Wanted: One Water Carrier – Only English Candidates Need Apply
Of all the positions that could do with being filled within English football, none is more necessary than that of the guy who’s supposed to sit in front of the back four, win the ball and keep it all game.
The position dubbed “water carrier” was famously given to Didier Deschamps in the late ’90s. Yes, around the same time they started winning World Cups and European Championships. Every good team needs one. Dunga, Gattuso, Makelele all epitomised it in World and European winning teams. Hunting the ball down like their lives depended on it, with little regard for opposition limbs and, at times, referees. Domestically, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira are rarely ignored when the conversation of best ever Premier League players comes up.
Despite their less wholesome attributes, all of those players had the technical ability to give the ball to someone on their team after the big impact that they may have caused moments earlier. And that’s where England have struggled. The so-called saviour in the last World Cup after our disastrous first game was Gareth Barry. “Really?”, you ask. If it’s not too painful cast your minds back. It was he who was the missing bit of the jigsaw. The destructor. The calming influence. The heartbeat of the team. The solution to our abysmal opening game. Unfortunately on his return it became apparent that he simply wasn’t good enough.
Spain have taken it to the next level. Busquets, Xavi, Alonoso and even Fabregas could all be deployed in that role. They don’t give up the ball too easily and they can all certainly play. In the Champions League final at Wembley this year, there may as well have been a metallic ball in the centre circle with magnets for boots on the feet of the Catalan midfielders.
Compare those players to England’s choices in the last few years. Barry, Carrick, Parker. All half decent players. But unfortunately in that crucial position they don’t quite have the cutting edge to transform England from ‘nearly runs’ to world beaters. Their effort levels may be as high, but unfortunately in the technical stakes they pale in comparison.
Admittedly, other areas could be improved too. But it goes some way to explaining why the “Golden Generation” hasn’t won the silverware. So is there hope? Well, let’s see. The new crop of midfielders includes Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley, Chelsea’s Josh McEachran, Everton’s Jack Rodwell and the cream of the crop Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. Whoever he is, he should be the player who touches the ball in a game more than any other. One big bone-crunching tackle on the half way line doesn’t win a game. Winning the ball regularly through a match and keeping it though, may well do.
Ok, so the positive news for England. They are currently ranked 4th in the World, so although they don’t play the beautiful game in its purest form the team can clearly get results. Secondly, few could argue there isn’t talent in the ranks. Ferdinand, Gerrard (when both fit), Terry, Cole, Rooney, Wilshere and Young would be knocking at the door of most international teams’ doors. So there are some indications of ending nearly 50 years of pain. All that’s needed is a water carrier.
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