The New and the Old: Talking about the No 10 position and...

The New and the Old: Talking about the No 10 position and the new arrivals


Four assists and three goals in nine appearances. Statistically that is Ozil’s contribution to his new team, Arsenal FC. However, he has done far more than that for Arsenal. The Gunners seem to be a reformed team, playing with new vigour and zeal which has taken them to the summit of the Premier League.

Almost every football fan would credit Ozil with this rejuvenation. Mesut Ozil is a world class player, arguably the greatest No 10 in the world. Unlike previous summer transfers such as Andre Santos and Park Chu Young, Ozil is a big buy and a proven talent and his capture has lifted the spirits around the Emirates. For 42 million, he has been worth every penny until now. Players like Ramsey and Giroud have stepped up their games to be on the same level as The Maestro.

Watching Ozil light up the Premier League is hard for Madridistas like me. Personally, I am delighted to see him succeed and become the focal point for an exciting team like Arsenal. An exceptional talent like him should be in the limelight and shouldn’t play second fiddle to anyone. But watching him also leads me to ask the question whether Madrid would be an even better team if he was still around.

Real Madrid are a team in transition right now. New coach. New formation(s). New players.  The summer saw a massive overhaul of personnel with Isco, Bale etc coming in and Callejon, Higuain, Ozil etc leaving. Hence, it might be a little too early to come to conclusions.

One of the positions in the team which has seen a lot of change under Ancelotti is the No 10 position: The Creative Central Attacking Midfielder. Initially Isco took up the mantle but has since seen his role being occupied by Di Maria, Ronaldo, Modric and Bale with the position even being discarded altogether for the El Clasico. Let’s assess each of these players as a No 10.

Firstly Modric. While at Spurs, Modric was frequently played in the hole but since coming to Madrid, he has evolved into a deep playing playmaker: A more flamboyant version of Xavi (not as good as him though) mixed with a few Alonso traits. Madrid’s standard 4-2-3-1 formation doesn’t have a tailor-made position for Modric and hence he is often played in the double pivot alongside a more defensive midfielder. Playing Modric in the No 10 would be a waste in my opinion. His range of passing is outstanding and will not be fully utilized in that position. At the same time he also sometimes lacks that killer pass that the likes of Ozil, Silva and Mata can produce. Hence, he should only play as a No 10 if we are lacking a first choice No 10.

Next Di Maria. Di Maria has always been a winger. He has exceptional pace and his crosses can be devastating. He often cuts in to take a shot or curl in a cross. These are the main attributes of his game that have made him so important to Madrid over the last 3 seasons.  If he used as a No 10, he will be unable to utilize these attributes of his game. Di Maria unfortunately can be quite wasteful and inaccurate with his passes/crosses. As a winger, these errors can be excused and overlooked but as a No 10 when the final ball has to be perfect, he might come up short.

Bale and Ronaldo can be considered together because they have similar traits. The last two games against Rayo and Sevilla have been an attacking spectacle. It has been a delight to watch Bale and Ronaldo at full throttle. ‘Dos Torpedos’ as the Spanish Media refers to them, are essentially free roaming wingers although Bale’s role will be more restrictive compared to Ronaldo. Bale has played as a No 10 for Spurs and while he was very good in that position, it is clear that he has made a name for himself on the wing. Madrid did not pay 100 million for Bale to be played out of position.

Ronaldo is a player Madrid has to deal with carefully. It is senseless to play him out of position and unnecessarily upset him. Looking past his personal sadness, playing him as a No 10 also lowers the quality of the team play for the same reason as Bale.

That essentially leaves only Isco. Isco is the only true No 10 Real has.Touted as the future of La Roja, Isco is an unbelievable talent. Ancelotti saw this and hence pushed Ozil out to the right wing in the first few matches. Isco needs to be our permanent No 10.  He can provide exceptional service to Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema and thereby form one of the most devastating attacks in Europe. Comparisons will be made between Ozil and Isco. Is he on the same level of Ozil yet? No. but he has the potential to be even better than Ozil. Isco is still raw and it is amazing how he has fitted in without being overwhelmed by the Bernabeu despite having only one amazing season prior to his arrival.

He is more dynamic that Ozil. He has more strength and hence doesn’t get outmuscled off the ball easily. Also he scores gaols on a more regular basis than Ozil. His overall play isn’t yet on the same level of Ozils but surely he will rise to that level if given regular playing time and patience.

Madrid’s style of play changes as well with Isco instead of Ozil. Ozil was more suited for Mourinho’s counterattacking game while Isco is more suited to Ancelotti’s possession game because he is better at holding up the ball and keeping it.

So is Madrid better or worse without Ozil ? This is a divisive question. In my opinion, Ozil providing service for ‘Dos Torpedos’ would have been a mouthwatering prospect but Isco doing the same is equally exciting. Time will answer this question.

Real Madrid’s new arrivals

Time to make an early assessment about our new players.

Illaramendi: Touted as the next Alonso, Illaramendi has fitted in well. He has been efficient and effective but unspectular. The injury to Alonso gave him lots of playing time, something which is very useful for a young player trying to adjust to the tough environment of Real Madrid.  He has a good range of passing and is an effective shield for the back 4. Alonso’s return will see Illara drop to the bench but in all probability, he will still enjoy a good amount of playing time considering Alonso’s fitness and age. A good investment and one for the future.

Carvajal: Rated as the Bundesliga’s best right back by German newspaper Bild, the former youth player returned home via a buyback clause. Carvajal has had a shaky start to life in the Bernebeu. Neither him nor Arbeloa have had extended spells in the right back position and I expect that this tussle will go on for the rest of the season. He definitely is more talented than Arbeloa and can go on to become world class. He just needs to calm down and gain some composure. Another wise investment.

Bale: To be honest, I was completely against the move for Bale. His arrival meant the exit of Ozil, my favourite player at Madrid and excessive splurging of a 100 million. Without a preseason and a small injury, Bale started off on a bad note. The Clasico came too early for him and he was played in a position and formation quite alien to him. Three assists and two goals in the last two games have shown us the real Bale. Watch out Europe.

Many Madridistas are extremely fickle. They are too quick to criticize the team and the coach. We need to give Ancelotti and the players more time and be patient. Hala Madrid.


  1. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I figured that selling Ozil was a huge mistake. I’d rather Di Maria had left the team because Gareth Bale could fulfill his position. But Real didn’t have many options for a creative playmaker.
    Now Isco is the only real option as you said but Ancelotti kept him on bench for the last couple of matches and that kind of annoys me. But we should wait and see!

  2. I don’t think selling Ozil instead of Di Maria was a bad choice at that moment, because Ozil was demotivated while Di Maria was in his best shape. Maybe in the future they will regret it, but I hope Isco and Modric will step up to take the German’s role.