As kick-off time for the 2012/13 Premier League approaches, many managers will be desperately scrabbling to fill vacant positions in their squads.
It does not always go to plan (just ask Arsene Wenger about Park Ju-Young), so many bosses will turn to their most versatile players, the men who have the ability to fill any number of gaps.
A 38-game season will contain all manner of injury crises, plus transfer window restrictions mean the possibility of drafting in replacements is not always there – so who are the men who will fill the gaps?
Many players can do a job, but few excel when out of their more accustomed berths – here are five of the best from the Premier League:
Phil Jones, Manchester United
The England youngster showed glimpses of his versatility at his previous club Blackburn Rovers, but the 20-year-old has proved he many more facets to his game since moving to Old Trafford. Considered primarily as a centre-back, Jones’ technical ability meant he was able to step forward into central midfield, but a number of assured performances at right-back surprised many.
Clint Dempsey, Fulham
The American has been a consistent performer for the Cottagers over the past four years, but last season really produced a special year in terms of goals scored. Such consistency is even more surprising considering the various different positions he has taken up throughout his time there.
Dempsey operates mainly as an attacking midfielder, but has also played in the central striker role, as a winger and often as a more conventional central midfielder.
John O’Shea, Sunderland
His best days may be behind him, but the tall Irish defender made his name at Old Trafford because of his ability to look comfortable in any number of positions. O’Shea originally breaking into the team as a central defender, but good positioning and sound technical skills saw him deployed across the back line.
Eventually he was played in a defensive midfield role, continuing to show the calm head ad intelligence that Sir Alex Ferguson liked so much about him. It would not be unreasonable to say the lack of a main position shortened his Manchester United career, but it is extremely difficult to what he did for so long at one of the best club’s in the world.
Yaya Toure, Manchester City
Toure is an imposing presence in the City midfield, but the way in which he operates there varies greatly; sometimes manager Roberto Mancini requires the Ivory Coast man to sit deeper and provide some stability, but the tall 29-year-old is at his magnificent best when given licence to go marauding into the opposition penalty box.
It must also be remembered that Toure was often used as a centre back while at Barcelona, doing a more than adequate job. He has occasionally been required to fill in there for City and his performances have proved he would be more than capable of operating there permanently.
Michael Essien, Chelsea
The Ghanaian’s career has been cruelly stumped by a number of serious injuries in recent seasons, but his quality has shone through on the occasions where he managed to string a number of games together. By far at his best when powering around midfield, Essien’s supreme physical attributes allowed him to fill gaps all across the defence and in wide positions.
At only 29 years old, Essien still has time to return to his best in a Blues shirt and it would be no surprise to see him dominating opponents in any number of positions.
Do you think there are other Premier League stars that could have made this list? What do you think of the choices?
Leave a comment below to let us know…