A story on a well known British newspaper website recently claimed that Harry Redknapp was not the FA’s only choice for the England managers job. In fact, they had found out (Through the usual unnamed source) that the FA were considering approaching either Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho……………………
[This pause is to allow you, the reader, the get up off the floor and stop laughing]
Outlandish and far fetched as that may be, it does pose the question: What would a Mourinho England team look like? And what about a Guardiola England team, what shape might that take?
Mourinho’s England XI
Lined up in Mourinho’s 4-3-3 – The Special One has a few favoured systems, and this one can be considered his Plan ‘A’. A fairly narrow midfield of one defensive midfielder, one box-to-box player, and one midfield man more free to join attacks. Three up front, two wingers that can interchange, and a target man.
Joe Hart is an automatic choice in goal, no questions asked – he is the best goalkeeper England have to offer.
Across the back four, old friend Ashley Cole plays at left back. He too is a fairly automatic choice, despite his advancing years. Mourinho likes his full-backs to offer attacking width, and this is why Cole is complemented on the other side of defence by Kyle Walker. Glen Johnson would’ve had a good shout at being started in the right back berth, if it were not for the fact that he was not really trusted by Mourinho at Chelsea. He preferred fellow Portuguese Paulo Ferreira, and also brought in Geremi as cover – eventually shipping Johnson out to Portsmouth. Kyle Walker would provide the required amount of attacking threat down the right wing, and is an able defender too.
John Terry was the rock at the heart of Chelsea’s defence for Mourinho, indeed he still is. Mourinho is well known for his faith in favourite players, and also known for not giving a damn what people think – just look at how he asked/allowed Pepe to play against Barcelona! Terry gets the nod, and Jose takes the flack.
Alongside Terry isMicah Richards. Terry needs a quick intelligent player next to him to cover. Rio Ferdinand has performed this role in the past for England, but his creaky knees count him out as an effective and reliable “get out of jail” man. Micah Richards has the physicality and pace required to do this job. Also, as a player who is primarily used as a right back, he’s more comfortable on the ball, and will be useful playing out from defence.
In midfield, Wayne Rooney plays in the attacking position where Lampard at Chelsea, Sneijder at Internazionale, and Mesut Ozil plays for Real Madrid. This might seem strange, to play England’s current best attacker in midfield, but here he will get involved in the play as much as he likes to – and Ferguson has experimented with him here recently too. Rooney’s all-round game is about so much more than gettingo nthe end of things, and like Sneijder and Ozil he can orchestrate things from this advanced midfield position. He is complemented by Scott Parker, who is used in a role that was Michael Essien’s at Chelsea and Sami Khedira’s at Real Madrid. Scott Parker might not have the long-range shooting ability of those players, but he is sufficiently “all-action” to make up for this – and this is where the limitations of the talent pool make themselves clear. Completing the midfield trio, and playing as the shield in front of the defence is Phil Jones. A player so versatile that not even Alex Ferguson knows his best position, his work rate and defensive qualities make him perfect here. In addition, his versatility means that he can drop back to make a five man defence when a lead needs protecting, cover for Kyle Walker when needed, and also steam up field and get involved in an attack on rare occasions.
Up front, Ashley Young and James Milner play on the flanks, and would interchange to keep opposition full backs guessing. Adam Johnson was a strong contender here, and would certainly make the bench, but Milner’s additional bulk just shades it for him, he is strong on the ball. Both wingers would be asked to drift infield and try to drag their markers in to give Cole and Walker space to exploit behind.
Andy Carroll plays as the target man. Certainly a controversial choice given his woeful recent form. However, Mourinho is one coach, if there are any, that could get the best out of the big Geordie. Drogba was transformed into a world-class striker by Mourinho, who convinced him that he was so. The same could be done for Andy Carroll, and in fine form, Carroll is the type of player to relentlessly battle a defence, and keep two centre-backs occupied all day long.
Of course, this is an imagining of Jose Mourinho’s England XI – you may have your own views, feel free to post them below, and feel free to slate this one and anyone elses! There are discussions to be had over every single position (probably barring Joe Hart in goal) Put Gerrard where Rooney is? Oxlade-Chamberlain instead of Milner? Try to use the same system though.
Guardiola’s England XI
Lined up in Guardiola’s 4-1-2-2-1 formation. A team that favours inverted wingers, a false 9, and a defensive midfielder that drops back to make a back three when both the full backs stride up the pitch.
Joe Hart. That’s it… a no brainer.
The back four – Ashley Cole is again almost an automatic choice, there has probably never been a finer player to wear the number 3 shirt for England. 90+ caps and still no realistic competition for his position. Glen Johnson gets the Dani Alves role he’s secretly always wanted. A license to bomb up the right flank almost every time England get the ball is what is required here for Guardiola’s XI. Glen Johnson has been much maligned by certain critics, but there isn’t currently an English right sided defender more adept at attacking. Much is made of Micah Richards and Kyle Walker’s claims to this position, but when they come together on the pitch, it’s often Johnson who leaves the others desperately chasing shadows (Might be a bit of an exaggeration there…). The centre-backs need to be comfortable on the ball. Ferdinand is one of the coolest customers in possession – more stylish on the ball than a lot of midfielders, and he is joined by Cahill who, whilst still a little raw, is a centre-back of the ball-playing variety.
Phil Jones is the thirds player so far along with Joe Hart and Ashley Cole, to make both coach’s XI. He is quite simply a beast – Think Barcelona with Yaya Toure rather than Busquets or Mascherano and you’ll get the picture. When Cole and Johnson disappear off into enemy territory, he will drop back between Ferdinand and Cahill to form a back three.
Now, for the part that needs a bit of imagination…. Which English players fulfil the roles of Xavi and Iniesta?
After checking and checking again whether some archaic bylaw and even more ancient bloodline could allow Xavi and Iniesta themselves could turn out for England, Guardiola goes for broke and puts names of all the English born midfielders into a hat. Luckily for him, his glamorous assistant pulls Jack Wilshere and Paul Scholes out of the depths of black felt. Paul Scholes, as is widely reported, is revered in Spain – especially by the Barcelona players themselves. Xavi in particular, when asked by English press who his favourite player was, he named Scholes as the best central midfielder of the last 15-20 years. Scholes’ range of passing, positional awareness and ball-retention ability make him perfect for Guardiola’s England. Alongside him would be Jack Wilshere. The young Gunner is still learning the game – which is no disparagement, he’s already head and shoulders above most muck and bullets midfielders in the Premier League. But his quick touch, technical ability and close control would partner the old head of Scholes rather well in midfield. Scholes gets to have fun as Iniesta, whilst Wilshere is the link player.
Guardiola’s more recent teams, since he moved Messi off the wing (Actually now he’s sometimes back out wide) have utilised converted strikers as wingers, drifting in from the flanks – much like Mourinho, you might say. Pace and directness is the key here, because with Rooney playing a withdrawn role up front – as a false 9 – they will often be the England players closest to goal. Daniel Sturridge starts on the right and Walcott on the left. Again, when they naturally drift infield, those attacking full backs can exploit any spaces created behind the opposition full backs. Rooney is the fulcrum of the team, sitting just off the defenders, difficult to pick up and looking for intricate passing patterns to cut through defences after they’ve been bored to tears with the tiki-taka.
Once again, this is an imagining of Josep Guariola’s England XI – you may have your own views, feel free to post them below, and feel free to slate this one and anyone elses! There are discussions to be had over every single position. Is Cleverley ready for central midfield? Would Kyle Walker be a better pick than Glen Johnson? Theo Walcott – are you f***ing serious? Etc etc