The Spanish have them. The Germans have a lot of them. So do the Brazilians, the Argentine’s and the Dutch. In fact, every top club team and nation in the world have them, but for some reason, England don’t seem to have any.
I am of course talking about the defensive midfielder.
In this new modern age of football, the defensive midfielder has become an integral position in any team, providing balance, stability and security.
They offer cover for marauding full-backs, break down opposition attacks, provide a creative link between the defence and midfield, as well as giving the creative midfielders a safety net, so they can get forward and do what they do best.
In England’s two most recent games against Chile and Germany, both visiting teams played with two sitting midfielders. England may not have been playing their full strength line up in either game, but they were so far behind their opponents on a tactical level, it was almost embarrassing.
The lack of a defensive midfielder meant our defenders had no real protection and our midfielders were restricted by defensive responsibilities.
It seems a pretty obvious problem that could be easily solved. But if you look around the English domestic game, we come to two pretty worrying conclusions.
Firstly, there are very few English defensive midfielders for Roy Hodgson to select. If you take this weekend for example, there were only four Englishmen playing in real defensive midfield roles.
Scott Parker and Gareth Barry haven’t been selected for international matches in a long time, so I doubt they will come back in for a World Cup. Tom Huddlestone was a real prospect for the future, but thanks to injuries his development has stalled a little. Then there’s Phil Jones, who isn’t even a natural midfielder.
Secondly, if you look through our youth systems and young English player playing in lower divisions, we don’t have many players in the position who are showing real potential.
Outstanding midfield prospects like James Ward-Prowse, Will Hughes and Nick Powell can only play to their full potential if given the right protection.
Richard Smallwood and Jason Lowe have good Under 21 experience, but both are 22 now and have not yet shown they are capable of stepping up to the next level, and although the very talented Nathaniel Chalobah plays in midfield sometimes, he is really a defender.
So things are looking bleak for England, with the World Cup fast approaching. However, maybe a successful plan would not be to look forward, but to look back.
At Euro 2012, England were eliminated by Italy, who went on to defy the odds and reach the final, and although they lost to Spain, they can look back on that tournament as a great success.
Andrea Pirlo was at his imperious best, playing in a deep lying playmaker role. Flanked by the all action Daniele De Rossi and the tough tackling Claudio Marchisio, he was able to dictate the tempo of matches and was given time to pick out his team mates in dangerous attacking positions.
If you look at the players England have at their disposal, Michael Carrick would be very capable of playing in a similar role to the one employed by Pirlo. Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere have the strength, drive and work rate to be able to protect Carrick, as well as support the forwards when given the chance to get forward.
If you then incorporate Wayne Rooney and any other two from Andros Townsend, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck or Theo Walcott to make up a front three, I think we have a good quality, dynamic starting eleven.
I still don’t believe that would be good enough to win the tournament, which is not a realistic goal, but it should be enough to get out the group and give some of the other nations a real problem.
Once the tournament is over, we still have the defensive midfield dilemma to worry about, and if we don’t get it sorted, I fear we will never be able to deliver the success our nation craves and deserves.
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