Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Bye Bye Becks, Part 2
Sadly, England were ploddingly ordinary for the rest of the afternoon, and their reliance on Beckham was partly to blame. They were quite happy with the lack of genuine penetration on either wing, so long as they could call upon Beckham (and others) to provide the telling aerial balls. But with Peter Crouch clumsy in the air and Michael Owen far from fit, they made little impact.
It was the next game, against Trinidad, that revealed an interesting possibility for Beckham.
Much of the game progressed in similar fashion to the Paraguay encounter. Long balls, hopeful knockdowns, misses from Crouch, toil without reward from Owen. I’ve described the whole sorry tale elsewhere. To give credit where it’s due, Eriksson’s substitutions gave the England side renewed vigour, and they necessitated in a surprisingly effective tactical switch.
Jamie Carragher, playing on the right side of defence in the absence of Gary Neville, made way for the speedy Aaron Lennon. Lennon took up his accustomed position on the right wing, and Beckham moved to right-back.
For the final half-hour, England’s captain looked as comfortable and effective as he had in years, in my opinion.
True, Trinidad and Tobago are not the most daunting of opposition. True, Beckham did not have to deal with a winger of class. But in so many ways, the role suited him; he was able to deliver accurate long balls from deep, he was able to use his fine positional sense to overlap efficiently, and he carried out his (few) defensive duties calmly and adroitly.
Lennon’s pace and agility meant he was frequently double-marked, and Beckham was quick to exploit this. From a slightly withdrawn position on the right, he played key roles in both of England’s goals.
England are not significantly blessed in the right-back department at present. Gary Neville is nearing the end of his career, Jamie Carragher seems to prefer the centre-half role these days, and Tony Hibbert has probably missed the boat. Why not Beckham as right-back for England, in the fullness of time? He lacks pace, to be sure, but he may be able to make light of this against all but the quickest wide men; his positional judgement, after all, is excellent.
This way, England would be able to field a true, penetrating right-winger while still availing themselves of Beckham’s dead-ball prowess.
One for Steve McLaren to consider…if he hasn’t done so already.
He'd be a stopgap for Euro 10 but the reality is his time is over.
RB is a troublesome spot for England (zig-zag face Neville won't be around for the next WC - and I don't rate Luke Young), but that's not his role.
RM though is England's new forte. With Lennon up-and-coming, SWP showing plenty of promise (but needs to play or move), and Pennant nigh on reborn at Liverpool (when was the last time and English player playing well for a top 5 side wasn't capped?) - there is simply no need for Beckham.