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England’s Midfield Still Unbalanced Despite Important Victory In Basel


In what is likely to be England’s most important game of the qualification process, Roy Hodgson’s side overcame what has been a week of building pressure to take away a hugely important 2-0 victory over Switzerland in Basel as the Three Lions began life after their disastrous World Cup campaign in Brazil.

There was an air of tension building all week long following the dour display at a less than half full Wembley Stadium against Norway in a friendly, with the normally calm Hodgson even himself allowing the pressure to show in a press conference ahead of the trip to St. Jakob-Park.

England however were much improved with Arsenal’s deadline-day signing Danny Welbeck putting in a man of the match display scoring two goals. He was ably supported by the energy of Raheem Sterling and the hard work of Wayne Rooney.

There were still defensive lapses needing both Joe Hart and Gary Cahill to rescue England on separate occasions however the most worrying aspect for England, in what was an otherwise excellent evening, was the lack of balance in the middle of midfield.

After seeing just how successful Brendan Rodgers’ 4-4-2 diamond system was throughout the second half of Liverpool’s 2013-14 campaign, Hodgson had been toying with the idea of replicating the formation before the World Cup but chose against using it in Brazil.
However the formation was in effect yesterday evening with Fabian Delph and Jack Wilshere rotating as the two deepest lying midfielders which did little to help Wilshere.

Having been thrust into prominence with Arsenal’s first-team whilst still in his teenage years, a lot has been expected of Wilshere with all the early signs suggesting he could be the future for both club and country. Injuries have certainly not aided Wilshere’s cause but now, at 22-years-old, people are wondering when the best of Wilshere is to come? There has been a lot of discussion about Wilshere’s form thus far this season with a lot of criticism being unfairly aimed at him however he is being asked to do just too much for both club and country.

Wilshere’s best asset is something we saw in abundance when he first burst onto the scene at Arsenal, his ability to pick the ball up in midfield, ghost past the first oncoming opponent and then either play a pass in behind to a teammate or continue a forward run on his own. It was reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne.

Since then we have seen a lot of responsibility placed on Wilshere, which as you gain experience is understandable, however Wilshere will never be a natural holding midfielder. He needs somebody behind him to give him the freedom to work.

At both Arsenal and with England currently there isn’t anybody in this mould and we are seeing the impact it has on Wilshere’s performances.

Yesterday evening there was one instance where England played the ball out from Joe Hart and Wilshere received it just on the edge of his area and was expected to make something happen from there. This is simply unrealistic.

There needs to be a specialist player in the position to pick the ball up in this unenviable area and move it on to Wilshere at the centre circle, it is from here Wilshere can make something happen with a forward run or pass.

This would also see a great improvement in the fluidity of England’s transition play, we saw with Welbeck’s first goal the pace England have on the break, if the team could just utilise that from midfield England would be in a far greater position to control matches, which when facing the elite teams in tournament conditions is hugely important.

There are few players in the current England setup whom you would associate with being a natural holding midfielder. The perfect examples that come to mind are Gilberto Silva and Sergio Busquets, both with differing footballing qualities but similar approaches and levels of effectiveness. Whilst this standard of player is not available at this time, if England want to get the best out of Jack Wilshere then a holding midfielder would be the best solution.

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  1. Smokey Bacon

    September 9, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Wilshire definitely looked like the odd man out but other than that we looked much more fluid and mobile. Delph took his chance well while Henderson looked much more comfortable. Hopefully Roy sticks with this system and uses the San Marino game to try out a few options for holding midfielder.

    • Iancransonsknees

      September 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Jack Wilshere, the sophisticates Glenn Whelan.

  2. Flyvanescence

    September 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Did Gareth Barry have a one-night stand with Hodgson’s granddaughter? England have no defensive midfielder yet a quality one has been in exile for four years because hes not as fast as Mesut Ozil.
    Carrick also would be a good fill-in if healthy.

    Ultimately they need a young midfield anchor (no idea who at the moment) but for now a rotation of those two would be an adequate stop gap.

    3 in the midfield is the way forward. Wilshere and Henderson are very good but need someone anchoring.

    • Chris Winterburn (Author)

      September 10, 2014 at 10:13 am

      You make a good point on both Carrick and Barry. I feel for Barry in particular, he had a great year at Everton last season and hasn’t been given a sniff. Carrick on the other hand, if I recall correctly, essentially retired from internationals a couple of years back and then came back only to quietly retire again.

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