Tactics guru Michael Cox (http://www.zonalmarking.net/) has highlighted many times the use of tilting the midfield, for example, when discussing how, in the recent Arsenal-Tottenham game:
“if Saha moves onto Song, then Arsenal tilt the triangle to bring Song higher up the pitch, Saha will have to move over and pick up Arteta instead.”
In this diagram you can see 3 stages.
1 1. Red’s DM is allowed time and space to drive through the middle or pick out a pass
2 2. Blues counter this by telling one of their strikers to move onto the red DM (As Saha did in the example discussed by Zonal Marking).
3 3. The Red’s react by “tilting” their midfield trio. This means they can push up the pitch in order to dictate play, as shown in the diagram, trusting the greater likelihood of them cutting out passes in midfield due to the 2 covering more space. Also, they may draw a Blue cm toward one of them to make space for the Red AM as well as allowing the other Red CM time and space similar to the first diagram.
A recent example of the impact of this can be seen in the game between Arsenal and Newcastle.
This image is a clear representation of the dangers of the situation shown by the first diagram. Song picks up the ball facing his own goal, he is then allowed the space to turn under absolutely no pressure and drive up the pitch before attempting to play a ball through to Van Persie. In this entire period song is given 5 seconds of complete freedom in order to turn, drive up the pitch and pick a pass, if his final ball was better it is not difficult to see how he could have created a chance.
This next image shows song receiving the ball with Arteta alongside him on the base of the midfield triangle and Ramsey ahead, similar to stage 3 of the diagram, however, Ba has picked up Arteta causing each of the 3 Arsenal midfielders to be marked, unlike Sagna who is wide on the right. Arteta's movement forwards creates a reverse tilt of the Arsenal midfield trio which allows him to free himself of the attention of Ba by dragging him deeper than he would like to come, it also forces the 2 Newcastle midfielders (at this point Cabaye and Guthrie) to retreat in order to pick up Arteta and Ramsey, thus giving Song the time and space to spot a clear path to Sagna on the right.
In this example I have focussed upon Arsenal as they are one of the most common users of this tactic in the Premier League, however, it can be seen in the play of many other teams. Also, I have focussed on the use of the system when the opposition are outnumbered in the centre of the pitch, however, tilting the trio can also be useful when attempting to escape the attentions of an opposition trio. A topic I hope to cover in the future.