Looking at Fabio Capello’s latest England squad, it is more apparent than ever that the English national side suffers very much from a lack of real firepower. Apart from Wayne Rooney, we have no real goal threat and even Rooney himself is not a prolific goalscorer, in many ways he is more valuable as a creative player than as an out and out goal poacher.
In many ways I think, given the wealth of midfield players that we are cursed blessed with, one would almost wish that we could trade in a world class midfielder for a world class striker. But hang on a second, why don’t we?
As an Evertonian, this season I’ve witnessed the spectacular metamorphosis of Tim Cahill, watched him turn from top class midfielder to top class striker in the blink of an eye, and seen him contribute more goals than many of the Premier League’s natural strikers in a short space of time.
I know what you’re thinking, and don’t worry, I too realise that Cahill is not English and it’s far too late to pass him off as such, but I think the same thing has, to an extent, been happening on the red half of Liverpool, and indeed, by pushing Steven Gerrard ‘up front’ we could also solve the troublsome problem of trying to fit Gerrard and Lamoard into one midfield.
Liverpool’s recent stunning form has drawn many superlatives from pundits, but one player in particular has been on the receiving end of gushing praise. Steven Gerrard, since being moved up in support of Fernando Torres, has been even more of a revelation than he usually is for Liverpool, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be utilised in the same way for England.
It would free up some space in the middle of the park which would allow any two of Lampard, Carrick and Barry room to play as a typical central midfield duo (a la Mascherano and Alonso at Liverpool), with one player sitting slightly deeper to anchor the play with the other given a bit more freedom to roam around and instigate attacks.
Unfortunately neither Theo Walcott or Ashley Young are in the squad (based on injury/lack of form) which is a shame because I think two such pacey wingers would compliment that strong spine quite nicely. However, I think any two of Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stuart Downing should be given a chance in filling that sort of role and could provide some real penetration down the flanks.
There are similarities too between Torres and Rooney, with both being relatively complete players. I think Torres places more emphasis on his speed and power and all round dynamism whereas Rooney is a touch more reliant on his football brain, his creativity. But they both are quick and strong, both have an excellent touch and both are natural finishers, who can also bring other players into the game.
Certainly, if Rooney and Gerrard could strike up a similar understanding to that which has blossomed between Gerrard and Torres in Liverpool’s last three games, Capello could well be onto a winning formula. After all, it has been quite clear in recent seasons that more and more clubs are gravitating towards more of a 4-5-1 system, and seeing as England only have one top class natural striker, such a move may surely suit the national side too.
Such a wealth of midfield talent also suggests that we have an ideal squad to adopt this system and I think we can also learn some lessons from Liverpool’s match against Real Madrid in particular with regard to how it should be employed. The foreign players in that match could not handle the speed and tenacity of Liverpool’s play which is a product purely of their Premier League experience, and thus the five man midfield prevented them from playing at all, while leaping fluidly into an uncontainable attacking unit once possession was won.
If Capello could engineer a similar sort of discipline and understanding into his England charges, we could see the development of an England side that is finally playing to its strengths. For too long our managers have been trying to force England to play like the more flair-orientated European/South American teams while all along it has been clear that our strength lies in our difference.
The Premier League is unlike any other league in the world with regard to its mixture of pace and intensity, so the England side should be attempting o capture that energy. Few players in the world would be able to cope with such an onslaught, and given that our array of world class talent seems to be biased towards an attacking 4-4-1-1 system that suits it so well, I think Capello should be thinking very seriously about trying it out in this weeks friendly against Slovakia.
Whatever happens, I think in football you have to play to your strengths and for so long England have been searching for a way to play to two of them together. I genuinely think this system could accommodate both Gerrard and Lampard and while also solving the striker shortage and giving us a ready made system with which to take apart opposition from Europe and South America (i.e. the strongest football playing nations in world football) we could be on to a winner here.