The Heart Transplant: When Tens Become Sixes

The Heart Transplant: When Tens Become Sixes

If you think about it carefully, the term director, which is often used in connection with playmakers, is not entirely correct. After all, the coaches should direct it. But because their influence during a game is limited, there are – fortunately – the designers, the free spirits who are allowed to deviate from the script when things get spontaneous on the pitch. And – luckily again – very often it is actually not foreseeable what will happen.

The art of improvisation is in demand, actually everywhere on the field, but especially in this role behind the forward, the forward or behind nobody when a false nine is allowed to hang around where it wants. And so in this position, the ten, the great, the greatest were once created. Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Michel Platini, Zico, Kaka, Zidane, Gheorghe Haghi. To name just a small selection.

But we were also able to enjoy the fast hooks, the fresh ideas and the playfulness of Wolfgang Overath, Thomas Häßler or Mehmet Scholl in this country. Also literally, at the 2014 World Cup. So street footballers, magicians, football field children, of whom there are actually not that many anymore. You’re happy about every day, every game in which a Jamal Musiala, who can also play tens, eights or even very offensive sixes, is not forced into a tactical corset.

But all the heroes mentioned from before have in common that they were just tens. And stayed. Because there were still tens.

The central axis unites the sixes and tens

Of course, they still exist in a 4-2-3-1, for example. But seldom that big. In the meantime, many tens have turned into sixes. Be it because their position has been rationalized away from the tactical scheme or because they prefer to act from the depths of the room of their own free will.

It’s not that new, it’s just that we experienced it a little differently around 25 years ago. Do you remember what was the most discussed question in the German fan camp before the 1998 World Cup? Is Lothar Matthäus playing Libero or is it Olaf Thon? One was a dynamic world-class eight at his peak in his career, the other a filigree conductor, a ten. But then they withdrew further and further. Until they finally became libero.

A libero as part of a disguised back four, located just a few meters behind it, because the original variant in Germany only dared to be used years later. Two years earlier, in 1996, Matthias Sammer was the prototype of the libero, but because of his offensive drive on the way to the European Championship title in 1996 he was often found ahead of the defense. Half a six, if you will.

However, what unites a “last man”, a clean-up, a six or a ten is the axis on which they play: centrally from one goal to the other. They act in the middle and have a good view of everything. The six of course even better than the ten.

What makes a top six

A ten distributes balls, a six too. A ten steers his environment, sometimes verbally or mimetically announces pressing triggers, a six too. A ten must radiate something, a six too. But what about the speed?

Some run around everywhere, manage 13 kilometers. But a Busquets runs ten and is always right.

Thomas Broich

“You don’t lose endurance, but top speed,” says Thomas Broich. Today’s TV expert and head of methodology at Hertha BSC’s NLZ was a ten-man himself, also played six-man, but liked to come down the left flank towards the end of his career at Brisbane Roar. But he knows how it feels in the center, where the game pulsates. And therefore adds: “The six is ​​probably the only position in football where you don’t need maximum speed.” Of course, he admits, a six has to cover a lot of kilometers, but this is where the wheat separates from the chaff: “Some run around everywhere and manage 13 kilometers. But a Busquets runs ten and is always right.”

This positioning, this anticipation, this reading of the game is what defines a top six and takes it to an even higher level in today’s football. And because some of the sixes were just tens, they also know how their opponents tick in the space they are often in when they stay in position. If there is one at all. It’s more like eights.

The tens aren’t dying out – they’re just called differently

And so the following list of players is at best a selection. All were at some point tens, often eights. But initially thinking offensively in terms of type before they became what used to be called a “vacuum cleaner in front of the defence”, which, however, no longer even begins to do justice to the characteristics of this position: Ander Herrera, Cesc Fabregas, Andrea Pirlo, David Jarolim, Frank Lampard, Ivan Rakitic, Lewis Holtby, Maximilian Arnold, Michael Ballack, Pascal Groß, Steven Gerrard, Toni Kroos, Vladimir Darida, Yaya Touré, Luka Modric, Maxi Eggestein, Kevin Kampl, Robert Andrich, Kerem Demirbay and Daichi Kamada or …

Broich sees two advantages in the fact that the heart of the game has now been transplanted from the ten around 20 meters back to the six: “You see a lot more balls, you have the game in front of you more often. And of course you also get resistance, it is but not as much pressure as a ten.”

Magicians like Maradona are still rare today. That’s why there are already a few notes in minor in the background of this text. But this melancholy is alleviated if you look, for example, at how Manchester City’s Rodrigo, who wasn’t a tenth but could also fill this position because of his abilities, is currently the best six in the world, how wonderfully he interprets this role. But there is no ten in Pep Guardiola’s world. Because his two eights are and should be everywhere anyway, the tens are not really dying out. They just have different names. Sometimes sixes too. Just as the director wants it.


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