[dropcap]M[/dropcap]odern-day football has become analysed and studied to such a fine degree that even the armchair fan is passing him or herself off as a tactical expert.
As such, kudos must be given to managers when they make bold decisions that pay dividends.
Over a relatively short tenure as a top-class coach, Pep Guardiola has proven himself as one of the most innovative thinkers in the world game, with his burgeoning list of achievements credence to the claim.
However, one thing that sets the Catalan tactician apart is his ability to move players from an established role into a new position and the decision to work to the team’s benefit.
This started at Barcelona and has been continued at Bayern Munich, with Guardiola seeing the potential for certain players to operate in more influential positions on the pitch.
One thing that the retired midfielder is most keenly remembered for from his time on the Camp Nou bench was his ability to get the best from Lionel Messi.
It was Guardiola that turned the Argentine attacker from one of the best in the game to one of the best of all time, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s feats in his four years with the coach a joy to behold.
However, it was the analytical trainer that moved Messi into different roles dependant on the opponent or momentum of the team, with the South American featuring across the forward line during Guardiola’s time with the Blaugrana.
This was perhaps best illustrated by Guardiola using Messi as a false nine and the ploy a central component of the side’s success.
At the other end of the pitch, Javier Mascherano’s role at the Catalan club looked unsure before the head coach opted to move the midfielder back to centre-half.
Many questioned why Guardiola was taking a top-class boiler room proponent out of the line of fire and into a position where he was perceived to be a liability given his lack of pace.
However, Mascherano continues to be deployed at the back for the current European champions long after Guardiola has gone – there is an argument that the positional change salvaged the former Liverpool man’s career and made him a better player.
Philipp Lahm is adjudged as one of the world game’s best right-backs but the former Spain international was quick to recognise the defender’s potential to play in the centre of midfield.
The former Germany captain’s poise on the ball and influence from a role in front of the team’s rearguard was a key reason for Bayern’s dominance in Guardiola’s early days in Bavaria.
Since then the Allianz Arena chief has reinvented promising youngsters David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich by switching them to play at centre-half.
Alaba appears best as a central midfielder for a modest Austrian national side, while he has been forced to operate at left-back for his club due to the presence of others.
However, given the Bayern youth product’s reading of the game, comfort in possession, speed and combativeness, the 23-year-old has thrived at the heart of the Bundesliga leaders’ defence.
Kimmich was signed in the summer from Stuttgart as a promising all-action midfielder, with many expecting him to have to bide his time to get a chance in the Bayern first team.
However, through necessity initially and now on merit, the Germany under-21 starlet has become an increasingly important member of the team – playing at centre-half.
Kimmich now looks set to feature for the world champions at Euro 2016 and is displaying all the attributes of a top performer.
With Guardiola heading to manage Manchester City next season, it will be intriguing to see if he makes any subtle positional changes in the talented squad he will inherit.
His decisions have helped to improve the players he has repositioned, while the bravery to make the moves is another way of confirming the Catalan as one of the game’s top coaches.
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