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.
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.
“(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.