Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

TICKS All the Boxes for Roy DRINKWATER; Leicester's Defensive Midfielder Has Earned the Right to Be Tried in England's Problem Position. by James Olley

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

TICKS All the Boxes for Roy DRINKWATER; Leicester's Defensive Midfielder Has Earned the Right to Be Tried in England's Problem Position. by James Olley

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

ENGLAND'S search for a bonafide defensive midfielder has taken various managers far and wide but few ever thought it would lead to an opportunity for Danny Drinkwater.

While young players have emerged with great potential in a variety of positions during Roy Hodgson's tenure, England have been left to shoehorn more attack-minded players into a shielding role in front of the back four.

For years, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard struggled to provide adequate balance in midfield. Paul Scholes essentially retired from international football as a result of that prolonged experiment which should have ended years before it did: if alchemy is still unachieved after 10 years, the formula will never be golden.

Michael Carrick, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Mason are among a plethora of players England have asked to ignite their engine room.

Hodgson would ideally like to deploy Jack Wilshere at the base of England's midfield at Euro 2016, assuming the Arsenal man recovers from his latest injury setback in good time, but the player himself has admitted it is not a position that comes naturally, assigning his own homework in the form of videos showcasing experts including Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo.

Defensive midfielders are by their nature usually unsung heroes of a team -- Pirlo excluded -- breaking up play, maintaining shape and discipline and giving more creative talents a sound platform to cause damage upfield. Their merits are not always immediately obvious and as such whenever new individuals are mentioned, there is an immediate suspicion as to whether they possess sufficient pedigree to warrant a place in the team.

For too long, England have picked the best individuals rather than the best team. Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have been the star acts in Leicester's remarkable Premier League campaign but N'Golo Kante and Drinkwater's central midfield partnership has been integral to their success.

IMAGES GETTY AFP They have enabled defenders of mediocre repute prior to this season ELLIS/ PAUL to ensure only Tottenham (24), Manchester United (27) and Arsenal (30) have conceded fewer goals than Leicester's 31 this season.

Drinkwater played for England's Under-18s twice and made 14 appearances for the Under-19 team, the last of which came in 2009 when he was still on United's books.

The presence of Carrick, Scholes and Owen Hargreaves -- another once earmarked as England's defensive midfield solution -- curtailed his progress at Old Trafford. Loan spells at Huddersfield, Cardiff, Watford and Barnsley followed before he joined Leicester in 2012 and this season's rise to prominence has continued with a deserved first senior call-up.

Although Hodgson has plenty of alternatives, Drinkwater benefits from being a specialist in the position and given the years that have elapsed since England could count on a defensive midfielder by trade, these forthcoming friendlies against Germany and Holland may just be a breakthrough moment for the 26-year-old. …

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