Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Double pivot keeps Giggs evergreen
To say that Manchester United have dominated the Premier League era sounds like a statement of the obvious, but it is important to remember the tremendous potential this team has to reinvent itself. Chelsea were recently beyond all doubt the strongest team in England, but only from 2004 to 2007; Arsenal had this title in their own right between 2001 and 2004. However, with United on track for an unprecedented hat-trick of Premier League titles this season, I look at one small facet of how the team has managed to keep itself evergreen and entrench itself as England's natural champions.
Ryan Giggs, 35, had considered retiring from football at the end of the season, the (formerly) pacy winger being British football's most decorated player. Thanks perhaps a tactical masterstroke by Sir Alex Ferguson (or a pragmatic response to a long injury list) Giggs now stands ahead of United's legions of young central midfielders, with a new contract about to be penned. Why this change?
To pronounce the death of the strict 4-4-2 is now a favourite pastime of football pundits, who prefer to talk about strikerless 4-6-0 formations. The way United lined up against West Brom last night (see diagram) suggests that the "double pivot" aspect of the 4-4-2 formation is still very much alive. The term double pivot is from the Spanish doble pivote, which invokes the shared responsibilities of the central midfielders in a 4-4-2. I have written about the the solid midfield base Michael Carrick provides, a man to whom Ryan Giggs provides the perfect foil: sitting in front of the back four at times, but making runs and key final passes to United's fluid attackers.
Giggs' deep, hard-tackling role in the recent 3-0 win against Chelsea was reminiscent of the Claude Makelele of old. Yesterday he took on a more active role and assisted four goals, frequently breaking forward from deep. Football is a funny old game: an ageing winger can be reborn and inspirational; a traditional formation like the double-pivot can be the innovation a team needs to win a third title in a row.