There is no doubt that football is an ever-changing, flexible construct, whose trends can change according to the demands of the game. In the Premier League, the place of the central midfielder is part of this.

Innovator | Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele inspired almost a position of his own and a timeless football cliche. (Image | The Guardian)

Innovator | Former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele inspired almost a position of his own and a timeless football cliché. (Image | The Guardian)

Players now seldom operate in the so-called “Makélélé role”, named after former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makéléléleft.

Once seen as a must for every top side, it is now conspicuous by its absence. Figures such as Youssouf Mulumbu, Lucas and John Obi Mikel seem to be part of a dying breed in the English top flight.

We also see few players operating in the position of a “Number 10”. This individual often has a free role behind the centre forward, and is regarded as the creative hub of the team, a man that makes things happen in the final third of the pitch.

Known as the trequartista in Italy, or deep-lying forward, the Premier League does possess a host of players with the required skill set to operate in this role.

However, many of these, including David Silva, Luis Suárez and Adel Taarabt, instead tend to start from a wide position or are deployed as a central striker.

This season, three main types of central midfielder have been the norm in the top flight, and they are as follows.

The Progenitor

This is the last refuge of the technician. A few years ago, teams wanted to position their best tackler in front of the back four. Now it seems to be their most superior passer.

In the frenetic world of the Premier League, the best decision appears to be keeping a progenitor away from the turbulence that can occur in the thick of the midfield.

Progenitor | A prominent example of this breed is Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta. (Image | The Telegraph)

Progenitor | A prominent example of this breed is Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta. (Image | The Telegraph)

Rather than the trequartista, that would often play the pass leading to a goal, the progenitor tends to make the pass that leads to the pass which results in a goal.

Or the pass that leads to the pass which leads to the pass that leads to a … well, you get the idea.

Yet this example does more than merely keep possession: he regulates the flow of the play. The best ones can shape the very narrative of an entire match.

It is a role often suited to the players that are ultimately not the most athletic or dynamic. The progenitor must have intelligence and foresight, and hurts the opposition with subtlety rather than force. It is the thinking player’s position.

Examples: Mikel Arteta (above right), Leon Britton, Michael Carrick

The Shuttler

This role is symptomatic of the stereotypical English demand for graft over craft. Similar to a box-to-box midfielder, the shuttler is a technically competent player, but not an exceptional one.

They are unlikely to be a physical powerhouse, but will also not be a pushover. Stamina is frequently the strong point of a shuttler, as it needs to be, as they are the honest trier, the yeomen of the game.

Shuttler | Everton veteran Leon Osman can be said to fit into this bracket. (Image | Sports Mole)

Shuttler | Everton veteran Leon Osman can be said to fit into this bracket. (Image | Sports Mole)

When attacking, these footballers sometimes provide what Gary Neville describes as “the third-man run”, by bursting forward into the penalty area to get on the end of through-balls and crosses.

When defending, however, they tend to be the toughest tackler on their pitch and provide valuable assistance in front of the back four, operating as a second “screener” alongside the progenitor.

Examples: Leon Osman (left), Ramires, Jordan Henderson

The Power 8*

Yaya Touré is the biggest star in this position. When signed by Manchester City, manager Roberto Mancini surprised many by taking on a man that had primarily plied his trade for Barcelona as a defensive midfielder, and stationing him higher up the pitch.

Yet this proved to be a shrewd move, as Touré used his robust frame to batter past opponents, similar to a flanker or a centre in rugby union.

While the Power 8 is normally said to be a weapon of blunt force, much like the lead piping in Cluedo, the best in this position are more than just imposing forces of nature.

They are also technically sound, with good all-round awareness of the game. Otherwise, the likes of Touré and Marouane Fellaini would not be such versatile players.

However, their specialised skill set means that the Power 8 will work best in the final third. They are similar to Juggernaut, the comic book character from X-Men. Give this breed a head of steam, and it is rather like trying to stop a train. They will simply flatten you.

Super 8 | Moussa Dembélé, pictured against Inter Milan this week... (Image | Zimbio)

Power 8 | Moussa Dembélé, pictured against Inter Milan earlier this week, is a good example of the final central midfielder type. (Image | Zimbio)

For proof of this, perhaps it is best to ask the Manchester United players that suffered against Fellaini on the opening day of the season.

Examples: Yaya Touré, Marouane Fellaini, Moussa Dembélé (right)

With that said, there are probably a few players that I have missed, or other aspects of the central midfield role that have not been covered.

If you have any suggestions of players based in the Football League or abroad, leave a comment or contact The Armchair Pundits using the details below.

Credit for the term “Power 8” must go to journalist Rory Smith.

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