Where are the war­riors?

Why skill and flair has taken over from the mid­field hard­man ap­proach

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL - JAMIE RED­KNAPP

AS MANCH­ESTER CITY bring Pa­trick Vieira back into the Premier­ship, the ques­tion is… where are the war­riors?

It is a dy­ing art; the role of the mid­field war­rior, the de­stroyer whose job it was to break up the play and stop the dan­ger man on the other side.

The game has changed with the change in rules.

The days when you could hit some­one like a jug­ger­naut and take out the op­po­si­tion’s star turn are gone.

Strange to think now that an op­po­si­tion player would have the job of do­ing that!

The hatch­et­man would leave his call­ing card – we all re­mem­ber Vin­nie Jones squeez­ing Gazza in a sen­si­tive area – and it was like a mes­sage: “I’m here, re­mem­ber that the next time you try to get tricky, son.”

I grew up watch­ing play­ers such as Graeme Souness and, later, Steve McMa­hon for Liver­pool.

We’ve all seen footage of play­ers like Ron Har­ris and Billy Brem­ner. That Leeds team of the late 1960s and 1970s could play, but they would bat­ter op­po­nents, too.

When I played, Arse­nal were a big, strong team, with Pa­trick Vieira and Em­manuel Petit as their en­forcers in front of the back four.

United, of course, had Roy Keane. And I’ve also got to men­tion Paul Sc­holes.

I re­mem­ber talk­ing to Keane about Sc­holes. I’ve al­ways had a the­ory that it’s a myth when peo­ple talk about his mist­imed tack­les, so I asked Roy: “Does Sc­holes re­ally mist­ime his tack­les?”

He looked at me and said: “Yeah, right. Do me a favour! Sc­holesy is worse than me.”

Sc­holes has an edge and nas­ti­ness to his game. He wasn’t a leg­breaker, but he would come af­ter you. If you caught him late or left some­thing on him, he would get you back. He was – and still is – a mid­field gen­eral, like a Souness or a Bryan Rob­son.

More re­cently, we had Keane, Paul Ince and Vieira. I won­der how dif­fer­ent the Premier League will seem to him when he re­turns to Manch­ester City?

Let’s try and see how he keeps up with a Cesc Fabre­gas.

Now teams are made up of quick mid­field­ers, who cover the ground and can also in­ter­cept the ball. It is con­sid­ered a dis­ad­van­tage to go to ground.

Counter-at­tack­ing is the name of the game, mid­field­ers are en­cour- aged to spot the pass, read it quickly, in­ter­cept and then start their own ad­vance.

The game is los­ing tra­di­tional cen­tre for­wards; old-fash­ioned play­mak­ers, such as Glenn Hod­dle, are few and far be­tween and so, too, is the play­maker’s ad­ver­sary, the hatchet man.

Glenn would love to have played now, with the free­dom of the park and without a Souness bark­ing at him.

Look at the Barcelona mid­field of Xavi and Ini­esta, who are small, quick, can pass with both feet, read the game and counter at pace. that is a typ­i­cal mod­ern mid­field.

Arse­nal have that type, too, in Fabre­gas.

Liver­pool have a dif­fer­ent type of player at the point of their mid­field in Steven Ger­rard. They are more match­win­ners than old-style cen­tral mid­field­ers.

In years gone by, any­one skinny was sent to the wing. Now we are see­ing play­ers such as Ryan Giggs and James Mil­ner com­ing in­side, so they can get on the ball more.

Ger­rard could have been an­other Souness and when he first came into the Liver­pool team, he was renowned for some painful chal­lenges, but he has adapted his game.

There are still pow­er­houses lurk­ing. Michael Essien is a player who could have played 20 years ago, while Wil­son Pala­cios loves a tackle. He’s like a bear and en­joys be­ing in the thick of things.

Arse­nal have Alex Song, who char­ac­terises the ath­leti­cism of the mod­ern mid­fielder.

One fi­nal plea is that tackling should not be lost to the game.

A full sta­dium, noisy sup­port­ers and the crunch­ing sound of a 50-50 chal­lenge is still one of the great plea­sures of our sport.

A clever mid­fielder hit­ting a 30yard di­ag­o­nal ball will get sup­port­ers ex­cited, draw­ing a rip­ple of ap­plause, but hear their roar when two fully com­mit­ted play­ers dive in to try and win the ball.

It’s part of the game we should not lose. – Daily Mail

CRUNCH TIME: Wayne Rooney gets the ‘Pa­trick Vieira treat­ment’ in a match be­tween Manch­ester United and Arse­nal in 2004… the French mid­field de­stroyer signed for Man City yes­ter­day.

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