In years gone by England have been blessed with top quality options in centre midfield. It seems like yesterday when the biggest complaint was that Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard could not play together. Since then England fans have a far greater amount of complaints. Not to mention that they are significantly more justified too. England’s last two qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia next year have highlighted major flaws. The most obvious are the problems in the centre of the park. If Gareth Southgate wants to achieve something in Russia he needs to take some risks and make some big calls in the midfield area.
England started the 1-0 win against Slovenia with Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson at the heart of the team. While both players are decent and represent their clubs consistently there is a lack of creative spark in there. Dier is a utility player. He can play at full back and in central defence as well as in midfield. So as you would expect you get a defensively minded player when you select him in this role. Henderson on the other hand offers great energy. He has a high work rate going both forward and backwards. However, creativity is an area he does not excel in.
The second game against Lithuania saw Henderson keep his place and alongside him was Harry Winks. It was a solid debut in a game that meant little and offered even less in the way of entertainment. Winks completed the most passes (98) of any player on the pitch and it was a good experience for him. Long term he is a good option for both Tottenham and England but his lack of experience could show at a international tournament.
If Southgate wants to get England through the group stages and beyond he will need to seriously consider other options in this area. The pool of players may not be great, when compared to what England once had, but even more worryingly it is rather shallow. Beyond Henderson, Dier and Jake Livermore very few players involved in the England set up get regular game time for their club.
The England manager needs to seriously consider Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse. He has represented England at u21 level even captaining the side. Experience in the Premier League also helps the young ‘Saints’ star who in past season has been vital to their success. His eye for a pass and ability to hold the midfield could prove important to England in Russia. He also has great ability from dead ball situation, so if Southgate is planning on avoiding the embarrassment Roy Hodgson faced when he put Harry Kane on corner duty Ward-Prowse could spare his blushes.
Perhaps the withdrawal of Fabian Delph due to injury hurt Southgate’s plans. Delph had played well for Manchester City when they beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge recently. Although he had operated at left back in that game. He could come in useful for his country at the upcoming World Cup. If he can regain the form he showed at Aston Villa he could be a real asset.
Jack Wilshere seems to have gone off the international scene due to injuries and lack of football. A return to Arsenal first team and fulfilling his potential could see him back in contention for Russia, but it is a long shot.
Danny Drinkwater’s move to Chelsea will stagnate him. Game time will be limited and therefore he cannot be a serious contender for the squad. Jonjo Shelvey has had issues at Newcastle as the season commenced but if he settles down and plays well he has a chance to be in the squad. Another potential candidate is Nathaniel Chalobah who has come on leaps and bounds since his move to Watford.
Southgate has to be brave with his selection. The squad is strong in the majority of areas but the engine room is something that needs work. He has to be ambitious and trust his instinct instead of selecting players who do a job at big clubs. He also needs to focus on selecting out and out central midfield players.
To bring some much needed excitement to the style of football that England are offering he needs to breathe new life into midfield and get the team creating chance from deeper as well as moving the ball quicker. If he can do this the team will be able to unlock the unlimited potential in stars like Marucs Rashford, Kane and Raheem Sterling further up the pitch. Getting this decision right will directly influence the success England have at the World Cup.
If you have a passion for sport and would like to write or design for S57onSport contact us today by clicking here.