No Baines, No Gain

22 November 2013 09:22

Before all of our World Cup dreams descend into nightmares, take this article as a tablet to reignite those hopes.

Yes, we lost against a red hot Chile outfit and of course, we lost to Germany. But to be frank, the only thing endangered by the most recent international break is our FIFA World ranking. And given that this system is the one responsible for planting Switzerland as seeds next summer, I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it.

This international break was a sighter for Roy Hodgson, an experiment which prompted much critique from the media, though Hodgson and England did get off lightly from the ITV panel in the absence of Roy Keane, funny that.

Not to knock the shrewd nature of Roy, but when it comes to flair in the England outfit, we seem to be lacking.

It’s almost a given nowadays that a team will set up with five midfielders, whether it’s 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1, they are all an adaptation from a five-man middle line. Roy certainly likes the hard-workers in his side, the mechanics of the watch, whilst players alike Sturridge and Townsend form the gold plating. Yet Roy’s tendency is to pick possibly too many of these ‘do the job’ players, leaving not enough flair in the side to resemble a team capable of winning the World Cup.

Full-backs are without doubt the most developed role in football over the last decade, with the position now an attacking role, as much a defensive one. England has an abundant amount of attacking full-backs at their disposal, all of whom give an extra dynamic to the offensive side of the game.

Hodgson appears undecided on both right-back and left-back spots, though it is the left-back vacancy which is home to my foremost qualms.

As Alexis Sanchez nicked in front of Leighton Baines to bag his first of two at Wembley last Friday, I squinted and rubbed my eyes, just waiting for the onslaught of criticism Baines would receive for his occasional ‘defensive liability’. This of course accompanied of pleads for Ashley Cole to slot into the left side of the England defence, with all his tournament experience and defensive assurance.

But may I please ask where has this tournament experience got England over the last decade? Will functional players like Ashley Cole win us the World Cup, especially when he is performing in a position where modern football gives provision for players with panache and style?

Not only does Baines offer great crossing ability and perpetual motion down the left flank, but he is also a set-piece specialist who knows a trick or two in the penalty-taking department, which is always handy.

Yet despite this page-long list of attributes, it still seems that Baines is forever taking an audition when turning out in England white. Cole still remains the main man and has been selected in the crunch cannot-afford-to-lose away games during the qualification stage for Rio, only missing out on the two Wembley games against Ukraine and Montenegro through injury.

So as both of them undoubtedly step foot on the plane to Rio, it will be left to Roy to decide whether Baines’ many auditions warrants an starting XI place, or whether Cole resumes usual service.

It’s nothing personal, Ashley, but it’s a no from me.

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Source: DSG