Playing in multiple positions. Is it worth it?
You may have heard the saying before, ‘A jack of all trades but a master of none’. Does that apply to football and does playing a number of positions make you beneficial to the team but affect your potential influence on the game?
It’s an interesting question because it is something that quite a large number of players have experienced. Every coach has their own opinion on how they want the team to play and they may think that you should play in a different position to the one that you have been. If you can’t perform well in that other position, do you still have your place left in the team?
It’s tricky and sometimes quite nerve-racking for a player. Playing in a completely different position can almost feel like you are playing a new sport.
But is it worthwhile to be able to play in a number of different positions?
At the younger ages, definitely. When you’re a young player it is incredibly important to experience different positions on the pitch, helping you learn the game and potentially even find you a position that suits you more so than the one you play in. As you get older, players begin to hone in on their specialised position and focus on developing the techniques to play there. But some flexibility can be very useful.
There are plenty of examples in the game where players started off in one position and then changed due to a number of circumstances, which ended up benefiting the team, and their own game.
Gareth Bale is a great example. If he were insistent that he would only ever play as a left back, which he was in his early years at Southampton and Tottenham, then would he have had the same career as he has had since moving toward being an attacking player?
Personally, I don’t think so.
Possessing the ability to play in different positions can open up many doors for you as a player, giving you many more opportunities to impact the game.
On the flip side, there are many times where a player doesn’t have the same impact because they have been moved out of position. This has happened quite a few times with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Playing on the left wing Rashford has the capability to cut inside and dribble toward the goal, but if he is played on the right, his whole game changes.
But should it really? He’s only been moved to the opposite side of the pitch, yet his performance changes drastically.
Rashford, a great player, but not comfortable on the right.
On the right side he doesn’t dribble as much and doesn’t seem to have the penetrating style of play that he does on the left. But if he were to develop his ability to play on the other wing then he would get a huge amount of opportunities to score more goals and affect more games.
The best example of someone who does just this, in a similar position, is Cristiano Ronaldo. He can play on the left, the right, and as a striker, but you wouldn’t notice too much difference in his performances. Ronaldo realises that playing in a number of positions gives him more opportunities, more opportunities to be in positions that he previously wouldn’t have been.
Ronaldo, able to play in a number of attacking positions.
If one of the world's best ever players realises this, then it is something that all players can add to their game.
And many players can think being moved out of a position is a bad thing. Some may think that it means the coach prefers someone else over them, or thinks they're not playing well in that position lately.
But, in reality, that’s rarely the case. Each game is different and the coach needs to adapt the team's style to take an advantage over the opponent.
In the games where Rashford has played on the right wing he hasn’t really taken the opportunity.
But he was put there out of necessity.
Man Utd don’t really have a strong right wing option and Rashford missed the chance to add that to his game, but his preference for the left has made it harder for him to adapt and improve on the right.
What all players need to realise is that the modern game is becoming much more fluid and adaptable. Just look at Man City; in many cases it’s really difficult to actually say what position their attacking players are playing in. They chop and change and move all over the pitch.
If you’re only ever used to playing in one position, then you might just be limiting yourself, stopping yourself from realising new opportunities that may become available for you.
Top players now are becoming more flexible and it is something I feel all players should start to embrace, rather than shy away from. The game is becoming more fluid and more flexible with changes of position, tactics and roles happening regularly.
If you can practise developing your technical skills, especially on both feet, then you will become much more comfortable playing in different roles. There will be some time in your footballing career where you are asked to play in a position that you aren’t used to, but if you are good on the ball, comfortable on both feet, and confident in your abilities, then this could turn into a great positive for you.
Lots of players can feel uncomfortable playing in another position because it may be on the other side of the pitch and they may not be both footed. But develop your technical abilities on both feet and you’ll see the opportunities to play in many different roles.
Roles that you may not have thought you would have enjoyed or had much success in.
The game is changing and players are beginning to be used in different roles and positions. Don’t limit your ability and potential options by just saying that you can only play in one.
Give it a go in some other positions and you may just find that you are even better for it.