Date: 1st September 2008 at 1:03pm
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In our search for a defensive midfield player many have proposed internal solutions. Moving Kolo Toure forward from defence has been one such popular suggestion but it`s an idea that has had cold water poured on it by Wenger who said recently “He`s more a guy with big explosive power but he`s not a long distance runner. Physiologically he`s not a central midfielder.”

Others have asked why Wenger sees Song as more of a central defender than central midfielder. It`s a position that Song has played but Wenger questions his long-term suitability for the role saying, “He can play in central midfield. But can he play 60 games there? I am not convinced”

Some have taken this as simply a question of stamina but stamina is a characteristic of aerobic training that can be improved. Wengers application of sports science isn`t quiet so simplistic. A more compelling reason that sports scientists will cite is principally determined by genetics. It all depends on the type of muscle fibre you have.

The composition of our muscles and the proportions of each fibre we have are determined predominantly by our genes. Slow Twitch (Type 1) muscle fibres ‘fire` slowly and, as they also fatigue slowly, can be found in endurance athletes. Fast Twitch (Type 2) generates short bursts of strength or speed much better than ‘slow` muscles but fatigue much quicker. Though there is some evidence that training can change muscle fibre composition only to a limited extent it seems this can only be from ‘fast` to ‘slow` and not the other way around.

Olympic sprinters will have in the order of 80% ‘fast twitch` while marathon runners will have much the same proportion of ‘slow twitch` muscles. Central defenders are called upon for quick bursts of explosive activity. Sprinting short distances, leaping to head the ball, sliding into tackles while central midfielders are required to cover a lot of ground in more or less continuous movement. Its here that muscle composition can determine which player physiologically best fits which task.

At the highest level footballers are elite athletes and a variety of factors go into determining performance not solely physiological make up. Psychology, nutrition and conditioning all are part of a complex mix. Training programmes are designed to improve every aspect of a player`s physical make up but understanding the basis which you work from is key to maximising natural ability.

Sometimes it can seem that Wenger is just being obdurate when deciding he knows what is best for a player but usually there is a scientific basis for such thinking.



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