There are few positions in football that set the terraces alight more than the Enganche, or, the classic No. 10.
When we think of an Enganche we, of course, think of Juan Roman Riquelme at Villarreal, or prime Mesut Ozil at Real Madrid.
Two playmakers who could decide a game in the blink of an eye, producing a piece of magic at any moment.
Some argue the Enganche is losing prominence in the modern game, a dying breed, such is the tactical emphasis on pressing, something a classic 10 rarely does.
But in our tactical breakdown, we show you that there is still room for one of the game’s most cherished roles in the modern era.
Read on below for our player analysis, which uses real-life data to explore some prominent examples of an Enganche in the game today, or click on the video at the top of this article for a more in-depth look into the role, using Football Manager tactics.
Hakan Calhanoglu was perhaps the best example of a classic No. 10 last season. In Stefano Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 for AC Milan he was deployed ‘in the hole’, with his job being to find killer passes and split open opposition defences.
The interpretation of a 10 has evolved over the years in Italy, with the role requiring a heavier emphasis on providing goals. Think Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio or Francesco Totti. But, Calhanoglu’s role last season was largely to create, with the playmaker registering nine assists, and providing just four goals.
He also created 98 chances, the best return of any player in Europe’s top five leagues, and you can see from his passes-received-network (visual below) that he rarely drifted from that classic No. 10 area, collecting the ball ‘in the hole’ and dictating play at his own pace.
There’s a certain romanticism about a left-footed number 10, and Ruslan Malinovskiy fits the description well. Something of a luxury player in Atalanta’s system, he is a creative wizard, but he has some tactical limitations, and there are certain question marks over his work rate, which restricted him to just 22 starts in Serie A last term.
His limited playing time, though, serves well to underpin just how devastating he was when on the pitch. Malinovskiy finished the 2020/21 Serie A season having created the second-most chances from open play (57), a staggering achievement when you consider how many times he actually started.
In fact, Malinovskiy finished the campaign as Serie A’s Top Assist Maker, setting his teammates up on 12 occasions. From his heat map last season you can see he operated in that classic No. 10 position, stretching slightly wide into the half space when things got too crowded around the box.
And finally, if we move over to the Premier League, James Maddison is probably the closest we get to a classic No. 10. He excels between-the-lines and has that trademark back-to-goal half-turn so familiar with a traditional Enganche.
If we go back to the 2018/19 season, Maddison’s first for Leicester in the Premier League, he completed the campaign with 100 chances created, the best return in the English top flight and one of only three players to hit triple digits across Europe’s top five leagues, alongside Papu Gomez and Memphis Depay.
Brendan Rodgers’ 4-2-3-1 accommodated an advanced playmaker, and Maddison shone alongside Jamie Vardy. You can see from his passes-received network from 2018/19, that Maddison predominantly collected the ball ‘in the hole’ before turning and looking to find Vardy nearly every time. It was a devastating combo that saw Vardy net 18 times.
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