Is the specialist defensive midfielder a dying breed in England?

This article first appeared on Outside of the Boot, a website obsessed with the beautiful game (read it here).

When Southampton boss Ronald Koeman started with center-half Toby Alderweireld as a second pivot alongside Morgan Schnederlin in a center-heavy 4-2-3-1 against Tottenham, he must’ve felt the sheer absurdity of letting go former Chelsea man Jack Cork to Swansea City in January.

Cork is essentially a defensive central midfielder, far less of the archetypal English mold but more of the fleet-footed passer from the back. Koeman prefers two holding midfielders to one; this is basically an approach to mitigate Southampton’s limitations of personnel. Should they play with two center forwards, which they currently don’t have and which will mean making lesser use of an in-form Graziano Pelle up front, it would usually imply sacrificing a midfield body. Against Spurs in that 2-2 draw though, Koeman was forced to use Alderweireld in the suspended Victor Wanyama’s absence. He could’ve easily called upon Cork had he not been sold.

Cork at Swansea is the long-term like-for-like replacement for the ageing Leon Britton. Like Britton, Cork’s role in a midfield triumvirate at Swansea is recycling the ball quickly and intelligently. Their presence….(Read the rest of the article at or by clicking here).


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