England’s fluid midfield trio suffocates Wales

In the build-up to England’s comfortable win over Wales, the midfield debate was about whether it would be Scott Parker or Frank Lampard who made the starting XI. In the end, both men accompanied Jack Wilshere in a midfield triangle for England, and the decision to play both proved a good one for Head Coach Fabio Capello.

Parker, who has been the lynchpin of West Ham’s revival this season, was handed the slot in the middle of the three, with instructions to sit deeper than his colleagues. Gareth Barry has been used by the Italian in the holding role for most of his competitive fixtures, and while Parker’s role yesterday had elements of how Barry is used by Capello, there was a lot more to his game. Parker did plenty of work higher up the pitch, pressing the Welsh with his two midfield teammates. The result was the same player West Ham supporters watch every week, and the one who makes life so difficult for opposition midfields all over the country. He was tenacious and timely in the tackle, and showed his vision and short-passing technique when required. The quality and standing of the opposition will of course be used against him, but Parker’s performance showed nothing less than the capability to play equally well against tougher nations.

In order for the West Ham captain to put in his man-of-the-match performance, the work of both Lampard and Wilshere, in the more advanced midfield slots, was vital. The Arsenal man, Wilshere, against the Danes, was tested in an unfamiliar deeper lying role, in which he was on occasion found out positionally. However, alongside both an able, classy workhorse such as Parker, and a similar box-to-box type player in Lampard, Wilshere was much more comfortable and put in the performance of a far more experienced international. Particularly in the first half, Wilshere hassled the Welsh midfield as soon as they received the ball, he strode forward taking opponents on, and swapped attack and defend duties admirably with Lampard.

As a complete unit, the three played like they are club teammates. They looked more like the Barcelona trio than the sluggish, devoid-of-ideas midfield that has baffled Three Lions fans in the recent past. When the ball was not theirs, they rotated pressing duties effectively, mopping up for each other on the rare occasion a comrade was caught out. On the ball, they were at times breathtaking, with short, crisp, fast passing to release the similarly excellent forward three.

Now 30, Parker has, through no fault of his own, been out of the England fixture for a large part of his career. On yesterday’s showing – provided he does similar against better sides – the former Chelsea player is hungry to make up for that lost time and, alongside the youthful and energetic Wilshere, could be the foundation of England’s midfield for at least the next international tournament. That is as long as – of course – Capello’s midfield experiment does not revert to less impressive, but more familiar, personnel in future fixtures.

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