Versatility is an extremely useful trait to have in a footballer, and players who possess the ability to play in a variety of different positions are very valuable to their managers.
Arsene Wenger has had several players with this kind of flexibility at his disposal during his tenure, and we have compiled a list of six of those who were most adaptable.
6 – Aleksandr Hleb
The little wizard from Belarus was superb for Arsenal, and despite never being a prolific goal-scorer, he was hugely effective at unlocking defences with his clever passing, dribbling and general movement – drawing comparisons to George Best. Hleb mainly operated on the right wing with the Gunners, but could play on either side and was also at times positioned just behind Robin van Persie in the centre.
Unfortunately for him, his career took a turn for the worse after leaving the club for Barcelona where he only made 19 league appearances in the four years he was on the books for the Catalans. The 35-year-old has just finished his second stint at Russian minnows Krylia Sovetov after spells in Belarus (winning four titles with BATE Borisov) and Turkey and is currently without a club.
5 – Tomas Rosicky
Many will feel that Rosicky’s potential at the Gunners was never fully realised due to his persistent injury troubles but made some outstanding contributions when he was available. The Czech captain could play anywhere across the midfield but was arguably most effective just behind the main striker.
Rosicky signed for Arsenal as a 25-year-old in the summer of 2006, and remained with the club until the end of last season, making a grand total of 247 appearances in 10 years.
‘Little Mozart’ was once the most expensive signing in the history of the Bundesliga when he made his move from first club, Sparta Prague, to Borussia Dortmund. After leaving the Emirates last year he re-joined Sparta Prague but has only made one appearance since.
4 – William Gallas
William Gallas is not a popular name amongst the Gunner’s faithful – he is arguably the most disliked Arsenal captain ever due to his controversial antics at the club and the years that followed his departure.
The Frenchman was part of the deal that saw Ashley Cole leave for Chelsea in 2006, and helped cushion the blow of losing a world-class full-back. Arsenal were in need of solidifying the centre of defence and found in Gallas a new partner for Kolo Toure, but he was able to play as a full-back when required.
Bizarrely he was given the number 10 shirt recently vacated by the great Dennis Bergkamp and was awarded the captaincy ahead of Gilberto Silva and Toure a year later when Thierry Henry left.
Gallas’ legacy at Arsenal will always be the meltdown he suffered in THAT game against Birmingham City in 2008 – Arsenal’s failure to win the league that year (they were 5 points clear at the time) can be traced back to the decline in form after his tantrum on the pitch after the concession of a late penalty by Gael Clichy. The 39-year-old then went on to play for Spurs, further alienating him to Gooners.
3 – Alexis Sanchez
One of Arsenal’s best success stories in recent times, Sanchez can play on either wing as well as in a lone-striker role at the tip of a 4-3-3 formation. The Chilean only cost £35m from Barcelona, a price-tag that seems like a bit of a bargain in retrospect given the impact and contribution he has made since his arrival.
Sanchez managed 25 goals in his first season operating on the flanks, the last of which was a screamer against Aston Villa – one of the best goals to be scored in an FA Cup final. Arsenal’s player of the season for 2017 was the first player to net hat-tricks in Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League when he netted three times in the 5-2 win against Leicester in 2015.
Wenger will be hoping that the impending signing of Alexandre Lacazette will persuade Sanchez to remain at the Emirates next season and sign a new contract, as Nigel Winterburn has suggested this week.
2 – Mathieu Flamini
Flamini was best known as a defensive midfielder during his career, and enjoyed arguably the best season of his career in the 2007/08 alongside Cesc Fabregas in the heart of the Arsenal midfield.
Just two years earlier however, he proved himself to be adept at left-back, filling in for the injured Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy. Arsenal advanced to the final of the Champions League that year and the Frenchman was an important part of the defence that kept a record 10 consecutive clean sheets during that run, showing that he was in no way a weak link. Unfortunately, the final ended in a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona.
After a five-year spell at AC Milan between 2008 and 2013, Flamini re-joined on a free transfer before leaving upon the expiry of his contract last summer. He was recently released by Crystal Palace after a year in South London.
1 – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
The ‘Ox’ has proved himself to be useful in many positions – playing on both flanks, in central midfield and as a right-sided wing-back at various times this season alone. He certainly impressed in the middle in the 5-0 win at former side Southampton in January’s FA Cup tie, but his pace and crossing ability suggests that maybe he is more suited to a wide position.
While he has been one of the team’s better players this campaign, it remains to be seen whether the 23-year-old will be plying his trade at Arsenal next season.
With only a year left on his contract and Liverpool reportedly circling, Oxlade-Chamberlain may not get the assurances he will be looking for about his place in Arsene Wenger’s first team plans and as a result, could well be on his way out of the exit door.