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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 June, 2004, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Eriksson in midfield muddle

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

England's draw with Japan showed more than ever that it does not matter which players you have or how good they are - you have got to have balance in the team.

When Sven-Goran Eriksson is talking about balance he sees it as a must-have, especially across the middle four.

I thought England started the game in Manchester brightly. They enjoyed good spells of possession and passed and moved the ball well.

Up front, Michael Owen looked sharp and deserved to get the goal which handed England the advantage.

Frank Lampard is frustrated playing for England against Japan
Lampard cannot play as a holding midfielder - that is a specialist position
And then basically they descended into a bit of a shambles.

The problem was Eriksson's choice of players to fill out his preferred diamond formation across midfield.

If you take all the English players in the Premiership last season, you have got two of the best in Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Unfortunately for Eriksson they play in similar positions and do similar jobs for Liverpool and Chelsea.

The headache for Eriksson is that he knows he has to play to his strengths.

But he is not playing to his strengths if he operates with Gerrard on the left and Lampard in the holding midfield position.

Frank cannot play as a defensive midfielder - that is a specialist position.

It is about discipline, holding your position and protection for your two centre-backs.

There is one player in the England camp who can play that role and that is Nicky Butt.

Before the start of the match I do not think many people thought Eriksson would play that formation in the Euro 2004 opener.

After the display against Japan, I think there is absolutely no chance he will play that formation against France now.





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