Has Garner found his best position?
Manchester United midfielder James Garner feels it is too early to know his best position and he wants the flexibility to be able to perform in different roles in midfield.
The 20-year-old is impressing with Nottingham Forest in the Championship, playing deep and dictating the play, using his excellent passing ability to good effect. In his early Academy days, he played at centre-half so he has always been adept at the defensive side of the game.
However, he hit double figures in the Under-23s last season, when being set the target of adding more goals to his play, and became more of a box-to-box performer. In his first loan at Watford, he was often more advanced and he recently scored his first senior goal, in Forest's draw with rivals Derby County.
When we asked if he is operating as a defensive midfielder under Chris Hughton, the homegrown Red replied: "Yeah, that's what I've been doing and what I like to do. I think I'm very comfortable in that position. I think everyone would say it's probably my preferred position.
“I like to see everything in front of me - runs and players popping into pockets, things like that. I like to be on the ball as much as I can and be the one who makes the passes and who makes the goals. It's something I am really enjoying, sitting there and dictating the play. It's good.”
As the dictating role is usually performed by more experienced players, it shows the level of maturity in Garner's game that he is being trusted to set the tempo. Forest have been in good form with the United youngster Man of the Match in an impressive draw with promotion-chasing Brentford recently.
"It is a difficult position," admitted the Birkenhead-born prospect. "But it's something I think I can do. I've learned a lot this season, playing against men. They're very clever, and tactics and all this stuff comes into play. Teams like to sit off you and other teams like to press you. It's all a different ball-game when it comes to the Championship and it's been a very good experience and something I've enjoyed doing.
“I was a centre-back up until the Under-15s, I think it was, and, in one tournament, I was put into midfield and have not looked back since. I'd like say I've got both of those elements in my game - the defensive side and the attacking side, which can only benefit me in that type of position.”
The desire to add more of an attacking edge to his game in the Under-23s means he is more of a rounded operator in the middle of the park, capable of having a major influence at both ends of the pitch.
"I'd like to see myself as a complete midfielder [in the future] if I can do both," he explained. "I feel I can be a defensive midfielder or I could be a no.8 who can be box to box. But, at the moment, I'm not too fussed where I play, as long as I am playing. I like to do what I do best for my team, if it means playing no.6 or no.8, I'll do it as I really enjoy playing football.
“It's a bit too early [to say about a long-term fixed position]. I wouldn't like to put a marker down on a position I play at, I'd rather be versatile. Certain games need certain shapes and formations so, if I can fit into two or three different shapes, rather than one, it's only going to benefit me.
“Something I said I'd work on last season, and I definitely did and showed everyone what I can do on the attacking side. For me, it's about putting the attacking and defensive sides both together and I can do both by playing as a no.8 or a no.6.".