Kai Havertz at Arsenal and Mason Mount at Manchester United are yet to fit in – but this is not a simple issue of personnel

Afew years ago, the future seemed a world in which football teams would comprise 11 midfielders. Then it became 11 full-backs, at which it became apparent that nobody quite knew the difference any more. Then Pep Guardiola found his inner Tony Pulis and started fielding four centre-backs and it turned out that, while the present may be very much possession-driven, the future may not. The composition of the midfield is suddenly up for debate again.

The most common setup among the Premier League’s elite remains 4-3-3 – even the 4-2-3-1 with which Manchester City have started the season is a minor variation on that. Most of those midfield threes feature a holder, a creator and a balancing player who links the two adjusting his role according to circumstance (a 6, a 10 and an 8, if you want to use the Dutch designations that have become increasingly pervasive).

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