Sometimes additional information can just confuse the issue. At the end of England's qualifying series, in which it cast aside the disappointment of failing to qualify for Euro 2008 with impressive swagger, England's formation seemed obvious, with doubts over only two positions. After the recent uninspiring friendly wins over Mexico and Japan, there are suddenly a host of new concerns.
It had seemed that
The dangers of that were rammed home in England's first qualifier for the 2006 World Cup, when Gerrard and Lampard both scored, only for Austria to come back with two goals in the final 20 minutes that both stemmed from just that space. Having become aware of the problem, both became tentative, which meant England lost the attacking thrust that makes both such effective players.
Had they played together at club level, as
Then again, Mourinho would probably have played them in a 4-3-3 with a holding player, something neither
It was a predicament England never really solved until injury kept Lampard out of a Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel in September 2007.
McClaren retained Barry for the next game, against Russia, and England won 3-0 again. By the time of the crucial final qualifier against Croatia, Gerrard and Lampard were back in tandem, playing ahead of Barry in a 4-3-3. A goalkeeping error and some half-hearted defending on the counter had England 2-0 down before they'd really begun, and Barry was withdrawn at halftime as England reverted to 4-4-2.
England scored twice with the Gerrard-Lampard pairing in the centre of midfield, and then
Resolving the Gerrard-Lampard issue, and finding somebody to play on the left in a country that hasn't produced a top-class left-footed creator since
England suddenly had balance. Gerrard naturally cuts in onto his stronger right foot, which marries with
To make the balance perfect, England then needs pace and genuine width on the right, and by happy chance, it has such depth in that area that Capello could leave
The target-man also has a role in manipulating the opposing defence.
Naturally a defending team would look to sit deep against a side with the pace of Lennon and, to a lesser extent, Rooney and Gerrard, denying space behind them, effectively forcing England to try to pass its way through them. A defending team, though, cannot afford to let a target-man win headers in or around the box, and so they naturally play with a higher line, which is exactly what Lennon wants. So England have a balance that is both pleasing on the eye and threatening.
The big area of concern is at right back.
Barry's injury, though, has raised all the old doubts. He is now back in training, but it remains unclear just how fit he is. Capello is so concerned by the lack of defensive midfield cover that he even tried to call up
Against Japan, England even ended up with Gerrard and Lampard back together in the middle of a 4-4-2. It's the problem that won't go away.