360 In-DEPTH Analysis: The Pivot

06242011_editorial_tactics_header-776x290The pivot is the most confused part of a 4-2-3-1 formation.

4-2-3-1 formation itself is a very specialized formation. The formation can’t adapt to players rather the players need to adapt to it. In contrast, a formation like 4-4-2 is more general and every kind of player can find a place in it.

As I said before, what kind of players can slot into the pivot is a matter of much debate amongst the fans. Ramires is an excellent 4-3-3 player but looks out of place on the wing in a 4-2-3-1. He looks much more comfortable in the pivot but still it is not a perfect position for him.

A look whether players like Oscar or Luiz can play this position & which partnership is the best.
Traditional Pivot

The traditional pivot as we know consists of two defensive midfielders. The thing to note here is although one of these need to have more of an attacking threat, but still he needs to be a defensive midfielder first.
So let’s first analyze what kind of players are needed?

Deep Lying Playmaker/Midfield Destroyer


Tackling ability: Should be a good tackler, but need not be a tackle machine. Ideally what is needed from this player is discipline & positioning. Tackling in the sense that he need to mop up for others.

Passing: Should be able to pass QUICKLY and eye for picking up attacking 3 with a through pass/long ball so that they need not drop too deep. Using both feet a plus. Must be able to play one touch passes. Able to start counters.

Vision: Very important skill for the player. Needs to shut down passing lanes of opposition before they develop.

Discipline: Forays forward must be disciplined. Should sit in front CB and cover for LB/RB during the transitions when possession is lost.

Work Rate: Comparatively lesser.


Long Range Shot, Late runs into the box, Ability to hold the ball
Prime examples are Daniel De Rossi, Pirlo, Luka Modric.

What Chelsea have for this position: John Obi Mikel suits this position with his excellent reading of the game. His pace won’t be a problem for this role. Not the perfect player as he lacks the knack of picking the attacking 3 with a killer pass but one can say it’s not his job.

The player with Free role:


Tackling: Must be an absolute tackling machine. Must be adventurous at tackles at times. Should look to recover possession with aggressive pressing.

Work rate: Very high. Must be an absolute midfield engine who doesn’t tire. Should have speed for driving runs in the midfield.

Passing: Should be comfortable on the ball. He will need to contribute in attack buildups a lot more. Quick feet to beat opponents.

Attacking threat: Should be an attacking threat. Should be good finisher. Late runs into the box would be a plus.

Movement: A player who should have good movement to link up regularly with the attacking 3.

What Chelsea have: Ramires is the best Chelsea player to fill this criteria. His passing isn’t that good but he brings a lot to the game. A young Frank Lampard would be ideal for this role.

Mourinho’s pivot

Mourinho doesn’t employ the traditional pivot with predefined roles. When Lampard & Ramires play they often take turns to go forward. When either one is too far up the pitch the other sits back.

Lampard-Ramires partnership suits Mourinho’s version of the pivot but a Mikel-Ramires partnership of the traditional pivot should trump that. The turnaround from 0-2 in the FA cup quarter-final against Manchester United is testimonial to that very fact when Mikel came on (with Hazard) & changed the game.
The inclusion on Mikel gives Ramires the full freedom to impose on the game and attack.

Mikel-Lampard partnership lacks the mobility unless we are defending backs-against-the-wall approach. It will simply get run over if pivot moves forward. If they remain back, the attacking band will get isolated.

Why Mourinho favors Lampard-Ramires pivot over Mikel-Ramires pivot?

Nobody can know what Mourinho thinks but my guess is the poor passing quality of Ramires & Mikel as a whole. If you are a regular to Chelsea games, you might have often observed the disconnect between the pivot and attacking band. The ball keeps moving between pivot, defence & goalkeeper.

Ramires’ passing is not that great. He is averse to sloppy passes. While Mikel always plays as a distributor choosing safe passes. It’s not his job to create. This often leads in difficulty to break defences. Players like Juan Mata or Oscar have to drop deep to pick the ball to start a move. Lampard on the other hand is much better in finding the attacking 3. So is David Luiz, who can do so from the defence.

David Luiz is world-class CB who divides opinion in midfield position. Some say that he is just decent at this position while others (many in media) would say this is his true position. Luiz can fit into either role in the traditional pivot but will be better suited to the defensive role. His passing ability is great and defensive aspect strong. If he can work on his discipline, he can be the first choice player at that position. He also lacks the knowledge when to tackle and when to sit back which only can come with experience at that position.

Mourinho has said he won’t play Luiz in midfield & I believe him. Against Liverpool it was an emergency.
Oscar is what many fans would love to see in the pivot. He is a tackler, runs a lot & can’t fail in attacking aspect. This might be a good theory but it will fail against physical sides. Oscar lacks the aerial ability & the physical strength for the mid-field position. Making preemptive tackles in free defensive role is one thing but having the responsibility to protect back 4 would be too much. Oscar can play in the pivot but he will be average. It will be a loss of talent of a guy like Oscar playing him there.

Chalobah & McEachran are excellent prospects as well. Mourinho sees Chalobah as a Centre-back as it appeared in preseason. McEachran can be Chelsea’s Xavi but he needs to work a lot on the defensive side of his game. I keep hoping each year he will improve physically but he looks the same regardless. Here’s hoping to he will be a late bloomer.

A player like Daniel De Rossi would have turned Blues into Champions overnight. We need to buy a quality midfielder as soon as possible for the long term. What quality midfielder would you like to see Chelsea buy for the long term? Gundogan anyone?

– BlueBoy. Writer is a graduate form IIT, Roorkee & a die-hard Chelsea fan. He will never give up on Torres. He recently started ablueheart.com to share his passion.

  1. Anonymous says

    Khedira would be a perfect fit for Chelsea

  2. Chris says

    I am a big fan of Gundogan by like so many others people mention, ie Matic and Pogba he is just another box-box midfielder.
    Marco Verratti is what we need, an actual top draw HOLDING midfielder at the age of 21. One of the best holding midfielders I seen in a long time and would be a definite upgrade to mikel

  3. Gbasha.bitto says

    Seconded VERRATI is my option though

  4. blueboy says

    Chelsea don’t need a holding midfielder because Mourinho favors the dynamic roles for both his mids. Both should be able to contribute equally in each aspect of game. We also have Oriol Romeu who is also very young and has started to impress at Valencia. He is also a holding midfielder.

  5. blueboy says

    Regarding Verratti, he gets regualr playing time at PSG and they are not a selling club so highly doubt Chelsea can fancy him.

    1. Chris says

      Well if they what Mata so badly I wouldn’t mind cash + Verratti or just a straight swap mata. He’s so much better than romou. I watched matches hes in and Hes does both but is better decision maker then Mikel.

      1. blueboy says

        Yeah, maybe that’s how we can do it. But I don’t think Chelsea will sell Mata. The final say over transfers is of Roman Abramovich. He thinks like a fan and no would ever sell Mata. He will atleast have another year. I think Mata can be back in the favored Cheslea X1.

  6. alexcfc8 says

    Matic or Guarin would be the best buy for us both good solid midfielders who can do all the above

  7. akinwumi steven says

    Good write up and analysis by the writer but my question is there any problem in our midfield?Why is it that we keep beating around by the bush?The only area where there’s big problem is our attack!Don’t u people see how strikers like Suarez and Negredo were painting the EPL RED!None of our strikers have been able to score 5 goals in the league and ure busy discussing the pivot area that has mikel,ramires,lampard and luiz and not forgetting the injured van ginkel and our young mceahran!

    1. blueboy says

      David Luiz should be considered as a stop-gap. Van Ginkel injury was of course unfortunate but all these problems of less goals start from the midfield. More often than not Chelsea’s lone striker is isolated up front. This is because the attacking 3 are not fed up passed by the pivot in attacking areas. They drop back and carry the ball up front leaving the striker isolated. Plug the midfield and goals will come.

      1. Vaakmeisster says

        I disagree. People always blame the pivot for not getting the ball to the attacking 3 but that’s false. Yes, they sometimes slow down attacks by trying to be safe, but I think our pivot are quite good at what they do. Our attacking trio is the problem. Their role is to create chances. The major way to create chances is via through balls. How many through balls have you seen from Oscar, Willian & Hazard in the past 3 matches? Instead of making through passes, they wanna dribble or shoot. Or they make a not always useful sideways pass. If our attacking midfield trio try more through balls to our strikers, they’ll score more

      2. blueboy says

        @Vaakmeisster Through balls can be played against oppositions with high line. Not many PL teams play high line. Spurs used to play one under AVB. Most teams like to defend in a low block of 9 against Chelsea barring any space. Reason why Torres has been unable to flourish. Although agree that Willian & Oscar do not create so many chances that they should. Juan Mata is by far the best creator at Chelsea.

  8. Zyte says

    D pivot may not be the best,but not doing bad as we portray it here.man city,barca,bayern play high defensiv line,so there is less distanc btwn the pivot & their attacking trio.chelsea must deal with striking problem 1st,den let our midfielders learn how 2 place bal in the net like hazard did against hul.oscar,wilian,mata should learn how 2 place ball rather than shootn direct 2 the keepa.

  9. Zyte says

    am hapy dat jose has made hazard a better player that has penalty box composure.i wish 2 see oscar,wilian,mata & schurl follow in that path.oscar wouldve scored against hul,but he shot direct 2 the keepa.then i wish jose wil mak mikel develop a good shootn range like makalele & alonso,den wish rami can hav beta bal control & learn how 2 pas d bal betta.

    1. Gracelyn says

      That’s an inventive answer to an innetesritg question

  10. Chris says

    Well matic to cfc is basically official sky sports Yes, the game against FC Porto was my last game for Benfica. I want to improve, I want to play in a better league and I want to go to Chelsea, a club I also love. I insisted on leaving because I think this is the right moment.

  11. Vaakmeisster says

    Great article, though I do not entirely agree with your opinion on Oscar. Maybe he isn’t ready o play the pivot, but I think he can be converted. Aerial ability is important but it never has been a prerequisite for the pivot. Pirlo is not dominant in the air, neitheris Modric. Makalele who basically invented this role was not dominant in the air either. I see a lot of Pirlo qualities in Oscar. He shoul be tried out at pivot

  12. Lightning says

    Anyone else ever see that horrible dive De Rossi took last season? The one where he tapped on some other player and dropped to the ground clutching his face as if he had been assaulted when the ref had his back turned, just to end up getting booked by the ref? He shamed himself, his family, his club, and his country with that antic, that’s why I don’t want to see him at Chelsea.

    This Luiz/Matic pivot could be a potentially devastating duo, but equally for us and our opposition, so Mourinho wouldn’t risk this double-edged sword.

  13. dipesh says

    chelsea has best players in the mid field but the problem is the strikers as of now torres is the only striker we can rely on but he does not get that many chances to score goals

  14. salim kazungu says

    Perfect analysis,Chelsea is a great club with great funs,great players,with a great manager and a great owner…KTBFFH guys.

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