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England’s Problems: Steve McClaren, Frank Lampard and David Beckham



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With the focus on Euro 2008, England’s 2 qualifiers and whether McClaren will finally screw up or not, Soccerlens turns its attention to Stevo and England, and what’s going to go wrong.

But before we do that, here’s a look at what other Soccerlens contributors have been saying:

JAFL is right when he says that Macca has done nothing different from Sven. Yes, Becks is out, and yes, Hargreaves is starting, but apart from that there is nothing fresh about the England side. The buzz that comes with a new coach is there, but on current evidence McClaren aint doing much apart from playing to the media.

And as Paul notes, McClaren’s future will depend on the decisions he takes today – who will he pick in place of Hargreaves, will he stick Rooney back in or play Defoe and Crouch? Who will he try as subs? Will Robinson ever be dropped?

In my view, there are three things that have really told us a lot about England’s chances for Euro 2008, and right now they’re not good.

Steve McClaren

An international coach has a very specific job description, especially in the top-ranked teams.

He must be able to motivate his players (in a short period of time) to perform at their best and he must be able to put a team together that complements and gels together as quickly as possible.

His is an impossible job – the challenge to gel his team in such short time is so great that most coaches fail miserably at it and prefer to play on individual strengths. The need to get a team to play well together also means that you ignore partisanship and go for talent, and not only look at the glamour players.

When Stevo was appointed, he made some calculated moves to make him more likeable to the media (especially after the public trials Eriksson had faced through the World Cup). Despite the ‘second-choice’ tag, McClaren went on a charm offensive to distance himself from the Eriksson era and putting a focus on controlling games and building a ‘club’ atmosphere. Now I don’t doubt that McClaren genuinely thinks that this will help England (and I’m sure that it will), but the media gobbled it up as anti-Eriksson bollocks and McClaren got some loving for free.

His decisions to include Phil Neville, to drop Sol Campbell and to bring in Hargreaves as holding midfielder speak of his willingness to change, although they aren’t definitive and England are not automatically a better side now than before the World Cup. I’m not convinced with his team selections, but at least he has shown a willingness to play tough football.

Not enough done to clear out the cruft in the England squad. Only time will tell, but England’s defensive problems remain because their keeper cannot command his box and his back four. I’m not sure how great pals Ferdinand and Terry are, but if they aren’t that must play a role in any problems in that area as well. One leader must be chosen from the back-five and groomed to take control of the defensive area. Terry is the logical choice, but at Chelsea they are manned by Cech, and Robinson must be helped to do the same. Maybe dropping him for a couple of games would help…

Is Macca the right coach? Hardly. Playing to the media is his strength here, and he has yet to address the key problems in the side.

David Beckham

His dumping of Beckham from the England squad itself was a PR exercise, and initially quite effective. Whether it was a personal grudge or whatever, there is little reason to drop a player who helped you win your 3 World Cup matches (and his lack of form coincided with England’s draw and loss).

I don’t know if it’s a grudge or not, but why would you drop the best crosser in your side, especially against Macedonia? One thing that I can think of is that if it’s not just politics, then Macca has decided that Becks will not be good enough to be playing in Euro 2008. And if that is so, then the question must be asked – why is Gary Neville playing? Perhaps because Macca is looking for pace on the wings and defensive solidity in the full-back position.

You have to wonder why Wes Brown (younger, faster) or Phil Neville (younger) or even Luke Young (you get the idea aren’t given an extended run (say 3-4 matches) and tested on the big stage as an integral part of the setup. And if Gary is around for his quality and experience, then leaving Becks out points to nothing more than sheer idiocy (even though I think he should retire).

Frank Lampard

Why is Lampard undroppable? Yes, he has an outstanding record, and yes, he is an excellent attacking midfielder. However, if you have Lennon and Cole fit you must play them, which means that we have one space left in midfield for Gerrard and Lampard. Of those two, I’d pick Gerrard any day.

It should be interesting to see if McClaren has the balls to drop Lampard, because if you’re replacing Beckham with Lennon in the starting lineup (and giving SWP preference over Becks as well), then you might as well play those two as first and second choice wingers and put Gerrard back into midfield. McClaren’s unwillingness to drop Lampard (or for that matter, any other player such as Rooney or Gerrard even) will be a problem for him. Becks was a PR exercise and possibly a grudge, what about everyone else?

Is it that because Lampard is undroppable, Gerrard has to move to right-wing, and thus Lennon is second-choice winger, and thus Becks’ role in the team becomes non-existant? Having Becks in as 3rd-choice right-winger makes little sense, especially as you’ll need a pacier sub, a role that SWP fills.

Lampard vs Becks, Lampard wins.

England’s future

The home clash with Macedonia will be relatively uneventful, but it will the away tie against Croatia on 11th October that should be the first tough match of McClaren’s tenure and as such a must-watch game. Neither Joe Cole or Lennon will be available so the Gerrard and Downing experiment on the wings will continue, while Rooney might return to the bench instead of getting a starting spot.

Replacement for Hargreaves? Carrick, no doubt. Bringing in Parker from outside and then having him jump over Carrick is unfair to the Manchester United midfielder, especially as he has had little chance to get full games under his belt internationally.

A preview of England’s fixtures should be up in the next couple of days, along with predicted starting lineups and strategies.