Frank Lampard is injured on the eve of the Euros, and so it’s been reported that Roy Hodgson is kindly going to ask for Jordan Henderson’s help in filling in, mostly because Manchester United’s Michael Carrick doesn’t want to be a mere “squad player.”

Hey wait, I have an idea. Why not ask the guy with the 93.5% percent pass completion rate?

There’s this thing in English football I’ve never understood. That thing involves overlooking talented players because they don’t play for one of the Big Boys or have that still-unproven intangible—a big timey national team cap. Obviously, Frank Lampard is not a one-for-one player with Leon Britton, a defensive midfielder, although it’s been the case that Lamps has been moving farther back with Chelsea for some time as part of his revised role. It was from there he sprang Ramires wide on the left in Chelsea’s first leg semifinal against Barcelona, for example.

His rumoured replacement Jordan Henderson makes more sense from that perspective. Henderson is more versatile, able to play on the right or in an advanced attacking position. Carrick would be by far the better option across all possible worlds, but despite the criticism, Henderson’s stats aren’t exactly miles behind, except in passes per game, which averages around 40 in comparison with Carrick’s impressive 70.

Britton is in the mix in all areas except, crucially, in attack. He’s pretty much locked in a defensive mid, but this is generally what you’d expect from a team adhering to Brendan Rodgers’ emphasis on possession at Swansea. And on that count, the guy is a possession machine. Some examples from recent games:

And by comparison, Jordan Henderson’s from Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over Chelsea.

Again, this is not a comparison of quality necessarily, but of use and attributes. Henderson is a perfectly good selection, and probably makes the most sense. Hodgson went with Jagielka when Barry was injured however, when Britton would have been a far better replacement in terms of the type of Barry we all wish he was and clearly isn’t. But with Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Ashley Young, and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain still in the midfield, Britton would have been a possibility to add without wreaking too much havoc.

Anyway, trust in Hodgson I guess, but possession wins games I hear…

Comments (11)

  1. Isn’t Jordan Henderson coming off of what is probably the worst campaign in his career? Seriously Hodgson, England is already bad; don’t make it worse.

  2. Why not Leon Osman?

  3. You know possession doesn’t mean very much in international football. What you really need is spirit and heart. More than both of those is the pride of playing for the 3 Lions on your jersey. What Richard is trying to do here is blind you with numbers. No one ever let facts get in the ways a great story.

    I would go back to Carrick and plead with him to play.

    • But would it be a good idea to include a player who doesn’t want to be on the bench? However good he is, it sounds like he has a poor mentality to wear the three lions on is chest.

  4. Well it’s quite obvious why Hodgson didn’t call him up. Hodgson has never set out his team to fight for possession, he gladly let’s the other team have the ball and wait for counter attacking opportunities. England don’t have the players, nor the mentality to play a game based on ball retention.

    Further yet, passing accuracy is Britton’s only strength. Players like NIck Shorey, Glenn Whelan, Phil Bardsley, Bradley Johnson, Stpehen Warnock (need I go on?), created more chances per / match than Britton did. And his defensive abilities? Well eg. Danny Murphy made more tackles and interceptions than Leon.

    So in conclusion, you’d want Hodgson to call up a player, who’d be the odd one out in the bunch, and is quite frankly, borderline useless besides his accurate sideways / backwards passes? I’m sorry but that’s ridiculous.

    • “And his defensive abilities? Well eg. Danny Murphy made more tackles and interceptions than Leon.”

      Xavi: 0.9 tackles, 1.1 interceptions, per game.

      Britton: 1.7 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, per game.

      I won’t compare their stats in attack, mostly because Britton plays defensive midfield exclusively while Xavi plays further up the pitch. But the point here is that possession IS defense.

      I agree with you on Hodgson’s likely tactical agenda, but I disagree that England “don’t have the players” to hold up the ball. It’s not like Joe Allen or Danny Graham are La Masia graduates. To say Britton is “borderline useless” is to misunderstand his role within Swansea, or his potential use as a player.

      • I think you’re not willing to compare Britton’s attacking stats to anyone’s since they’re so extremely poor. And Britton isn’t even the guy who merely sits in front of the defense, majority of the time he plays in a pivot with either Allen or Gower. Granted, Swansea’s shape is more rigid in this aspect than most teams’, which play similarly, but he does have the license to roam forward (in turns naturally).

        And no, the mentioned players aren’t from La Masia, yet they play for a team which identity is in ball retention, and the team is build on that. People have this strange assumption that possession based football is somehow relatively easy, presumably because Barca make it look so, or because ”well Swansea can do it”. Swansea have attempted to play that way since Martinez, continued by Sousa and THEN Rodgers. That’s about six years of singing and nurturing players to perform like they do now. England players? Never as a national team, and very few of them on club level. It could be argued that none of them actually.

        Possession is defense, but only if cohesive. Playing Britton and assuming that it’ll result in safe, effective possession? That’s like putting Senna in the Spain midfield and assuming that then they’re able to soak pressure without conceding goalscoring chances.

        It’s against the identity of England NT and the players at hand to play that way, we don’t have to go any further than this year’s BPL season to see how it pans out. Every single relegated team completed more of their passes than past year, and saw more of the ball (Wolves being the only exception in possession). It simply doesn’t equal success without long and hard work- and we’re talking about years. Hodgson has what, one training match?

        • Knosta we have gone around and around with the same midfielders without any success or even a decent level of football. Englands biggest problem is ball retention, Britton would improve that. I agree that it will take more time than England have to change the style of play but the fact is we are crap now so why accept the Euros are a done deal and put some ball players in there and focus on the next world cup. Ridiculous is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

  5. This article is interesting, only if you ignore the results achieved by teams like Paraguay in the World Cup, Chelsea in the UEFA Champions league, etc.

  6. I would have selected Britton, but we have a dinosaur attitude to football in this country. It is all heart, passion, guts and no skill. Teams that keep the ball play borring tiki-taki football, we should play the blood guts England way.

    The result? The creative midfielder for England is Gerrard, a player whose only skill is lobbing hopeless longs balls up the field, giving the ball away, so the opposition can pin England back in their own half. We have a team of footballers, who are no good when in possession of a football, it is an absolute joke.

    Yet we have a man who can keep possession, might actually give England a chance of hanging on to the ball, and we don’t select him. Which everyone is grateful for, because he apparently he doesn’t make enough tackles. Of course he doesn’t, he plays for a team doesn’t pointlessly give the ball away.

    England have good attacking players in Young and Chamberlian, whose quality we will never see, because England’s hopeless midfield will never get the ball to them.

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