Whilst listening to 'Monday Night Club' on BBC Radio 5 last week (well worth a listen) an intriguing topic of conversation grabbed my attention. The panel were discussing how best to play the ball out from the back, in the recent friendlies between Chile & Germany England have looked pretty insipid in possession compared to the opposition, constantly giving the ball away without any pressure. Some might say its the job of the Central Midfielder and Strikers to dictate the pace and tempo of play but it's becoming increasingly common for teams to have good 'ball players' in Central Defence to ensure good quality of possession all over the pitch.
Robin Dutt, now Werder Bremen & ex Bayer Leverkusen manager, said that whenever his team plays Dortmund they target Mats Hummels rather than the teams attacking talent as he was "Not centre-back, but playmaker".
Former Scotland captain and Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister says:
"What's changed is that there is more emphasis on teams building from the back and playing in a really pure style".
One way to build from the back is to play a natural defensive/holding midfielder at Centre Back who has the attributes for this style. Barcelona have done it effectively with Javier Mascherano playing and winning in a Champions League final, we saw Chile play Cardiff City's bulldog Gary Medel defensive midfielder in defence to not only win the ball back but secure the ball for long periods.
The problem is who if anyone can Roy Hodgson utilise in this system for England?
Michael Carrick is possibly one of England's top players in possession and has had 40 interceptions in 10 games so far this season. Carrick has previously filled in at centre-back when Manchester United were suffering an injury crisis. Steven Gerrard would be equally adept at centre-back but I don't England can afford to lose him in the centre of the park. At the moment Phil Jones is a hybrid of 2 positions anyway so in the future when he is perhaps more defensively stable I see him filling this gap for the Three Lions.
I think it would be difficult to replicate this is in the premiership as the less diminutive CM's would struggle against the tall, strong number 9's but in European and international fixtures it could really work. Personnel wise though, I think Hodgson has no choice to stay with 2 recognised centre-backs.