Prior to England’s friendly against Brazil on Saturday I have been thinking about one possible tactical option available to Fabio Capello as he plans England’s World Cup strategy.
There is no doubt that Capello has done a great job of taking an underachieving group of players and turning them into an effective team. Capello’s England play with a coherence and collectively seldom seen from recent England teams.
Similarly Chelsea’s start to the season has been impressive; they have qualified for the second round of the Champion’s League and top the Premiership by five points. Their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has not spent big in the transfer market, instead he has moulded his best players into an effective, attacking formation.
The Chelsea squad has no natural, top quality wingers but an abundance of fine central midfielders, additionally they also have two, energetic attack minded fullbacks who can provide an option on the flanks and therefore allow Ancelotti to play his best central midfielders in a diamond formation without forfeiting width in attack.
Like Chelsea, England’s wide options are limited and we often see Steven Gerrard on the left wing and out of position. If England are to win the World Cup they will need to find room for Gerrard in the centre where he can influence a match. A Chelsea inspired midfield diamond may achieve this.
Chelsea’s English quartet of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and the returning Joe Cole will all make it into Capello’s first XI if fit and England’s defence is looking settled and strong (if Rio Ferdinand can find some form and fitness). Ashley Cole, Terry and Ferdinand will be joined by the attack minded Glen Johnson who has started the season impressively. Cole and Johnson can often be found tearing forward for club and country and Capello should continue to encourage this.
Lampard and Gareth Barry are likely to make up England’s’ central midfield with Lampard looking to make late runs into the box and Barry giving England balance and stability. If fit, Owen Hargreaves is England’s best defensive midfielder and very similar to Chelsea’s Essien in his energy, strength, competitiveness and tackling.
Joe Cole is a natural fit for England and Chelsea at the tip of the diamond, his quick feet, strength and most importantly imagination mean he has the ability to terrorise both club and international defences. Cole, who played at the tip of the diamond whilst developing in the West Ham junior teams is adept at finding space and never more dangerous than with his back to goal when a quick flick, or turn can give him the chance to run at centre halves.
Attacking fullbacks and a midfield diamond of Hargreaves, Barry, Lampard and Joe Cole will allow England’s most natural match winners, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, to play as a partnership in attack.
Gerrard has developed over the last few years into a second striker, playing behind a main striker and with the freedom to roam Gerrard thrives on the opportunity to get on the ball and influence games in the final third. Occupying a similar role to Nicolas Anelka’s second striker role at Chelsea, Gerrard will win matches for England as he does for Liverpool.
Whilst Gerrard isn’t a natural predator like Anelka he has an excellent goal scoring record at club level, a proven ability to make a difference in international matches and the intelligence to get into goal scoring positions both in and outside the penalty area.
This leaves Rooney as the focal point of the attack. Rooney has developed into one of the world’s most complete attacking talents and his strength, power, pace, control and work rate means he can play in any forward position.
However he is best down the middle and with the creativity of Lampard, Joe Cole and Gerrard supplying him, combined with his recent maturity in front of goal will mean that England’s best player will be at the centre of attacks and on the end of a number of chances.
Capeelo has produced diciplined teams throughout his managerial career but to take England from nearly men to glory boys he must get the most out of his best players. A Chelsea inspired midfield diamond may provide the platform for World Cup glory in 2010.