Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Jamie Carragher Experiment

Somewhat surprisingly, Jamie Carragher as holding midfielder was not the worst thing on the pitch at Old Trafford. That honour goes to England's dodgy penalty, with Owen Hargreaves a close second.

The question, really, is what you're expecting from the holding midfielder. If you want him to break up the other team's play, then yeah, Carragher's a pretty good choice. If you want him to also start the attack for England and play balls through to the striker(s), then no. On the other hand, if he's just making sideways passes, at least he's not going to keep giving the ball away like Michael Carrick did against Belarus.

I was one of the people saying that with Rooney out, England should be playing 4-5-1 rather than 4-4-2. I still think it's not a bad idea, but it was badly executed against Hungary. Steven Gerrard is not a second striker. He's just not. He's a fantastic player, but he's most effective when he can attack the defence from a slightly deeper position, rather than having to wait for the ball to come to him. And Michael Owen is not a target man -- and not just because the other players can't see him to pass to if the grass gets too long. Again, he's a great striker, but playing with his back to goal and trying to hold up the ball is just not his game. Everybody's favourite robot dancer, Peter Crouch, is much better at that, actually. But you know Sven's never going to drop Owen for Crouch. So this leaves them with two options:

1. Stick with 4-5-1, but do it properly. This means the midfielders have to be a lot better at pushing up to support the lone striker, and if it's Michael Owen up front, playing him the kind of passes he can actually work with. As for who should play the holding role, maybe give Michael Carrick another chance against Jamaica and see if he's any better with the regular starting XI around him. Pack Hargreaves away in a crate somewhere.

2. Suck it up and go back to 4-4-2. Even when I was pushing for 4-5-1, I also said that Crouch and Owen could complement each other nicely as a strike partnership. And Crouch has been playing well enough for England recently to deserve the start, I think. The problem, though, is still what to do with the centre midfielders. Frank Lampard is still apparently undroppable, even when he goes missing for 75% of the game. But why not make him play the more defensive role, instead of Steven Gerrard?

As for that penalty: First of all, I hate diving. It's not something I've ever done myself, as far as I know -- I'm usually too focused on just getting the ball to deliberately fall down -- and I don't like seeing other players do it. Especially not players that I usually like. (Bad Steven! No biscuit!) Now, I do think that it was a dangerous challenge from the Hungarian player and that Gerrard was jumping out of the way to avoid getting hurt. But you could also tell by the way he went down and then looked back at the referee that he was deliberately trying to win the penalty. You could argue that a tackle like that should be a foul regardless of how much contact there is, but I still sort of think that justice was served when Lampard's penalty was saved. And England won anyway. Yay?

Also, hi to A Matter of Life and Death, and thanks for the link. (Everyone keeps wondering how I can possibly support both Manchester United and Liverpool. The short answer is that I just like the red jerseys.)

1 comment:

Vinny Quinn said...

How shallow! ;)