This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Christian Eriksen and Mesut Ozil’s struggles appear intertwined.
The two No.10s have struggled throughout this season as they look to win back the trust of their fans and their manager.
The German, though, is less multifunctional than Eriksen. He has only been played as an attacking midfielder this term; the Dane has played on the left, the right and in the centre of the pitch.
And perhaps that speaks to a confluence of their destinies and one irrefutable fact: The No.10 role is dying.
Only seven players, classified as attacking midfielders, have made more than four appearances in the role this season according to Whoscored.
One is Erik Lamela, at Spurs, who is now injured; another is Eriksen; then we see Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Manchester United’s Andreas Pereira; Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse; Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and Norwich City’s Marco Stiepermann.
How many of those players are absolutely vital to the way their teams play?
You could make the argument for Eriksen but his form this season has been such that you’d probably be inclined not to. Pereira is still young and learning.
Only Mount feels integral to Chelsea and even he has featured out wide this season, while the rest are disposable if the manager wants to change formation.
Of course, there are are many other No.10 type players employed in the Premier League, the likes of James Maddison and Jack Grealish, but their managers have preferred to use them in capacities other than the tradition central playmaker position.
And that is a key point. Ozil is not able to switch to the wings at will, though Eriksen does have that ability and it is utilised at Spurs.
In the modern game, No.10s need to be more than just the players who thread the eye of the needle. They have to be able to press, tackle, drop into central midfield and occasionally drift to the wings.
They need to be more than a playmaker alone and both Ozil and Eriksen have struggled this term – between them, they have two goals and two assists – during a time in which No.10s are being asked to adapt and influence from other positions.
Unless they can find a way to move away from their No.10 role and find a new niche, one has to believe that their current struggles will only continue.