Holding Midfielders are supposed to deny space to the opposition. Should the left-back go walkabout the defensive midfielder should put pressure on the opposition so the ball out to the right winger might go astray. This could buy the defense the vital half second to cover the gap rather than allowing the opposition the time to volley in a perfect shot. The holding midfielder should not stand off and allow the opposition the time to place their pass.
Michael Owen plays best off the shoulder of the opposition defence. He is especially effective when the opposition defends high up the pitch as he can slip off the shoulder and run into space (see Dave Basset, Forest vs Liverpool, 1998). To prevent this, the opposition must defend deep.
Wayne Rooney plays best "in the hole" (see Cantona, Beardsley). If the opposition defends deep this gives Rooney the space to play his best stuff - to pick the ball up from deep and run at the defence. He can then either split the defence with a pass or rely on another striker leading the line to open up some space for him to get a shot. Note how this complements Owen.
If you play a midfielder like Keane or Viera, or even one like Robbie Savage or Vinnie Jones, you annoy the opposition. They get harried, they have no time on the ball, they get frustrated. One, this loses them their shape and two, they might pick up yellow cards. See Northern Ireland last night for an example.
Lampard, on current form, is nowhere near world-class. Beckham appears to be the only midfielder capable of passing the ball. We missed John Terry a lot last night - Robinson did his best at organising the defence but couldn't do it alone. Ferdinand is not loud enough (and neither is Campbell). I'm not a fan of 4-4-2 when you don't really have the personnel to play it, but I think this is the best we can do with the current crop of players (Gerrard has to be told to play the "holding role"). Plus you could call it a 4-5-1 (a real 4-5-1, not the pretend one that Chelsea play).
|Neville (G)||Ferdinand||Terry||Cole (A)|
As for understudies:
|Young did OK||??||Carragher||Bridge?|
Not looking so hot there is it?