Arsenal youngster Henri Lansbury will have to balance his energy with discipline in order to break into the senior squad sooner rather than later.
Henri Lansbury has come back to Arsenal from his loan spell at Scunthorpe with the winning feeling however at 18 years old, the rugged midfielder must not forget all about his development.
Lansbury started on the right for Arsenal in their 1-0 win over Tottenham but in a first half to forget, it saw him trying to recreate the form he had at Scunthorpe. Too eager and constantly losing his shape, he improved after the break when he became more disciplined. And if Lansbury’s is to break through at Arsenal sooner rather than later, this is the side of him that Bould needs to see more of.
The England under-19’s captain is in the Steven Gerrard mold, a classical box-to-box midfielder but the role as a specialist function has decreased in it’s use in top-level football. Frank Lampard and Micheal Essien are box-to-box midfielders but the two would not be able to operate without the holding midfielder, be it Ballack or Mikel acting as a balance to make up for the deficiencies of the role.
Modern football is all about controlling space therefore giving a midfielder the whole length of the pitch in whereby he must patrol is almost suicidal. It’s almost a role of inefficiency if played without the discipline. Gerrard and Lampard in all feasibility could have worked out how to play together for England because of their talent but could they have dominated the game as well as Spain could with all their central midfielders?
The increased technicality of players means the playmaker role is for everyone. Box-to-box midfielders cannot dictate games the same way as someone like Fabregas so playmakers are now dropped back and some are even deep-lying playmakers. The best players need to understand what Johan Cruff calls the “positional game” and how a player should move within the team collective. (As a result Merida and Ramsey may be ahead of Lansbury in the pecking order).
Benitez didn’t think Gerrard could therefore he placed the England midfielder just behind the striker where he could make full use of his dynamism and lung power without hampering the team. The rise of the 4-2-3-1 formation or such a variant allows for better controlling of space, if implemented correctly as opposed to the 4-4-2 and is greater at balancing individuals and specialists.
“Today’s football is about managing the characteristics of individuals,” says former AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi. “And that’s why you see the proliferation of specialists. The individual has trumped the collective. But it’s a sign of weakness. It’s reactive, not pro-active.”
Rafa Benitez is a student of Sacchi, who revolutionised modern thinking in football. He moved the sweeper back to back four (although this wasn’t new, it reinforced the change of thinking). In 1987, all 18 Serie A teams had a sweeper. By 1997, there were seven. In 2007, none. He also brought back zonal marking and the high systematised pressure of the ‘74 Dutch side.
The complete midfielder still has a place in today’s game. In an increasingly homogenised sport, individuality showed be encouraged and Lansbury can make a fantastic trade of it. But his recent deployment on the right side of midfield is there to ensure that he is better equipped for the changing demands of the modern game.