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Lucas Torreira, N’Golo Kante and the evolution of the defensive midfielder

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Sarri has come in for criticism for shunting arguably the best defensive midfield player in world football out of his comfort zone and consequently leaving his back four exposed, but is his idealogy reflective of a wider shift in perception of what a defensive midfielder should bring to the table?

Sarri criticised Kante for his technical limitations following the loss to Spurs at Wembley, saying: 'I think, as you know, I want to play a central midfielder as a very technical player, a Jorginho or [Cesc] Fabregas.



Managers of the other top six clubs have also generally selected deep-lying playmakers at the base of their midfield this season, with Granit Xhaka operating nearer his own goal than Lucas Torreira at Arsenal, Harry Winks playing as a No.6 for Spurs and Jordan Henderson doing a disciplined holding job for Liverpool.



In an interview with The Guardian, De Jong said: 'You have to do your defensive work but I like to see players who understand the game, players with a lot of vision.

During his two seasons with Sampdoria, Torreira won more tackles than any other player in Serie A and made the fourth-highest number of interceptions, predominantly as the deepest-positioned midfielder in their standard 4-3-1-2 system.

Most defensive players would have had a nosebleed had they found themselves in the opposition penalty area with ten minutes of a derby remaining, yet Torreira was composure personified, firing a low shot beyond Hugo Lloris to spark pandemonium inside the Emirates and end the contest.

While once defensive midfield players were expected to stay in their zone, win the ball and move it swiftly on, now they are builders of the attack.


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