The newest iteration of the trequartista is not the fantasista of old.
Last season, when Kevin-Prince Boateng’s performances as an unorthodox #10 were garnering attention, it was sometimes called le plongeur. Yaya Toure at Manchester City has been playing this role for a couple of seasons now.
Rather than being known for their passing ability (though many who play this role are fine and usually underrated passers), they are used for their energy and drive.
The rise of this new trequartista is a direct response to another role which has had a rebirth: the regista.
The deep lying playmakers who sit in front of their own defense, but who don’t always specialize in tackles, they specialize in launching attacks. Through a combination of accurate long and medium passing (Pirlo being a perfect example) or an ability to quickly recycle possession (Busquets does this very well). And no team can rise to the heights, especially in the Champion’s League, without one anymore.
Manchester United has the controversial Michael Carrick; Manchester City has Gareth Barry and added Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia; Real Madrid’s moves flow through Xabi Alonso; and Juventus lives by the ageless vision of Andrea Pirlo.
Thiago Motta, a traditional, hard tackling defensive midfielder by trade, was played by Italy as a #10 in the final of the Euros not because anyone thought him capable of subtly unlocking Spain’s defenses, but so that his hustle and defensive nous could deny time and space to Spain’s deep lying midfielders (of course, Spain, in that tournament, had three players able to play some version of that role – Xavi, Xabi Alonso, and Sergio Busquets – and Motta also got himself injured, so it didn’t work out so well).
Everton coach David Moyes moved his big, Belgian tackler, Marouane Fellaini behind the striker not only for his goal scoring prowess, but for real defensive, more than ever, starts at the front. His size and aggression puts pressure on opposing defenders and deep lying midfielders, thereby providing real defensive cover for his team, even when playing just outside the other team’s eighteen yard box. Everton has an attacking midfielder on their roster and on the field in Leon Osman, but Moyes knows that Osman can’t provide the same kind of disruptive role, so plays his traditional attacking midfielder behind behind a classic holding midfielder.