Diamonds Are Forever
England go into their European Qualifier with San Marino on Thursday set to continue with their new diamond formation which saw them defeat Switzerland in Basel last month. Whilst the roles of certain players need tweaking, non more so than Jack Wilshere, there was an air of optimism regarding the performance we saw from Roy Hodgson’s men. England kept the ball smartly in that game and came away with a well deserved 2-0 victory against a side who were amongst the Worlds elite when they were placed in the first seed for the 2014 World Cup draw. With Hodgson set to continue with the formation, is there once again light at the end of this dismal English tunnel.
Football formations seem to come and go out of fashion like double denim. 4-4-2 has been the traditional foundation but others have come in and out as teams have adjusted to different playing styles. 4-3-3 had a good run at the forefront with sides adopting pacey wingers and a goal scorer through the middle. Napoli had a spell playing 3-4-3 which took them to third in the Serie A during the 2010-2011 season. We have even seen Barcelona playing with the now well known formation dubbed the ‘False 9’, in which they jam the best players in Spain into the same midfield and hope for the best, a sort of 4-6 formation. All the while 3-5-2 lingers around like a carton of sour milk, occasionally tried but quickly thrown away when you realise it’s absolutely crap.
Roy Hodgson is by no means the pioneer of the diamond midfield, but in adopting it he may have finally found a formation which involves putting his square blocks into square holes. There are, however, still some kinks that need to be ironed out. In Switzerland Jack Wilshere was deployed at the base of the diamond, a role which his economy of touches and forward thinking brain did not suit. Wilshere is a fine player, at times he glides past players like he’s wearing studs when everyone else is wearing trainers. But he likes to take a lot of touches on the ball before he moves it on and when he is playing so deep, it can cause England a lot of problems if he loses possession. However, move him a level up the diamond and we have a role perfectly suited to his game. He can get amongst the opposition in his typical robust fashion whilst dictating the play further up the pitch as we have seen him do more consistently for Arsenal this season. Jack has something that appears to be very rare in footballers from this country of late, and that’s a burning desire to represent England and, assuming he can stay injury free, I think this role is perfect for him to start living up to his potential in an England shirt.
If Roy is pondering Jack Wilshere’s position on Thursday and miraculously turns to this article for inspiration then he will suddenly be short of a man to play the holding role in his diamond. Well Roy have no fear because I have the answer for you there as well. Step forward Sir James Milner, England’s modern day equivalent to St. George himself. There is no position on the football pitch beyond James Milner, a man who is in top form form for the champions of England this season. Milner is, from what I can gather, a simple man who enjoys nothing more than performing his part in a team. I have forever been a fan and upon studied his game very closely I have noticed that if you give Milner a specific job on the pitch he plays out of his skin. Where he falls down is where you give him no instructions and tell him to express himself. Do this and you’ll have James Milner running towards to corner flag like a moth to a flame and subsequently tripping over his own ghastly coloured Nike boots. However, give James Milner some instructions, give him a purpose on the field and you have a seriously talented player on your hands. For that reason James Milner is the perfect man to sit at the base of the diamond for England. He will break up play tirelessly and, upon instruction, play the simple pass to those around him more suited to creation. I truly believe that the likes of Milner, Henderson and Jack Wilshere can provide the basis in which England can finally turn the corner from being 11 decent individuals, to one solid team desperate to make this country proud.
So there you have it, who would’ve thought 2 years ago that Milner could be the answer to all our problems. Most of you probably aren’t convinced, but if Roy knows what’s good for him he will find his diamond in the rough and football will be coming home once more.