The New Outfield Player and Versatility
Most commentators were critical of the erratic display of Manchester City’s new goalkeeper Claudio Bravo after the weekend derby with Manchester United. But by focusing on what he did wrong in the match they ignored the value and versatility that he brings to his new team.
While Bravo was at fault with the goal City conceded and was lucky not to be called for a penalty, the Chilean represents a new era in the role of the goalkeeper.
Bravo isn’t a traditional goalkeeper.
Instead, he is a ballplayer, effectively the new version of the old-fashioned sweeper or a deep-lying midfielder. The deep build up allows City to have an extra man against the press of the opposition. With good passing skills, Bravo is capable of transitioning defence to attack.
This is the reason that new manager Pep Guardiola bought him to the club.
Guardiola said as much after the match.
“The reason we played well in the first half was because of Bravo playing the ball and passing.”
Versatile Players in the Modern Game
Versatile players are vital for managers when putting together a squad or match day starting XI.
City’s Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernandinho is another great example. During the course of the second half against United he played in three different positions as Guardiola responded to the tactical adjustments of his opponent Jose Mourinho.
Gone are the days of having to make a substitution to change the way a team plays. With versatile players on the pitch managers can rely on players that are already into the flow of the game to make the difference – if they are equipped to do so.
With skill and athleticism being so similar at the top end of the sport one area to differentiate is flexibility in player thinking and problem solving.
A modern day footballer needs to be able to change the way they are playing quickly dependent on the state of the match.
Top Flight Football and Versatility
The best way to develop this capability is to experience playing in different areas of the field at a young age.
A young footballer needs to build confidence in the position that they have a natural affinity with. But equally important is educating young players in the roles and responsibilities of other positions.
By regularly giving players an opportunity to play in different areas of the field, individuals develop different skill sets that enable them to become all-round footballers, equally able to contribute in all phases of the game.
They learn how to play with their back to the goal they are attacking, the value of receiving the ball, being able to turn and play forward, and how to build play out of defence.
The Benefits of Versatility
Athletes who have that myriad of abilities are worth their weight in gold. This outcome is a key driver of the Top Flight Football Academy philosophy.
These players allow teams to be tactically dynamic over the course of 90 minutes. Substitutes don’t have to be introduced in an attempt to change the game. Instead both the player and manager can respond to the opportunities and challenges immediately.
The changing nature of the goalkeeper is just one way that the game continues to evolve. Expect to see more innovations through the course of the European season with versatile players leading the change.
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