Playing out of position
There have been a number of recent comments about players being played out of their 'natural` position, notably Hleb who appeared to play most regularly for Stuttgart in a central role but much the same has also been said about Rosicky. However, is there such a thing in the modern game? Is the game really much different in wide midfield compared to a central role and if there is a difference is it such that it would be beyond a good player to adapt easily to varying demands? We tend to think that certain physical characteristics determine players` positions maybe with pace marking players as being suited to wide areas. However, with the possible exception of Overmars our fastest players Henry, Anelka and the younger Bergkamp have tended to play through the middle with players like Pires, Parlour and Edu while not being by any means slow playing out wide.
A number of players have come to Arsenal and played in a position that was not the discipline they had established at their previous clubs. Petit was a central or left side defender before establishing himself in our midfield and Thierry a winger before being converted to our all time highest scoring centre forward. Others changed position before joining us. Pires scored a few goals starting out as a striker for Metz before moving to left midfield.
Going back even further Don Howe famously converted attacking midfielder McLintock to centre back alongside utility midfield/forward/sometime left back Simpson, pushed right back Storey to midfield (where he won a number of England caps) and brought centre forward Graham into midfield before doing the double in `71. A little later we sold centre forward Kennedy to Liverpool where he ended up playing and winning England caps as a left midfielder.
We have also experimented recently, with mixed success, with players like Diaby in a forward role and Djouro as a defensive midfielder. Players in different positions than those we are familiar with depend on their interaction with the players around them. A more defensively aware wide midfielder could compliment an attacking full back for example. Rather than becoming fixated on positions we should perhaps look for these sort of symmetries with Henrys preference for raiding from the left complimented by RvP using the right as his springboard as one example. It is discovering this mix of players with a cocktail of attributes and understanding fitting together to produce a successful team that is the elusive 'balance` that Wenger needs to find.
Article submitted by Amos.