At times like this, we all become football experts. But just because we don’t earn £6 million a year from the FA, it doesn’t mean we’re wrong.
It seems like the whole of England is clamouring for Gerrard to be played in the hole just behind Wayne Rooney. Let him have a free role there and we’ll get the best out of him. I’d like to meet the person that thinks we wouldn’t be more effective that way. I’d even be willing to settle for less. How about just not playing Gerrard out of position.
Starting with two out-and-out strikers shouldn’t necessarily mean that Gerrard is automatically sent out wide left (or right).
The match against Algeria showed that even when he’s out wide, he has a tendency to come inside in search of the ball. Well that’s good right? Because that’s what he’s best at. No. Because now we’ve got gaps down the flanks where Gerrard should be and the full-backs are exposed. That’s a very quick way to get in behind us without too much effort. And that’s madness at the world cup. I’m not saying he can’t be effective - of course he can. But he’s never going to be as effective as a natural winger. Gerrard at 70% on the left is just not as effective as a ’real’ left winger at 100%.
It’s the double-whammy that kills us. Not only are we less effective down the wing, we’re also less effective through the middle, where Gerrard would naturally be playing.
I don’t buy into the argument that Capello is apparently trying to sell - Gerrard is a world-class player and should be able to play anywhere. Nonsense. As one of my friends put it, you wouldn’t expect Lewis Hamilton to win the World Rally Championship just because he’s a world class driver.
There was a huge discussion point just prior to the finals around whether England should take a specialist left-back as cover. The argument was that it was a specialist position and therefore, a utility player would leave us at risk. But this is the World Cup. And at this level, they’re all specialist positions.
Let me ask you this. Who’s the better footballer, David James or Steven Gerrard? Gerrard right? So why don’t we play him in goal? Because goalkeeper is a specialist position. But as I’ve said, at this level they all are.
It absolutely mystifies me that we will willingly sacrifice getting the most from one of our best, and genuinely world class players, by playing him out of position. Especially when we have players in the squad that can play out wide.
What’s happening is that we’re pandering to ‘names’. The one thing we were promised that wouldn’t happen under Capello. He’s a man that can make the tough decisions, we were told. Well I’m yet to see it.
Tough decisions are telling Frank Lampard that although he’s a magnificent player, he isn’t going to start today because he doesn’t fit the system. Tough decisions are dragging Rooney off after 60 minutes because he’s giving you nothing and you’ve got a choice of strikers that can offer you different things. Tough decisions are admitting that you’re shape is wrong and making the necessary changes. Tough decisions are accepting that when you need a win, and you need goals, Heskey just doesn’t cut the mustard.
I’m yet to see any of that.
If Capello has got a system that he wants to play, and it seems like it’s 4-4-2, that’s absolutely fine. Play the 11 people that are best suited to making that system work. And you know what, that might mean putting somebody in that you could argue wouldn’t command the same price in the transfer market as someone you’re leaving out. But if it means you’re going to get the best from the team, make the call.
I actually feel there’s a chance that Capello will make changes for the Slovenia game. Yet I’m still concerned that we’ll still see Gerrard out wide. I genuinely hope not.
The team I’d start, for what it’s worth: