‘Club England’ talk a good game, but can they deliver a cohesive, comprehensive performance on the pitch?
Right from the start it’s not going to be a question of whether England will win, or if Lampard can find his form again, or who will play at centre-back and right-back in the absence of the Manchester United duo.
The big question is: How many goals are England going to score?
Gary Neville is out of the double-header with injury, and this is the perfect chance for Steve McClaren to pick a right-back who can take England to Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010. For my money, Wes Brown fits the bill perfectly. As a centre-back he is prone to make mistakes but at right-back, he’s good at going forward, his passing is decent and his defending is solid – and the main thing is that he will improve.
Brown’s addition will allow England to attack with pace on both flanks, something that Dawson won’t be able to do. Phil Neville is another option, but the Everton captain is more suited to the midfield than defence, where he is ‘expected’ to deputise.
In midfield, something has got to give. Playing Lampard and Hargreaves in a 4-4-2 puts a lot of pressure on Hargreaves to mop up after Lampard, when he can do much more than just sit in front of the back four and protect them. Hargreaves is a defensive midfielder who enjoys going forward and it’s a side of his playing abilities that England and McClaren need to encourage.
Dropping Lampard is not everyone’s idea of a good team, but it allows Gerrard to move into the centre and let’s us play Lennon on the right. Gerrard’s presence in midfield also allows McClaren to play Carrick or Neville alongside him – England will gain a lot on the international arena by using players who are not just one-dimensional. Lampard is excellent at what he does, but if you snuff that out defensively he’s got nothing else up his sleeve (or in his game, rather).
Ferdinand is another ‘defensive’ player who likes going forward and it is he who will be missed the most if Andorra cause England any trouble. McClaren is right to rest him for Macedonia, although the real test for England will come against Croatia and Russia (Hiddink’s team).
If Greece was anything to go by, England will huff and puff and do their traditional impressions of a rag-tag bunch – it’s going to take much more than dropping Beckham as a PR-exercise and talking the right game to make ‘Club England’ successful.
England’s starting lineup:
Robinson, Wes Brown / Phil Neville, Wes Brown / Michael Dawson, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Frank Lampard, Stewart Downing, Peter Crouch, Andrew Johnson / Jermaine Defoe
Subs that will probably be used:
Brown, Neville, Dawson, Carrick, Bent, Johnson, Defoe, Lennon.