Steve McClaren names England line-up for Wednesday’s friendly against Greece; where are the surprises?
While I won’t commend this author (some of his “facts” were horribly off-base), he made an excellent point about football media that deserves to be repeated:
Perception relies on positive or negative focus. If the papers (aka. “The people’s voice”) focus on how much worse off the Premiership is for Chelsea’s wealth, it becomes worse off in everyone’s opinion.
Spot on. In England’s case, the media fed on the lack of purpose shown by Eriksson’s England and the resulting frustration for England fans and trumpeted up McClaren’s “I’ll do things differently” quote. While there is an understandable buoyancy surrounding the new (old) setup, It must be noted that fundamentally, England’s squad was fine before and is fine now. In fact, predicting the team that lines up for Euro 2008 is not difficult at all (as long as there are no injuries) – the core of England’s team is full of quality, it’s the strategy that has misfired.
And McClaren’s real test will not come against Greece, where he fields a familiar-looking squad (details below). His real test will be when Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney return to England colours, when Michael Carrick and Ledley King (and eventually Michael Owen) return from injury and when Gary Neville has to be replaced with a view towards Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010.
Can Steve McClaren produce better results than Sven-Goran Eriksson with more or less the same squad?
Starting Lineup & Formation
GK – Paul Robinson
RB – Gary Neville
CB – Rio Ferdinand
CB – John Terry (captain)
LB – Ashley Cole
RM – Steven Gerrard
CM – Owen Hargreaves
CM – Frank Lampard
LM – Stewart Downing
ST – Jermain Defoe
ST – Peter Crouch
There is no David Beckham, which means that free-kick duties will fall to one of Gerrard, Lampard and Hargreaves. Beckham’s absence also means that Gerrard (who will be played down the right by McClaren to solve England’s midfield problem) will be able to create more moves down the right flank and therefore there will be some sort of balance to England’s attacks (as opposed to in the World Cup where Becks hardly got the ball).
The Hargreaves-Lampard pairing is key because it shows that on the surface, McClaren is unwilling to drop Lampard or Gerrard from the team (otherwise you would have had one of those two pairing with Hargreaves and Lennon on the right). What is certain is that McClaren will, at some stage, try either Lennon or Wright-Phillips on that right side. Now whether it will be part of a 4-4-2 (with Gerrard being subbed or replacing Lampard who in turn gets subbed) or part of a 4-5-1/4-3-3 (with Gerrard tucking in and Defoe being subbed out), that remains to be seen.
But in either case this isn’t a major tactical shift from McClaren. By dropping Beckham he has shown that he is not afraid of dropping superstars, but the crunch-time will come when he has to drop one of Lampard / Gerrard / Cole for poor form.
Whether he will try the fringe players (Jenas, Nolan, Parker, Carrick) in midfield is also under debate. There’s a genuine fear that England’s bench does not have sufficient experience at the international level, and for that reason players like Hargreaves, Lennon and Downing must get as many opportunities as possible.
Defensively England are more secure, although with Campbell out of the picture there is only Carragher, Ledley King and Wes Brown as able backups in central defence. At left-back we have Wayne Bridge, who for all his faults needs more playing time with top teams to be successful.
Right-back is going to be England’s major problem in the coming matches as you cannot expect an ageing Gary Neville (looked over for captaincy because he didnt have any long-term potential) to stick around till Euro 2008 – as far as building for World Cup 2010 is concerned, it would be a very bad move for McClaren to stick with Neville till then.
Who will replace him? His brother Phil is one option, Luke Young is another.
But what about Wes Brown? He’s a central defender but is good enough to play at right-back. Not a natural full-back, but neither was Hargreaves. At least Brown would be better than Carragher.
More on England after Wednesday’s match.