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Midfield Déjà-Vu

January 3rd, 2010 by · No Comments · Features, Football

It’s interesting re-reading the pundits from the run-up to 2006, especially regarding the midfield positions. Eriksson’s squad and teams had a very familiar look to Capello’s. The first choice midfield four was Cole, Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham. The back-up options were Downing, Lennon, Hargreaves, Carrick and Jenas.

Fast-forward to 2010 and the squad, injury permitting, will be much the same. Capello has even gone public on Hargreaves making it despite not playing for nearly 18 months. The first choice midfield will probably see only Beckham being demoted behind Lennon, Walcott or possibly Wright-Phillips.

The revitalised Downing will again understudy Cole with strong competition from club colleagues Young and the vastly improved James Milner. Huddleston and Jenas are interchangeable with neither likely to start a game if they both make the squad. The only key addition in midfield is Barry who not only allows cover for Gerrard and Lampard but provides much greater tactical flexibility which might even see all three playing.

So what does all that mean to England prospects. The half-full view is that a squad and team with deep international and tournament experience has a great opportunity to do well in these finals. The half-empty view is that this England squad and team were found lacking in 2006 and with only peripheral improvements history will repeat itself.

The most interesting dynamic is the real major change since the last tournament. This will be a very public test of how much difference a manager/coach can make to a team. Can tactical intelligence and motivation really lift players to perform above their historical levels? With much the same playing staff and the same reserve options this really is Capello v. Eriksson.

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