CARSON, Calif. – Despite making his name as a tricky winger, Sebastian Lletget has excelled over the last month after making a positional switch to central midfield.
Lletget, who has typically been stationed on the left flank since arriving in Los Angeles a year-and-a-half ago, has been deployed in central midfield since the departure of Nigel de Jong in early August. After making the move to the center of the park, Lletget has flourished offensively, notching an assist in four of his five last appearances in while also providing valuable linkup play to the team’s other attackers.
The 24-year-old’s success on the offensive side of the ball comes as little surprise, but Lletget has also embraced his defensive responsibilities, repeatedly breaking up opposing attacks with his high work-rate and even leading all players in recoveries during the Galaxy’s recent defeat to Seattle Sounders FC last week.
“The dynamic is different, but I love it. It feels a bit more natural to me than other positions because I come in more contact with the ball,” Lletget told LAGalaxy.com. “I’m able to get into a rhythm, and I feel good. It’s a different thing being the link between the defense and the attacking players.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, and it takes a lot of bravery to get on the ball because it’s such a vulnerable place to be because if you lose the ball, then [the other team is] right on top of you. People depend on you on both sides, so I love it.”
Despite a disappointing result last Sunday, Lletget’s abilities in central midfield were on full display. Whether it was his ability to win the ball back in midfield or help spark attacks with his accurate passing, Lletget was two-way threat throughout the match.
In his five appearances in central midfield, Lletget has completed 86 percent of his passes while also making 40 recoveries. Lletget’s recent form has not gone unnoticed as Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was quick to praise the youngster’s adaptation.
“He’s done a good job. He gets better every game. He gets a little bit more comfortable; he’s passing the ball a little bit better. He’s working really hard,” Arena said. “Any kind of competitive battle, he’s usually a guy that doesn’t fail. He’s worked well with whomever that we’ve had partner with him in the midfield, so we’ve been pleased with his performance.”
As well as Lletget has performed in recent weeks, he’ll likely face another test when Steven Gerrard comes back into the starting lineup. The 34-year-old came off the bench in the Galaxy’s defeat to Seattle last week, going 18 minutes in his first match back from a hamstring injury.
Prior to his injury, Gerrard played in the same role that Lletget now inhabits and will likely return to the position when deemed fit enough to start. If Lletget is placed alongside Gerrard in the center of the park, the typically attack-minded player is ready to shoulder more of the defensive burden and is even looking to the hard-nosed play of former Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas for inspiration.
“I’ve had him in mind as someone who has done well here and had a lot of success in this type of midfield role. I know that I can still get forward and create things while being aware of the defensive aspect,” Lletget said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better at reading the game and anticipating what could happen. I think I’m capable of [the move]. I think I just have to think about it a lot more in the game and to be aware in transition.
“I think that when you play that position, you’re forced to think about that aspect of the game. You realize how important it is and how much running is involved in performing your defensive responsibilities and how fit you have to be. My aggressive side has really come out. I think it naturally unfolded that way.”
Lletget and Gerrard could have their first opportunity to commence their partnership Saturday when the Galaxy travel to Texas to face FC Dallas in a match with huge major Supporters’ Shield implications. Although this pairing would be a new experience for both players, Lletget is relishing the opportunity to play alongside the former England captain.
“I think that we’d have to share the attacking load. He wants to me to get forward, and he wants me to be positive and be aggressive in the attack, but also being aware that if he does go forward, I need to switch my mindset and be more defensive to cover the back four,” Lletget said. “We all know that Stevie is an outstanding player and he’s shown it throughout the years. He’s done very well this season and hopefully, we find a way to play together. I think it’s a possibility. As long as he’s healthy and feels okay, I think moving forward; he’ll definitely be in that central role.
“If Bruce thinks it’s a good idea to form that partnership then I would love to.”