It was a comment last week by Cesc Fabregas that provided the inspiration for this blog. He said Jack Wilshere had the, “heart of an Englishman and Spanish quality”.
That got me thinking about alternatives to the ‘English way’. But what exactly is the ‘English way’? It’s difficult in a nutshell, but I’d go with words like, ‘fast’, ‘aggressive’, ‘pressing’ and ‘direct’ (maybe) to describe it.
But if Cesc Fabregas sees Jack Wilshere as one of the shining lights of English football, shouldn’t we do everything we can to harness his talent? Wilshere has grown up the ‘Arsenal way’ not the ‘English way’. His game is about precision, fluidity and movement. So the question is should Fabio Capello adapt?
Spain are the World Champions, but we shouldn’t watch Barcelona in awe every time they rip apart an English side. We already have the players that can be nurtured to produce that very style of football, right on our doorstep. Forgive me, if I concentrate solely on the midfield and strikeforce from here on, but I believe England’s defence, on the whole, can be one of the best in the world, apart from dropping John Terry, but that would be a whole different blog!
Capello listen up!
THE MIDFIELD THREE
Jack Wilshere has never been and never will be a holding midfielder, despite Fabio Capello’s tendencies for the square peg round hole theory. So place him as one of three centrally focused midfield players. If we’re using the Spain template as a guide, then Wilshere needs someone either alongside him, or just in front to exchange those quick passes and burst forward.
Jordan Henderson was used in a far deeper position than he should have been and suffered horribly in the inept performance against France at Wembley. But I believe he has the range of passing, temperament and potential to be the perfect foil for Wilshere in the heart of England’s midfield. He already holds down that regular place for Sunderland and doesn’t possess enough pace to play consistently on the wing.
As an alternative to Henderson then what about Mark Davies? Yes at 23, he’s a little older than what some people might say as the future of England but taking into account that he missed the whole of the 2007/8 season through injury, you can reasonably say that his development is 18 months to two years behind that of Wilshere and Henderson. That in turn makes them equals. Davies has grown into his central midfield role with Bolton and playing for an unfashionable team shouldn’t be a hindrance. Again, he possesses a wonderful range of passing, can work in tight areas, but can also provide an explosive burst past the opposition into forward areas. Notice that these players are what may be described as small and technical (only Henderson is over six foot) not the ‘powerhouses’ of Gerrard and Lampard. Then again, Iniesta and Xavi are both under six foot. Some may point to the lack of goals from the players I’ve mentioned so far. But look at the records of Gerrard and Lampard. The Liverpool midfielder didn’t surpass 10 goals in a season until his third full campaign and Lampard took four seasons in the first team to notch up 10 goals.
To provide some bite, Tom Huddlestone. He’s a natural holding midfielder, but he’s not just someone who breaks up the play. If we’re continuing along the same trend, he’d be picked not only for his tackling but his passing. According to Wikipedia (the oracle) George Burley described him as one of the best passers he’s ever seen.
As an alternative there’s Jack Rodwell. His injury record may be questionable over the last 18 months but he’s been linked with a move to Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson’s opinions are good enough for me. Rodwell is wise beyond his years and isn’t even 20, despite it feeling like he’s been around for as long as Abel Xavier’s beard.
THE FRONT THREE
We are lucky that at the moment we have an abundance of quality wingers. Looking at Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and James Milner to name a few, any of these could play either side of Wayne Rooney up front. But similarly we have options to change things throughout the game. David Villa (continuing the Spanish comparison), during the World Cup, was lethal coming in from the left hand side, a position Rooney is no stranger to. He could adapt and become an Inside Forward, cutting in, with Ashley Cole providing the width on the left. Darren Bent could then be utilized as the frontman.
Maybe we will see English football change in the next five years. Maybe we will see more technical players coming through like Wilshere, Davies and Henderson. Maybe the England manager should encourage their development by changing the national team to suit their style of play.
The ‘golden generation’ are dead. Long live The Golden Generation…