Bayern Munich defender David Alaba may be a left-back by trade, but he is relishing the extended opportunity to play at centre-back for the defending Bundesliga champions this season.
The 27-year-old, who became a father for the first time on Tuesday this week, moved into central defence out of necessity rather than choice, owing to long-term injuries to regular pairing Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez.
He may have been unaccustomed to the role, having last played there under Pep Guardiola in 2015/16, but the Austrian has seamlessly adjusted to the position as a left-sided centre-back alongside Javi Martinez.
“Maybe I'm playing there because I interpret the position differently than a natural centre-back would,” Alaba told Kicker this week.
“If you watch our last few games, you can see my presence on the pitch. That’s what I’m aiming for and trying to take these steps is part and parcel of developing."
He is not wrong. Despite Bayern’s defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last week, Alaba was again outstanding – not only in terms of his defensive positioning and winning tackles (10) – but also in starting his team’s attacks.
Watch: All of Alaba's Bundesliga free-kicks
There was one particularly eye-catching moment when he sprayed a 50-yard defence-splitting pass from his own half into the path of Robert Lewandowski to go one-on-one with Lukas Hradecky. It may not have resulted in a goal, but it served notice of Alaba’s ability from deep.
His move inside has also opened the door for Alphonso Davies to deputise for him at left-back, and Alaba has been impressed by what he’s seen:
“Boys like Alphonso are very hungry and try to learn every day. And they listen. That’s very important when it comes to developing, especially as a young player.”