I have given a lot of thought on why the role of No. 10 has been diminished in modern football. I reached the conclusion that most managers have a hard time finding a place for them on the pitch.
In the past, players like Maradona or Laudrup, frequently roaming freely, were not expected to make much of a defensive contribution. In modern football, almost every player is required to have a dual role.
Wes Hoolahan is undoubtedly one of the most gifted players of his generation, and also a very rare breed these days. He is the closest to a prototype No. 10 that I have seen in a while. And I often think how many youngsters could have been overlooked just because they didn`t fit the modern footballer mould.
I am certain that Wes would have accomplished higher feats if he had played during the previous century, when players had far more space to operate. His vision and passing skills, along with his short space movement, are really top notch.
But unfortunately for Wes, flair is often overshadowed by physical skills nowadays. The modern coach has discovered that with the right intensity and pressure, even average players can disrupt a good creative one. And as some might say, defence wins championships, right?
Well maybe, but that`s only half of the story. I have also given a lot of thought on why the No. 10 role is not completely extinct. And I believe it has to do with the way you build a squad.
To get the best out of a player like Wes, the team has to be properly tuned around him. Supported by players with the right skillset and character. There are a few examples of success in Europe and even a couple in England, of clubs that have shaped their squads around a classic No. 10, although the list is short.
One that comes to mind is Gylfi Sigurdsson. Swansea City enjoyed a couple of good years in the premier league relying heavily on him. Yes, he has a different skillset than Wes, but also prefers to operate through the middle of the pitch.
It is quite pleasing to know that some clubs would still build their squads around these type of players. Norwich City has enjoyed decent success over the past few years with Wes Hoolahan in the ranks and supporters have been blessed with his traits for almost a decade.
So I was extremely pleased when the club decided to buy Pritchard and Maddison with eyes on grooming a long term replacement for Wes. They can both produce magic, and whilst still at his best, Wes will be able to influence the younger lads by example.
With Pritchard having a strong end of season I can see why many pundits, including the respected Michael Bailey, have claimed that Norwich City should rebuild around him. I completely agree, but it is yet to be resolved if Stuart Webber and the new head coach will share this view.
Hopefully they do, and the No. 10 will never become extinct at Norwich City.