Is Jarvey Gayoso a striker or a defender?

National team head coach Scott Cooper said Jarvey Gayoso's shift in position is part of his development in becoming a better football player. Paolo del Rosario/ESPN5

The Philippine football community collectively raised their eyebrows after former Ateneo striker Jarvey Gayoso, who scored a mind boggling 50 goals in 63 appearances in the UAAP, was deployed as a wing back in the South East Asian (SEA) Games for the U-22 Philippine team.

Questions again were raised after the Azkals Development Team (ADT), an elite program that aims to groom the country's most talented young footballers for a professional career, listed Gayoso as a defender in their upcoming PFL campaign.

In the international youth age group levels Gayoso has previously suited up as a striker, netting goals in the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers, 2017 (SEA) Games, and the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers.

The debate even has figures like former Philippine Azkal Nate Burkey voice his opinion about Gayoso's shift to left wing back in a recent episode of the Crossover podcast.

"He should be the face for the number one striker for the future for homegrown players, no question about it," Burkey said. "He's got the accolades, he's already scored in international competitions with the youth national team. So for me to see him in this position is a question mark."

"He'll be playing left wing back, which means he will be involved in the mix which is great!" he added. "But you want your goal scorers closest to the goal as possible. So for me he should be in the front three or at least in a striker position."

Despite the goal scoring pedigree as a striker, ADT management is convinced that the next step for Gayoso's development isn't as a forward. National team head coach Scott Cooper, who also heads the ADT, is one of the key proponents behind the Gayoso's shift in positions at the ADT.

Cooper has a reputation for developing players, which was built during his time coaching at the English club Leicester City youth academy and various Thai League clubs, and he believes the former Ateneo star can flourish at a different spot like talented players before him.

"The Gayoso debate is an interesting one to me, because people will say he should be a striker right? Well maybe he should be in college," Cooper said. "But I could also point to Michael Kempter, who is at FC Zurich as a left back. Kempter has played striker, center forward for 10 years."

"I had Jeffrey Schlupp at Leicester City, who also played for England U-20s and U-18s," he added. "He was a striker, he is a left back now at the Premier League at Crystal Palace."

The ADT's goal is to develop players into professionals that could have a successful career in big clubs both locally and abroad before ideally augmenting the Philippine Azkals at the senior level. With this in mind, Gayoso isn't the only player that is playing in a different position for the ADT with former La Salle forward Matt Custodio also shifting to center back.

In Gayoso's case, Cooper said if he were still in charge of a Thai League 1 team that he wouldn't be interested in him as a striker but as an attacking left wing back. Cooper also stated Gayoso has a shot at making the Azkals squad at this time, but not as a striker.

"Right now, from what I am seeing in training, he'd (Gayoso) have a great chance of being in the Azkals squad. This is not just my opinion, this is my technical staff's opinion," Cooper said. "Would he be in the Azkals squad as a striker? Probably not at this moment."

"That's not to say that he will may not end up being a striker, let's just see how he develops and how far he can push this," he added.

Gayoso and the ADT have a chance to showcase their wares when they take on Philippine football giants United City FC in the opening fixture of the 2020 PFL season on Wednesday at 4:30PM at the National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

But Cooper cautions viewers from thinking that Gayoso - and by extension the other ADT players - are already fully developed.

"So if people are going to tune in to look at him (Gayoso) and want to see the finished product and then start criticizing the change, then you don't understand at all what we're trying to do for that young boy," Cooper said.

"Games like tomorrow is like being dropped at the deep end for them isn't it?" Cooper added. "But we are going to be able to see just how far they've come in this period of time and how far, most importantly, how far we think they can go in the positions they're in. That's the key question."