More important than you think
Article by Josh Lawless
Though it may not of been too important in the earlier days of the game, in modern day football the role of a defensive midfielder is paramount in any side. Most players who occupy the role aren’t seen as the best of players technically, but in order to be successful in that position, work rate is essential. When the phrase ” defensive midfielder” is mentioned, many think about players like Sergio Busquets, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso. The three aforementioned above are in possession, which is one of the main factor’s
why they are regarded as three of the best defensive midfielder’s in the world.
In a top side like Man City; a club who have risen to success and have seen dramatic changes in fortunes in what has been a remarkable few years for them, every player is important, but some are considered more pivotal than others. They famously clinched the premier league title in the dying seconds of the season and in all truth every single player played a part, some more than others. But when there are players that grab your attention, there are also the so called ‘unsung heroes’; this meaning the players that do their bit for the team every week but do not receive the credit that others do. Every team boasts at least one unsung heroes who even though their work may go un-noticed, they are absolutely crucial to any football team. So at Man City, there are not expected to be too many unsung heroes, but there is one name that stands out and that is Gareth Barry.
Barry is someone that is often criticised by few people for being too slow and many don’t recognise how good of a player he actually is. Indeed he does lack pace, but his work-rate is fantastic. He was magnificent last season alongside Nigel De Jong in midfield and with De Jong and Barry as the enforcer’s in City’s midfield, the blues looked a lot more assured and the 17 clean sheets that they kept was mainly down to them. With City, the ball was often in the opponents half, but when called upon, Barry did his job.
Many believe that Barry is simply not good enough, yet when he was absent at the start of this season, he was clearly missed. He offers a great deal of protection for the back four and allows the players equipped with more flair like David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure to create opportunities in attack, while he sticks to his defensive duties. He has admitted that his job is made a lot easier by the quality that the other midfield possess, but he actually makes their job easier by sweeping up in midfield and playing the ball into their path. Some people, including a minority of City fans, are simply not aware of how important Barry was for City and it was only his absence at the start of the season, where many had noticed the team wasn't playing at full-strength and he was truly missed, which really does convey how much of a huge role he plays in this star-studded City side.
Its fair to say that City are a fairly young side, they don’t have a squad full of tender young talent, but most players currently in their squad are in their mid twenties. So with Barry being considered as one of the more experienced members of the squad at the age of 31, he has an important role in the side. The former Villa skipper has been around for quite a while now and is now coming to the end of his days, nevertheless he still remains an integral part of City’s mission to continue to challenge for trophies.
A couple of years ago, Barry was something of an England regular under Fabio Capello, yet under new boss Roy Hodgson, Barry has been overlooked. But surely that can only benefit City? If he is not selected to play for his country, it means he will receive more rest-time for the next game, where he will be at full-fitness. He isn’t known to of suffered any serious injuries throughout his career and even as he enters the final years of his career, he is still in good condition. Often some people question Roberto Mancini’s decision to persistently pick Barry in the starting eleven, but every game he consistently delivers. By delivering, he puts in a top performance and does his job in the midfield. He doesn't surge up the field like Yaya Toure and bamboozle defenders or unlock defences with his magical passes like David Silva, but he plays little five-yard passes in midfield and when he is on top of his game, usually City emerge victorious with a win.
In the early days of Mancini’s reign at City, he was often slammed by the media for playing rather defensive football, so last season; City reverted to a more attacking brand of football. Barry was key in both styles of play and while the ball was in the opponent’s half for the best part of City’s games, when called upon Barry did what he was supposed to. Yaya Toure is considered to be a defensive midfielder, having arrived from Barcelona with a reputation of being a superb passer of the ball, but in England, the Ivorian has transformed into a powerhouse who easily out muscles player’s off the ball.
So with Toure frequently bursting into the opponent’s half, some would fear that City would become exposed in midfield, but it was that man Barry to mop things up when needed. He granted Yaya the freedom to attack regularly whilst remaining in mid-field. Barry was absolutely pivotal in City’s title win last season and till this day, continues to do his job at Man City. He really deserves more credit and is another example of an unsung hero in the Premier League. City are slowly developing a good run of form recently and as the season wears on, they are expected to get better, but one thing which is certain is that if City manage to secure back to back titles, then Barry has yet again played a key part.
Josh has many other football articles over at his blog http://backofthenetfootball.wordpress.com