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What is Jesse Lingard’s best position?

Jesse Lingard has vastly improved as a player over the past three seasons. He may not have been hitting the heights at the age of 18 or 19 that other players such as Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford did, but the United midfielder has shown grit and determination in his quest to become a starting eleven player. Sir Alex Ferguson once stated:

“Jesse Lingard is going to be some player. He is 19, came through our youth system and is built like Jean Tigana was for France. But he never got into the limelight there until he was about 24, and I think that will be the same with Lingard. He will become a player when he’s 22 or so. As an attacking midfielder, he has got a really good talent. I think he will be a player we have high hopes for, definitely.”

The question that can surround Lingard is where is his best position? Ferguson saw him as an attacking midfielder. It’s a position that requires him to play in between the midfield and striker. Finding pockets of space where he can receive the ball and provide in attack. It also uses arguably Lingard’s best quality, his intelligence. To play in the attacking midfielder role you need to have a good awareness of what’s around you.

Thinking fast and always being one step ahead of the opposition defence. It also requires a mix of dropping off into space and making runs beyond the striker. This distracts defenders and creates space for the striker or will see your run rewarded with a pass that will inevitably have you in behind the defence. As an attacking midfielder, you need to be a good passer of the ball. Lingard has an 88% pass success rate, which is a good statistic and shows he is a competent player on the ball.

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However, if Lingard is to reach the next level as an attacking midfielder, he needs to add the killer pass to his game. The sort of ability and skill that Juan Mata possesses. The other position that Lingard sometimes gets deployed in is the right-wing position. Usually as part of a front three, Lingard, even though starting out wide on the right, will come inside and link play with his teammates. Lingard doesn’t really have the physical qualities to be a top winger.

While he is quick, he doesn’t have the electric pace or skill to beat a man. He isn’t a strong player either so can often get muscled off the ball. Lingard averages 0.2 crosses per game, which is a very low amount. While he does play more games as an attacking midfielder, which would explain the statistic when he’s out wide he doesn’t stay there and so reduces the chances of even attempting a cross.

This is not to say that on occasion Lingard can’t play this position. If there is an attacking full-back behind him, the combination of intelligent inside runs from Lingard with quick over-lapping runs from the full-back would be deadly. At the moment though, Jose Mourinho is reluctant to play Diogo Dalot who may fit this mould.

Ultimately, I think Jesse Lingard is best suited to the attacking midfield role, in behind the striker. His qualities best suit this position. If he can develop his final ball ability, he can become a top midfielder. His pace, intelligence and hopefully soon, killer pass ability will make him an all-round player and cement his position as an attacking midfielder rather than a right-winger. While it is good to be flexible, there aren’t many top players that consistently play in multiple positions.

Written by Andrew Mould

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