The Three Best (and Worst) Positional Changes

August 30, 2012 in Features, Premier League

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Apparently, Brendan Rodgers has the perfect idea to resurrect Stewart Downing’s Liverpool career. Downing’s said to be “excited” by this prospect, but seeing as the other options are a sale or the reserves, I doubt anyone’s surprised by that.

Now, no matter my personal feelings on Downing (in my head, I call him Cap), most of us like to see a player do well, and if this idea can push Downing from perpetual mediocrity to consistently world-class, Brendan Rodgers is a certified genius. So what is this brainwave the Liverpool manager has had?

Play him at left-back.

Will it work? Who knows? What I do know is that players have been shifted around the pitch constantly through the years as tacticians tinker to get their victory: recent Tottenham signing Moussa Dembele is a case in point. Here are the three of the best (and three of the worst) attempts at adapting to new positions.


The Best

Bastian Schwiensteiger

At Euro 2004, Schweinsteiger came off the bench to inject some much needed urgency to the pedestrian Germans from the wing. He seemed to have the lot. Back home, he was dubbed “Schweini” as hopes were pinned on him for the future of German football.

Eight years later, he still is the trailblazer for the German Golden Generation, but his role comes from him pulling the strings from a much deeper position. His move there coincided with him asking the media not to refer to him as “Schweini” anymore; an odd link between a positional change and an attempt at maturity.

Javier Mascherano

When Barcelona shelled out £20 million to prise Javier Mascherano away from Liverpool, we all thought we knew what was happening. Adding some steel to that central midfield, we said. Yaya Toure’s days were numbered, we said.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Today, the Argentina captain usually lines up for Barca alongside The Luckiest Man In The World™ (Gerard Pique) in central defence. This may be down to a lack of strength in depth (and Puyol’s age), but six honours in three years means you can’t say he’s been unsuccessful, can you?

Thierry Henry

A pacy winger for both Monaco and Juventus, Henry was actually identified by Manchester United scouts early in his career as having “va va voom” and not much else.

I’m sure there are no regrets about that whatsoever.

But we all know what happened after they passed him over. That Man came in and made Henry his assassin-in-chief. As a striker, he has amassed league titles, international medals, and goals by the shedload. He will probably go down in history as a legend.



The Worst

Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos was only at Internazionale for one season, 1995-96. Roy Hodgson was the manager of Inter Milan during this period of time. These two facts are not unrelated.

You see, Mr Hodgson wanted to deploy the Brazilian as a winger, utilising his attacking instincts and technical ability. Not an unreasonable request, but Roberto Carlos disagreed. He felt he needed more space in front of him.

This back and forth went on for a year, before the left-back lost patience and went on to redefine the position at Real Madrid.

Nice diplomacy, Woy.


The case of Anderson is a sad one.

Quick, strong and skillful, as the consummate No. 10, his movement reminded many of a young Ronaldinho. He impressed at the U17 World Championship, and his form for Porto in the next season proved too much for Sir Alex Ferguson to resist.

Today, he is a shadow of that player. Yes, he has had injury problems that have robbed him of his initial pace and consistency, but the experiment to try and mould him into the Brazilian Paul Scholes merely resulted in (at best) Michael Carrick’s understudy.


David James

So your team’s drawing against Middlesbrough, and you’re a bit short on personnel in the forward position. What’s a manager to do?

In this case, I feel the pictures will say more than I ever could.

To be fair to David James,  he did win a penalty. However, for the rest of his antics, this will probably go down as the worst tactical experiment ever.