lesser technical qualities than his number 10 teammate, he must know how to accompany the play to be able to finish (a shot from outside the box). Number 8 is also a good header of the ball (for challenges on throw-ins and goal kicks) and is physically strong.
  • Part 2: "Characteristics of 3 Midfielders in a 3-Man Midfield" by Max Allegri 1. On a triangle using a "vertice alto" or the trequartista (number 10) and the characteristics of the holding midfielders: When you play with two holding midfielders and a trequartista in front of the defense: 10 8 4 The characteristics that all three of them need to possess are completely different than those of the midfielders who were referenced above (Part 1). With this formation, the two holding midfielders who position themselves in front of the defense are fundamentally for team balance. They must not never abandon the central zone of the pitch. By always accompanying the play, they shouldn't ever find themselves above the line where the ball is either in the offensive phase, and with greater reason, in the defensive one. One of the two must be more endowed with characteristics of a regista in such a way to be able to be a reference point for the four defenders in the offensive build-up phase. The other one, instead, has to surely be furnished with a great deal of dynamism, outstanding running ability and be a good header of the ball. At one time, players endowed with these characteristics were called cursors of the midfield. These two holding midfielders have the task to protect the defense when the team doesn't have the ball and give balance to the team. And always be in support of the number 10 trequartista and the three men (numbers 7, 9 and 11) who comprise the attack. The number 10 trequartista, or the advanced midfielder, has the task of an offensive regista and lesser defensive duties than the other midfielders. He must:  Always lose his marker as a reference point for the development of the offensive play. He gives support to the two holding midfielders besides, when necessary, also for the four defenders.
  •  To move about most of all in the area of the pitch in between the midfielders and opposing defenders.  To have good technique and dribbling skills to be able to create numerical superiority.  Knows how to push the play up top quickly and make the last pass. (verticalize)  Have a good shot.  And last of all, has the proper time to make passes for eventual insertions by his teammates. Translator's Note 1. Mr. Allegri used the terms of regista and vertice alto, the number 10 player who in this example lines up in the "high summit" of a triangle, in this section of his thesis. Consulting his diagrams would provide more clarity with this concept. He also refers to players by their traditional shirt numbers. 2. On the advantages of a 4-3-3 with a vertice basso (the number 4/regista): In the following example, I'll discuss what are, in my opinion, the advantages of a 4-3-3 with a vertice basso when the team has the ball compared to the 4-3-3 with the vertice alto. If you play with a vertice basso and two inside midfielders, you have many more offensive solutions (a greater number of players in addition to the ball). And restarts are quicker once you win the ball back such that there are greater possibilities to carry out either lateral or central insertions with the two inside midfielders. Let's take a look at a few examples making reference to the items discussed above. Mr. Allegri's example with a Number 4 (vertice basso = the low summit position) and the two inside midfielders: (Partial replication of Figure 11) 9 11 7 10 8 4 Surely, a relatively long time happens when you are able to find balance in the central part of the pitch which is the nerve center for every offensive or defensive play. The two inside midfielders must know how to coordinate and alternate themselves in offensive insertions not leaving the central midfielder alone to guard the midfield. Translator's Notes 1. Mr. Allegri used the terms of regista and vertice basso, the number 4 player who in this example lines up in the "low summit" of a triangle, in this section of his thesis. He also refers to players by their traditional shirt numbers. 2. Andrea Pirlo is a good current example of a regista in the vertice basso position both at Juventus and with the Azzurri. The literal term of regista means, "movie director," in Italian.
  • 3. The author used several diagrams with many arrows pointing in various directions along with accompanying explanations that I will not replicate here. Looking at his diagrams would likely make his points much clearer than I ever could only in writing. 3. On the 4-3-3 with a "vertice alto" or the trequartista (number 10): Mr. Allegri's example with a Number 10 (vertice alto = the high summit position) and the two inside midfielders: (Partial replication of Figure 16) 9 11 7 10 4 8 3 2 6 5 This module, with more defensive characteristics than the 4-3-3 using a vertice basso, evidently offers a greater sense of balance in the backlines. Because the two holding midfielders, numbers 4 and 8, respectively, mostly remain stuck in front of the four-man defensive line and they always ensure a good cover. In this case, however, being able to utilize a lesser number of offensive solutions served up by the midfielders, often means that you have to call into the cause one of the two fullbacks to alternatively participate in the offensive play. It seems evident that this playing system will be more efficient if you have to attack against a closed, compact team. Given that the two wingers/outside men drop back to sustain the beginning of an offensive play, the defenders have a double support system in front of them that can better open up opportunities to penetrate or agitate a compactly-structured defense. Let's take a look at a few possible solutions. Translator's Notes 1. The author used several diagrams with many arrows pointing in various directions along with accompanying explanations that I will not replicate here. Looking at his diagrams would likely make his points much clearer than I ever could only in writing. 2. Roberto Mancini had a detailed analysis of the Trequartista's role in his coaching thesis. Part 1: "Characteristics of 3 Midfielders in a 3-Man Midfield" by Max Allegri Part 2: "Characteristics of 3 Midfielders in a 3-Man Midfield" by Max Allegri
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