Versatility has fast become one of the most important traits a footballer can possess. Given the tendency of managers to constantly alter their team’s tactical set up, being able to play across a variety of positions can significantly increase a player’s stock, and chances of minutes on the pitch.
Players in the Premier League who have mastered this include Fabinho, Eric Dier, and perhaps most notably James Milner. However, there are few who have been deployed in as many different positions as Stuart Dallas has been this season.
The Northern Ireland international has started all 26 Premier League matches for Leeds this season. In that time, he’s been a right-back, a left-back, a box-to-box midfielder, a deep-lying midfielder and an attacking midfielder. While FPL classes the 29-year-old as a defender, it seems impossible to say for sure which area of the pitch Dallas performs best in. This is by no means a criticism, but rather testament to the exceptional performances by the Leeds man this season.
More often than not, being unsure of a player’s best position is a huge concern for a manager. Fortunately for Marcelo Bielsa, he can sleep easy at night knowing that he possesses a player who will perform effectively regardless of where he is deployed on the pitch.
In all honesty, Dallas’ contributions both going forward and defensively this season have been so good, it’s largely irrelevant where he starts the game.
With five goals to his name, Dallas is Leeds’ third-top goalscorer this season. He has now equalled his 2019/20 tally in the Championship, and will more than likely exceed it before the campaign comes to an end. Alongside his goals, Dallas’ defensive stats make for equally impressive reading. He has helped Leeds keep eight clean sheets this season, and in that time has made a total of 59 tackles – second only to Luke Ayling (71) at the club.
When it comes to FPL, there are few defenders who have proved to be as efficient as Dallas. His total of 113 points is bettered only by Ruben Dias (119) and Aaron Cresswell (121) going into the current weekend’s round of fixtures. Admittedly, Dallas has spent much of the season in midfield, but nevertheless his return has been exceptional for a player in their debut season in the Premier League.
So what is Dallas’ actual position? Short answer. No one knows.
Even the man himself has admitted he ‘genuinely’ doesn’t have a clue. But in his defence, does it really matter? He is clearly a jack of all trades, and his ability to adapt to different positions has certainly benefitted rather than hindered his career so far.
Since his arrival from Brentford in 2015, Dallas has twice been voted Leeds Players’ Player of the Year. He managed this feat in his maiden season, and again last year as Leeds finally achieved promotion to the Premier League. Following his performances so far during the current campaign, you wouldn’t bet against him picking up the award for a third time.
While the likes of Patrick Bamford and Raphinha have stolen the headlines, there can be no doubt that Dallas has been as equally important to Leeds’ success. It’s clear all associated with Leeds recognise this, but others outside the club have yet to give him the credit he truly deserves.
Come the end of the season, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award will most likely be contested by individuals including Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne. However, few players have adapted to the Premier League so quickly, and across so many different positions as Dallas.
Chances are he won’t even be in the conversation, but he can rest easy knowing that his brilliant season has been noticed by some, even if not by everyone.