England’s style of play has been commonly described as slow and laboured over the years. Despite the presence of several high-profile names, The Three Lions have never been able to come anywhere near, let alone match the pace, fluidity and flair boasted by the likes of Spain, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands or even, let’s be honest, Japan.
A large part of that is down to a midfield department that seems devoid of any real ingenuity or explosiveness. Its members are always technically proficient and do the simple things excellently but consistently fail to provide anything out of the ordinary and are often rendered static.
There’s a certain criteria an English midfielder needs to fulfill in order to make the grade in the national squad. Athleticism and work-rate are two of the foremost qualities while a good range of passing, sound technique and the odd strike from distance serves to enhance their claim for a starting berth. Adam Lallana’s inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s latest squad however, deviates from that stereotype.
The 25 year-old Southampton captain has been in sensational form this season and it’s no wonder that his side currently sit third in the Premier League table with teammates Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez also earning call-ups. Lallana, among others, has flourished under Mauricio Pochettino’s 'pass-and-move' philosophy that centers around possession.
Lallana is not your typical English midfielder. He’s agile, clever with his quick short passes, scores goals and carries the ball forward, not by powering his way through but by elegantly weaving past defenders with eye-catching dribbling that a South American attacker would be proud of.
His Man of the Match performance in Southampton's 4-1 win over Hull City last weekend encapsulated what he's all about and was an exciting preview of what England supporters can expect. His goal was simply brilliant as he coasted past a line of Hull defenders before finding the perfect angle for a composed finish inside the far post. Incredibly, that's just the sort of run he's quite accustomed to.
The balance and grace with which Lallana plays is not something you see too often from an Englishman. Yes, Jack Wilshere is capable while Steven Gerrard and Ross Barkley are also known to beat a defender or two as well albeit with bursts of acceleration rather than quick feet.
However, while the England skipper has regressed into a deeper role, Wilshere and Barkley are yet to mature especially with regard to their composure and consistency in front of goal as well as picking out the right passes in the final third. This is not to say that Lallana undoubtedly deserves a starting role but surely he offers Hodgson a completely different option to the central or attacking midfielders he has at his disposal.
In fact, England are so short of dribblers in general that they only recently unearthed a flying-winger in Andros Townsend, someone who can turn full-backs inside out with ease. Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon in contrast were more about blinding pace than anything else.
Meanwhile, James Milner has been a regular in the England squad for a while and many question whether he has enough ability to justify the frequency with which he’s picked. The Manchester City player is renowned for his graft, work-rate and versatility but perhaps there are better ball-players missing out in favour of him, players like Lallana for instance.
This is where England have to take a decision with respect to their identity as a footballing nation. Are they comfortable with their largely predictable central midfield and more importantly, do they think they’re capable of competing against the best with the same?
There are signs from the next generation of English midfielders that perhaps the kind of players coming through in that area of the pitch is starting to evolve. Wilshere and Barkley are already examples of the same while a quick look into the younger age groups sees the likes of Ravel Morrison and Nick Powell in particular displaying similar qualities.
At the moment though, Lallana has ample experience and maturity and while he’s a very crafty player, he also puts in a shift, keeping with the trademark English doggedness. In fact, he has been one of the reasons why Pochettino’s high-pressing system has worked as he’s been the player to win possession in the opposing half more than any other. The fact that he’s operated in a variety of positions only strengthens his case.Lallana is certainly a player England will want on the plane to Rio de Janeiro come the summer. He’s a rare English talent that boasts of the sort of creativity and guile in the final third that the national side have so often been accused of lacking.
|Should Lallana be a regular for England? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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