Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland manager Lee Johnson is full of praise for West Ham United loanee Frederik Alves Ibsen, telling The Chronicle the Premier League starlet could thrive in a new position. 

Versatility goes a long way in the modern game. 

And if the 21-year-old wants to force his way into a settled West Ham squad when he returns from a season-long spell at the Stadium of Light, an ability to play a number of positions will do his prospects no harm at all. 

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Alves has featured at centre-half in all his Sunderland appearances so far. But Johnson, a coach who boasts an impressive track record when it comes to developing young talent, is convinced Alves’ technical ability and passing range would serve him well in a deep-lying midfield role too. 

Could Alves Ibsen play a midfield role at West Ham?

“I think (Alves Ibsen) has done really well. I really like him, he’s a really good athlete,” says the former Bristol City boss. 

“In terms of his physicality, he has got a great leap and his recovery is quick and strong. 

“(Alves Ibsen) is slightly introverted as a character and I don’t think we’ve seen his best forward play yet. He’s better than he’s shown on the ball – but he hasn’t put a foot wrong defensively in two starts. 

“There’s loads to work on, as there is with all young players – the timing of the headers, the dark arts. I’d like to see him in midfield as well because he can play in there as a holding midfielder, so there’s an option to bring him on or even start him in there, perhaps in the EFL Trophy. 

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

“(Alves Ibsen) is quite a flexible player. He’s got great feet, good composure, and I’d just like to see him show a bit more pitch personality in his attacking play because I know how good he is and I see it every day in training. 

“It’s our job to keep encouraging that bravery and to get him to step out with the ball.”

Alves, a £1 million signing from Danish outfit Silkeborg almost a year ago, should return to the London Stadium a far more rounded, confident and mature footballer in May.  

The next test, however, is for the youngster to establish himself as a regular in the Sunderland XI. He has yet to start a single League One game under Johnson, although there’s plenty of time on his side. 

Photo by Lars Ronbog / FrontZoneSport via Getty Images

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