Blog first appeared on October 10, 2008...
It is depressing to hear that Fabio Capello is probably going to play both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in central midfield against Kazakhstan.
As far as I'm concerned, it has to be one or the other. They have played together so many times and it just hasn't happened.
Playing well for your club doesn't mean you will play well for your country, and they just can't seem to get the best out of each other.
It seems that successive England managers simply haven't been able to resist the lure of picking the big-name midfielders; Gerrard, Lampard and David Beckham.
Capello's side played so well in Croatia without the injured Gerrard - why would you drop Gareth Barry, who gives the England midfield so much more balance?
I think the best thing for players' and fans' confidence is to stick with what has worked well rather than tinkering and putting yourself under pressure.
Players like it when the team is settled - more so if they are in the team, obviously! - and they can play a few matches in the same system.
Continuity is a tremendous asset, and when the team are coming off a great performance the manager can afford to keep faith with his players.
I am a huge fan of Gerrard and would normally favour him ahead of Lampard, but on the back of the Croatia result the best thing would be to leave him on the bench.
As I said, it should always be Gerrard or Lampard, not Gerrard and Lampard.
What kind of a message does it send to Barry if he plays brilliantly and then immediately gets axed? It will dishearten him and make him think he can never establish himself.
I would also keep Theo Walcott in after his hat-trick in Zagreb. It is important not to put too much pressure on him, but he is so quick and is one of the few England players that can get in behind defenders.
I don't see Michael Owen's absence as a big factor. He can still contribute and might have been worth a place on the bench, but he doesn't have the electric pace of old.
Compare the work rate and all-around contribution of Emile Heskey with Owen - there's no contest. And with Peter Crouch back in the squad we have a good option in reserve who offers something different.
Heskey has a remarkable ability to help his strike partner flourish - Wayne Rooney looked better against Croatia than he has for years in an England shirt.
I don't think it's any coincidence that he was playing in a front two alongside Heskey.
We might not know much about Kazakhstan, but they will be no pushovers.
They conceded a respectable 21 goals from 14 games in Euro 2008, so we shouldn't expect them to be a San Marino.
They will sit back and make England beat them, and will be delighted to take a 0-0 draw home.
Nevertheless, I think that if England, with their new-found confidence, can make an early breakthrough, they should win comfortably.
My prediction is a 3-0 win at Wembley, with Capello's side able to travel to Belarus in good heart.
- Frank Lampard
- Steven Gerrard
- Fabio Capello
- Gareth Barry