Alan Pardew: Why we have to drop Lampard and bring in Carrick

England had gone stale and the substitutions certainly brought freshness
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sometimes you have to make a big call. A difficult call. And maybe it's time that England gave Frank Lampard, who's a great player, a little rest. Before the tournament started, I said I had no worries over him and Steven Gerrard as the central midfield pairing but now, after the first two games, I'm not so sure. I think we have to make adjustments.

That means bringing in Michael Carrick. There are other options but I feel that our best team includes him. If we want to win the World Cup, and win it with a bit of style, he needs to play. I know he's not featured in many games for England and this is the World Cup but he's been doing it all season for Tottenham Hotspur. I would entrust him and he would improve us because we have lost our way a little.

Carrick keeps the ball and keeps the ball moving. It's not a job that Gerrard does for Liverpool, that's Xabi Alonso's role, but Carrick can do it for England and sometimes, as tournaments progress, you have to go with your instincts.

Listening to the interviews after the Trinidad & Tobago match gave a little insight into how the players are. I don't think I've heard Michael Owen go to that extent to defend himself. It was unusual. But then no one was smiling and, as a team, we just don't look right. You can see the players are not totally happy with the way things are going either and it was the same after Paraguay.

Getting the six points may relieve some of the tension, because, more than the fans or the reporters, the players know they have had some disappointing showings. But the results have been good and they should hold on to that. They also remained patient. It was a point made by Sven Goran Eriksson while Leo Beenhakker, Trinidad & Tobago's coach, admitted his team lost their patience. That was good.

Eriksson doesn't have to leave Lampard out. Plan A was to play Wayne Rooney and Owen together and it might be an idea to give Rooney an hour against Sweden. I don't expect him to be sharp, or to play that well, but he will then be ready for the knock-out stages. That would mean omitting Peter Crouch and I think, psychologically, he might accept that more easily than Owen. Alternatively either one of the strikers could play up there on his own although I don't think that is really natural to them. That would mean, however, that you could play Carrick behind Lampard and Gerrard. Suddenly the problem of not taking Jermain Defoe is all too apparent while the effect of including Theo Walcott has become so crucial.

Nevertheless, the substitutions against T&T were terrific. We had gone stale and they certainly brought freshness. Sometimes you have to go with what you feel on the day. No one could say that part of any team-play England have worked on included having David Beckham at right-back with Aaron Lennon outside him.

Lennon also took some of the emphasis away from Rooney. He was brilliant and gave us a major boost. He made a real difference and is a lovely option to have. At the end you could see Gerrard going up to him and saying something like "son, you made it happen" and that will have given Lennon a lift. I have to say that Beckham was very diligent at right-back and he and Lennon together gives the opposition some big problems. It gives Beckham time to deliver those crosses. But England really missed Gary Neville and his continued absence is a concern, especially offensively.

One massive thing we have going for us is the two clean sheets. Forget about everything else for a minute. That is our strength. Now we have two I would be challenging the back four and say "go on and get five more" and go through the tournament without conceding. If we are to let a goal in let it be a 25-yard screamer or a brilliant piece of skill. Let's not give anything away.

The challenges are to come and we are going up a level now. The real test is about to start. We can still win it. But we need to make some big decisions.

Alan Pardew will be writing for The Independent throughout the World Cup. The fee for his column is being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.