5 players who succeeded after being played out of position in 2014/15
A fascinating 2014/15 season is drawing to its close and fans across Europe have certainly been treated to some fantastic football this term. However, whilst many stars have flourished in their preferred roles, a number of players have managed to reinvent themselves in new positions, to devastating effect.
In some cases, the switch has been born out of necessity, but in others it’s simply a case of world-class talent showcasing versatility to produce phenomenal performances.
Here are five players that have excelled after a role change in 2014/15:
1) Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid
Replacing Diego Costa after losing him last summer to Chelsea was always going to be one of Diego Simeone's hardest challenges at the Vicente Calderon in 2014/15. However, whilst Mario Mandzukic has done well since joining from Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, it is one of Atletico's other signings that has really stunned followers of La Liga.
French star Antoine Griezmann was brilliant for Real Sociedad in 2013/14 but was very much a left-sided winger prior to his €30 million switch from the Anoeta. Whilst the 24-year-old has played the occasional match out wide, as well as a secondary striker, Atletico's ability to mould the youngster into an out-and-out forward has been crucial to keeping the Madrid club residing in the upper echelons of Spanish football.
A return of 22 goals sees Greizmann comfortably take the club's leading goalscorer crown in 2014/15. Of those 22 goals, 15 have come from 20 starts as a centre forward, compared to eight in 13 when playing elsewhere and 16 in 31 Liga appearances for Sociedad in 2013/14. Moreover, his ability to bamboozle defences from a central role has undoubtedly made him one of the most feared attacking figures in Europe this term.
Some eyebrows had been raised following the big money transfer, especially as Atletico are blessed with quality attacking wingers. In hindsight, we should never have questioned Simeone's masterplan.
2) Emre Can – Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers has failed to replicate the success of last season in 2014/15, which has ultimately seen his Liverpool side miss out on Champions League qualification. Whilst a lot of fingers have been pointed to the manager's poor dealings last summer, there is one signing that has proved to be worth every penny: the versatile Emre Can is a star of the future.
The 21-year-old German was bought from Bayer Leverkusen to play in central midfield, but following a calamitous start to Liverpool's campaign, the £9.75 million signing soon found himself joining Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho at the heart of the Reds' makeshift defensive trio.
Can's impressive showings were central to Liverpool's mid-season revival and very nearly helped them salvage a top four finish. It is no coincidence that the Reds improved once the German’s calming influence helped steady the defensive ship. In an otherwise very disappointing campaign for the Reds, the German stands out as one of the few shining positives.
With Steven Gerrard departing Anfield for Los Angeles this summer, the Kop will be hoping to see Can link up with the likes of Jordan Henderson in his preferred midfield role next term. Nonetheless, Rodgers can rest assured he has a capable deputy should injuries hit his defence.
3) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund
Jurgen Klopp's final season at Signal Iduna Park hasn't quite gone to plan, although Dortmund can still salvage some pride by lifting the DFB Pokal against Wolfsburg. But the individual performances of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will have pleased the BVB head coach.
While summer signing Ciro Immobile failed to live up to the reputation of becoming Robert Lewandowski’s heir, the 25-year-old Aubameyang has stepped up to prove himself in a new position – that of the centre forward. This season has seen the Gabon star up his goal tally from 16 in all competitions to a much healthier 23 goals, which is even more impressive when you consider the regression of the team as a whole.
That increase of nearly 50% has to be attributed to the change from wide right to centre-forward, a theory underlined by this year’s statistics. The Dortmund star has scored 14 goals from 25 starts up front, compared to just one in nine operating from the right flank that he occupied for most of 2013/14.
Dortmund’s season hasn’t seen too many positives, but Aubameyang’s evolution has been one of them.