There were times yesterday afternoon when it looked like we couldn’t beat Trini and Suzannah, let alone Trinidad and Tobago.
England will play better against better teams. Not least because better teams will be trying to beat England and not just hold them. A more open game with a higher tempo benefits our style of play, but unless we do something with the balance of the side, we will be overrun in midfield. Against the better sides, that means we lose.
You win world cups with the best team, not necessarily the best players. If we learned anything at all from 1966, it should be that. If winning at international level were simply about picking the best 11 players in your country, then football associations around the world would employ computers to manage their national teams. There’s a reason this doesn’t happen.
Frank Lampard and Stevie Gerrard are two of the best attacking midfielders in the world, of that there is no doubt. But England playing their current system will not go past the quarter-finals with both in the side. One option is to go to a 5-man midfield with Carrick in font of the back four performing the role Gerrard has up to now, permitting the Liverpool captain and Frank Lampard to play more or less where they do for their clubs, doing what they do best.
Of course, something would have to give up front, so it’s then a case of who you play up on his own. For all the different attributes each of our strikers can bring, I don’t believe we’ll ever see the best of any of them this way.
My personal preference has always been to go with three at the back: Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell, with the wing-backs pushed up to make the 5 in the middle. This way, we can accommodate both Lampard and Gerrard but still work with 2 up front. But that ‘aint gonna happen, is it?
So what’s to be done?
Sacrilege it might be, but I don’t see any option but to bring in Carrick for Lampard. As good a player as Frank is, Gerrard is just that bit better. And with Carrick protecting England’s defensive line, Gerrard can bomb forward from the tip of the midfield diamond and England’s most potent weapon – yes, Rooney included – is unleashed.
This way, by dropping one of our best 11 players but simultaneously giving the team better balance and solidity in the middle, England can still tread that path to glory.