It is surely testament to the quality of West Bromwich Albion’s midfielders that they can regularly be interchanged and yet still function as a cohesive unit.
Manager Tony Mowbray has made his charges aware that they may be deployed in unfamiliar positions in the central area of the pitch but insists his players are rising to the challenge admirably.
The spotlight has been shining most brightly on Borja Valero, the club’s record signing, who put in his best performance of the season on Saturday against Manchester United.
Supporters should not be surprised that the Spaniard looked so comfortable on the biggest domestic stage in the Premier League, according to his manager, who conceded that he has probably been more impressed with his £4.7?million signing than the club’s supporters.
Mowbray said: “To me, Valero has looked of a standard that suggests he can play at the very top level and it’s no surprise that he proved it at Old Trafford. I think he is a top player.
“It probably gets highlighted more against United, because they play a more continental style than anyone else. He is a fabulous footballer and has huge respect from his team-mates about the way he plays and retains the ball.
“He has to adapt to the physicality of the league – but I have no doubt the money invested in him will be well spent and over time people will see what a wonderful player we have got.”
The 23-year-old was excellent at times, perhaps because he was played by Mowbray in what is his widely perceived as his best position.
The manager added: “We played him further up the pitch because we wanted to hold the ball further up the pitch – but all the midfielders know that they will have to be in different positions some weeks.
“We want to utilise our midfielders’ strengths according to the opposition.
“Jonathan Greening has found himself on the left wing, in the holding role, behind the front two and Robert Koren is the same. We look at the opposition and see where out midfielders best assets will work, sometimes to nullify their threats but most often to play to our strengths.”
The same approach applies to other areas of the pitch and Mowbray gave an example of what he means by explaining the decision to remove Roman Bednar from the fray shortly after half-time.
Judging by his reaction, the Czech striker was not amused by the decision.
Mowbray added: “Roman did fine. But whichever striker we had on the pitch was not going to make an impact against United because we couldn’t sustain the pressure we needed against their quality.
“Ishmael [Miller] deserved an opportunity and, against a team playing so high up the pitch against us, his strengths were better suited to the situation.
“His assets are his pace and ability to run over the top. If there are 50 yards for him to run into then we are trying to play to his strengths.
“That is not necessarily Roman’s strength, he is more a striker who wants to get on the end of things in the box.
“If we are not getting he ball in the box then we may as well have someone like Ishmael on – and he proved why on a couple of occasions.”