A month ago,i came across this brilliant article by Phil Ball,on the power and rise of the media punta. He explains the reasons behind its importance and states that with an abundance of media puntas,Spain can dominate the world in the years to come. In that article Ball mentioned that,Arsene Wenger was the only manager in England who tried to introduce the Media Punta and in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri,Arsenal had two of the best in the business.When they lost them both in the summer,Wenger bought Mikel Arteta from Everton.So can Arteta play between the lines as Fabregas and Nasri before him did?
Arteta about to take a corner for Everton,his former club against Arsenal,his new club.
What is a Media Punta
A media punta essentially is someone who acts as a link between the midfield and attack,someone who can receive the ball with his back to the defence.This role isn’t easy to play and only the players of the highest technical quality can play this role.
Cesc Fabregas was a master,playing behind the strikers,receiving the ball,turning and then providing the killer pass with ease. These players playing in between the lines are the ones who generally create the most chances. So Arsenal had a big gap to fill when they lost both Fabregas and Nasri,they did have Andrei Arshavin who could play that role,but the Russian has been out of form for quite sometime now. So when Arteta arrived at Arsenal,people expected him to fulfill the void left by Fabregas. Arteta is someone who could play between the lines,as he did at Everton
But Arsene Wenger chose to play him in a deeper role,someone who could feed the wingers.For example against Fulham his average position is deeper than Ramsey’s and almost at the half way point,clearly showing that he isn’t playing the “in between the lines” role anymore.
The below chalkboard shows the difference in roles of Arteta when playing for Everton and for Arsenal.
Chalkboard showing the difference in Arteta’s style of play for Arsenal and for Everton.
So has Arsene Wenger gone back on his philosophy of playing with media puntas,and adopted a more English way of attacking through pacy and skillful wingers?. Maybe,because of the excellent form of Theo Walcott,we may see more of Arsenal’s goals created from the right,but Arsenal’s main source of goals still comes from a media punta,RVP.
Robin Van Persie is a different type of media punta,he is a false 9 or a nine and a half. RVP drops back into space to create play,he is one of the few players who can both score and create. This season more and more Premier League teams have started playing a false nine,Rooney,Aguero,Suarez and RVP himself have all both created and scored.
One advantage that the False 9 has over the traditional media punta is that he can either choose to play as a normal stiker and score goals,or if he is not getting enough of the ball,he can then drop between the lines and look to create. Fabregas’s move from Arsenal might have made them more solid,as Arteta is a more defensively aware and solid player than Fabregas,Arsenal’s midfield has less chance of being overrun. And with RVP(and Ramsey too) playing the creator’s role with ease,Fabregas’s transfer maybe a blessing in disguise.
All the top Premier League teams have these “between the lines” players. Here Chelsea’s case is an interesting one,although Ball points out that Frank Lampard is a media punta,Lampard is more of an attacking midfielder with a good finish.He is someone who does at times play as a media punta,but one can’t call him a pure media punta. In Juan Mata they have someone who can play as a media punta,but AVB prefers to start him on the left. Tottenham Hotspur who have a enjoyed a great start to the season,have in Emmanuel Adebayor who has gone from a traditional center forward to someone who drops deep and tries to link up with the midifield
Chalkboard showing the difference in Adebayor’s style of play for Tottenham and for Arsenal .
One can clearly see the change in Adebayor’s playing style, here at Tottenham he looks more determined and wants to get involved in the build up play as well.
Coming back to the situation at Arsenal, Van Persie is someone,as we have seen over the past few seasons who is injury-prone. As Arsenal depend on him a lot to create and score,Wenger needs a back up plan. With Wilshere out with injury,Arsene can either play Arteta or Arshavin in the hole with Chamakh/Park up front.Or Else even a 4-6-0 with Arshavin,Arteta and Ramsey switching the striker’s role with each other.
Barcelona have already experimented with the 4-6-0 this season,although it has not been very successful,it does make the game tactically more interesting. The La Liga and the Serie A as always have been more attractive and intriguing for lovers of the tactical side of the beautiful game,i hope the Premier League too comes up with it’s share of tactical innovations.