Only 10 years ago being known as a ‘utility’ player would be frowned upon, as clubs, players and the world of football were so obsessed with position based specialists and rigid formations that being versatile was a curse.
However, the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are now leading a new-wave of progressive thinkers. Their innovative tactics are primed to find the added dynamism to wrestle the supremacy away from the more established managers. Players must be malleable to sustain this enterprising style.
If you just take the start of this campaign for instance, we now see the mass interpretation of the 3-5-2 formation. This has become the latest fad among managers looking for the next innovative way to claim three points on a Saturday afternoon, or even Friday nights as we now find ourselves in the thick of a new-age BSkyB-BT Sport broadcasting tussle.
Guardiola is perhaps the most distinguished torchbearer of recent times to harness this new breed of player. His holistic approach, nurtured in Barcelona and blossoming further in Munich has reaped fruitful reward on a global scale.
He converted David Alaba from flying full back to composed centre half at times and would help veteran Philipp Lahm add further to his arsenal as the German found freedom in central midfield after proving over the years that he could be effective at both right and left back.
The latest star to pass through Pep’s paternal palms is Joshua Kimmich.
Eighteen months ago, any mention of his name would be met by blank expressions from your ‘everyday’ football fan. What you’d then proceed to hear is a scrambling response from someone claiming he is set to be ‘the next big thing’…
The ironic thing is, a year and a half on he really has become the talk of the town. Proving how accustomed we have become to this exciting young prospect, many are now discussing the very intricacies of his name, we’re led to believe the ‘H’ in his first name is silent, if pronounced correctly would be ‘Josua’…
“It comes from the Bible” he revealed to Bild back in his Leipzig days.
The fact this is even a discussion just proves the 21 year-old has very much become the man in Bayern’s here and now.
Hailing from the same German town that gave us the Rottweiler, Kimmich has certainly inherited the powerful tenaciousness of its canine counterpart.
He would leave the academy at VfB Stuttgart in 2013 and sign for a third division side. This would ordinarily be seen as a step down for a promising youngster but it was the modernist set up at newly-formed RB Leipzig, led by esteemed coach Ralf Rangnick, that would provide the fertile ground for Kimmich to grow.
The teen actually arrived at Leipzig on a two-year loan, and could have extended the deal further, but what Stuttgart didn’t anticipate was the surreptitious glare of Bayern Munich coming into full focus.
During this two-year period and 53 games navigating the German lower leagues, the teenager would begin to add a toughness and resilience to his innate technical ability.
Earlier this year Kimmich spoke to UEFA.com about his experiences at the Red Bull-owned club
Most of the time, it was not, unfortunately, the most technical football, but for me it was extremely important to get accustomed to the hardness of the game
He began to be recognized as a neat and tidy number 6 at Leipzig, Kimmich continued to admit this was where he began to understand the complexities of the game.
Also, training with adults every day was a very different kind of football for me. Much more tempo than with the youths. It was good for me to go there after being in the youth team and then being able to grow from the third to the second division. Looking back, it has helped me a lot in the top flight
When he was eventually carted off by Bayern, along with his definitive guide to ‘Making it in Munich’ and lederhosen in tow, how much of an impact he would make with the Bavarian giants could only be considered speculation based on promise.
It was a bullish and brazen performance as a centre back in a 0-0 draw against Borussia Dortmund last season. the match that would psychologically see Bayern claim the Bundesliga title, that we really saw how Kimmich could pioneer this new ‘fit for purpose’ generation.
The full time whistles blew, and on rushed a crazed fan who made a beeline for the 21 year old.
The fan was his manager .Pep Guardiola.
Until recently, no one would know what was said between the two, but it certainly had the feel of the tough love given by the master to his apprentice.
Kimmich has been used equally as effectively at defensive midfield, centre back and at right back where he has made the position his own under Jogi Low, particularly since the international retirement of teammate Lahm.
However, it’s the young man’s goal scoring threat from the right of midfield that has impressed many this season and has even caught admiring glances from Catalonia.
Kimmich has already notched seven goals this campaign in all competitions. With new manager Carlo Ancelotti still trying to find the perfect formula to push back the shock leaders RB Leipzig he will need the former ‘Die Roten Bullen’ player to continue his refreshing durability for the foreseeable future.