What Is The Role Of A Number 10 In Soccer?

Role of a number 10 in football

There is hardly a number or position in a soccer team that is as desirable and as popular as the number 10 position and a player who plays as a number 10.

Number and positioning in football have been a very long tradition as old as the sport itself; numbering players and positions started as a way of making players disciplined to their primary objective and position when they get onto the pitch, and as there are 11 players on each team so also do their number indicates there task and position.

The number 10 is more than just an attacker; they serve as a connector between the midfielders and the forward line, either in a 4-2-3-1 formation or a 4-4-2 formation and sometimes even in a 4-3-3 formation.

The position is not just one that just any player plays; the position is usually reserved for some of the most skillful and brilliant players on a team.

Some of the best players in the history of football who that have made the number 10 position more popular include Argentinian legend and one of the greatest of all-time in football, Lionel Messi, and German legend Mesut Özil, among others, just to mention a few.

These are players who combined passing skills with dribbling ability and vision to unlock even the tightest of defense and can even pop up to score goals all by themselves.

However, as the game of football continues to evolve, so also does the number 10 position and its responsibilities evolve. In this article, we take a look at the role of a number 10 in a soccer team.

On-the-ball Responsibilities of a Number 10

The olden and first-generations of number 10 did not have to bother about any defensive duties and only focused on being the bridge between the defenders and the forwards.

They do this by doing dribbles, touches, crosses, passes, through balls, and combinations to create chances. It’s easier said than done, as they are always operating in crowded places and often pressed on by opponents and attackers.

However, as football continues to evolve, the functions, playing style, and operations of the number ten also evolved, and nowadays, their responsibilities have gone beyond just creating for others with on-the-ball actions.

Most of the football players who wear the number 10 jersey are usually playmakers who are good at creating goalscoring opportunities.

Modern number 10s have also had to work on their movements around the opposition box so as to support the forwards and the center forward.

They can also move out worse to help the winger or even drop deep into the midfield to win possession.

Finally, they are also expected to be a source of goals themselves by attacking the opposition with the aim of hitting the target.

Off-the-ball Responsibilities of a Number 10

As earlier stated, the evolution of the game has also affected the number ten role, just like every other role on the pitch.

Previously, they were more or less free roamers on the pitch and stayed ready to launch a counter-attack anytime his team was off the ball.

A turnover of possession will make a counter-attack easier as the opposition would have been higher up the pitch.

The modern number 10 has far more defensive responsibilities as they often push forward to press the opposition center-backs or move to defend in wide areas.

They can also be seen defending on the wings while also becoming the first screen of defensive works, pressing the opposition defense, blocking central passes, blocking runs from opposition forwards and interceptions.

What Are The Benefits Of Playing With The Number 10?

Role of a number 10 in football
(Photo by Simon Bruty /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The major benefit of having a number 10 in a formation or team is that there will be a lot of chances created for the strikers and frontmen.

Number 10 utilizes the space between the opposition defense and midfield lines. This is even more effective when playing teams who play with the 4-4-2 formation. Perhaps that’s why the formation has become less favorable.

Otherwise, the number 10 can create gaps in an opposing backline by moving away from the goal to drag defenders out of shape. By doing this, players are forced out of their positions when they press, and then the number ten can drive the ball forward or pass.

A number 10 will take attention away from the main goal threat – the center-forward or center-forward – through movements, passes, and their general threat in support of other attackers.

The strikers enjoy free and enlarged spaces to operate in, thus making them more effective with enough time to pick their spot and finish off.

In the defense, the number 10 is an additional body in counter-attacking situations and provides a quick link to swiftly change from defending to attacking with passes into key areas.

They can also support the center-forward or center-forward when pressing higher up the pitch.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Playing With The Number 10?

Maradona number 10 Napoli football clubs that retired numbers

The major, most noticeable disadvantage of playing with a number ten is their defensive lapses; it can be a burden on the rest of the team.

In modern football, they also need to be a part of the pressure to regain possession and be ready to turn defense into attack.

Number 10s can be deadly when in possession but can be a liability out of possession. Furthermore, the modern formations can sometimes erode the need for a number ten or even make him inefficient and ineffective.

The frequent rotation and role swaps on the pitch may force a number of ten into unconventional roles and positions and sometimes make them a liability.

Who are the Best Modern Number 10s in Football History?

Jay-Jay Okocha best African football players in Premier League history LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 3: Jay Jay Okocha of Bolton celebrates after scoring the second goal with a free kick during the Carling Cup fourth round match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield on December 3, 2003 in Liverpool, England.
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

There are a lot of players who have written their name in gold as one of the best ever to have played in that position, but as the classic number 10 and even don the jersey number 10. Some of them are discussed below:

Mesut Özil

Özil is one of the most creative number 10 to have ever played the game, and at both Real and Arsenal, his clever passing, disguised touches, and superb vision wreaked havoc on opponents.

Thomas Müller

Müller, as a number 10, had a very different style to Özil and was very versatile. He is combative without the ball and smart in instigating a press. He connects passes into the center-forward well, but his main strength is getting into goalscoring positions. He consistently finds space in the final third and makes constant runs beyond the center-forward.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and the best number 10 in football history. His role often involved floating to find pockets of space, creating the chances, and playmaking. His passes, assists, and set-pieces also make him a classic number 10.

Jay-Jay Okocha

The African football legend is firmly one of the most iconic number 10s in history. His mesmerising dribbles, rainbow flicks, and unparalleled skill set set him aside as one of the greatest number 10s in history. He is often considered one of the greatest dribblers in football history.

Other notable mentions who are among the greatest number 10s in history are:

  • Paulo Dybala
  • Diego Maradona
  • Dennis Bergkamp
  • Juan Román Riquelme
  • Kaká
  • Michel Platini
  • David Silva
  • Zinedine Zidane.
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