Manchester City's Joleon Lescott Is Now England's Best Centre-Back

Composed, resilient and with the ability to pass off either foot in tight situations, Manchester city's oft-maligned Lescott should've been England's man of the match last night...
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Composed, resilient and with the ability to pass off either foot in tight situations, Manchester city's oft-maligned Lescott should've been England's man of the match last night...

Composed, resilient and with the ability to pass off either foot in tight situations, Manchester city's oft-maligned Lescott should've been England's man of the match last night, and what else did we learn?

1. Joleon Lescott has become England's most reliable centre-back

Well, who knew? 14 caps in, and the prospect of Joleon Lescott starting a game at centre-back for England was enough to make even the most loyal of Black Country sons shudder. That though, was before Vincent Kompany stepped into that Carlos Tevez-shaped captaincy hole at Manchester City. With the Belgian's guidance, Lescott has turned into one of the most composed defenders around.

When the 29-year-old left Everton for the blue side of Manchester in 2009, £24m looked like a laughable amount of money; another example of petrodollars paying over the odds in a game they knew nothing about. But that was before the start of the season. These first few months, Lescott has been a phenomenon; a vein of form that he continued with in Saturday's game against Spain. It was a performance full of grit, determination, and perhaps, overall, class. His positioning was first-rate. His reading of both Spanish runners, and subsequent balls played, was second-to-none. And his command of the back line, without John Terry beside him, was top-notch. It was a performance that should cement his place in the England side for years to come. Unless he has a right 'mare against Sweden on Tuesday.

2. Forget Xavi and Iniesta: Xabi Alonso is Spain's ultimate midfielder

I have versed my dislike of Barcelona before. And yesterday was a prime example of the fornicating droolfest that commentators go through every time Xaviesta take to the pitch. Every flick, every trick, every sideways pass even is greeted with a “you have to say that's magnificent, Clive”.

There's no doubting that Xaviesta are fantastic footballers; a combination of flair, finesse and fleet of foot. But actually, watching Spain - which I have a lot over the past 18 months – you realise that it's not the Catalan combination that make Spain, Spain; it's Xabi Alonso that is their metronomic heartbeat.

He is the deep-lying playmaker that rolls through possession; constantly looking for that free man. He is the quarter-back perpetually in a space all of his own; able to hit a 60 yard passes at will. He is the combative destroyer that breaks up opposition attacks; quickly turning defence into attack. He is Spain's Andrea Pirlo. He is the reason La Roja will win their third consecutive tournament in June.

3. The Phil Jones-Scott Parker anchor can work

When it was announced on Friday that Phil Jones was to partner Scott Parker in anchoring England's midfield, some, including this writer, were shocked at such a decision. Gareth Barry looked like the obvious starter, with Jones playing in his more natural position of centre-back. The fact that Capello showed faith in the 19-year-old to push up to midfield is testament to both the manager and the player for doing so with such aplomb. It was an experiment that failed somewhat for Manchester United earlier on this season against Liverpool, but against Spain it worked wonderfully.

Silva and Iniesta were stifled throughout the first half, and that was mainly down to the industry of both Jones and Parker. Although their ball retention was something to be desired throughout the first period, the fact that Spain failed to score for the first time in 12 months was plainly down to the quartet of Jagielka, Lescott, Jones and Parker.

And Scott Parker: what more is there to say? Quite simply, he was magnificent. It makes you wonder what could have been if he hadn't stunted his development, and moved to Chelsea back in 2004. England, for one, wouldn't have had to suffer the mediocrity of Michael Carrick.

4. Wembley has become a white elephant for the FA

£757m. Seven hundred and fifty seven million pounds. Seven hundred and fiFTY SEVEN MILLION POUNDS! That was the construction cost of Wembley Stadium back in 2007. It's been four years since that first game against Italy U21's, and still England football fans, fans of clubs all over the country, fans of rugby league, even fans of the Chicago Bears, haven't taken to Wembley. It's the ground at the very end of the Bakerloo line, that fans travelling from outside of London find almost impossible to travel to. Without its famous arch, it could be any nondescript building anywhere in the world; an architectural non-entity, where a hot dog will set you back £6.50.

Of course, the FA have to claw back the mammoth construction costs somehow. And obviously, it's not going to have the charm of the old stadium, but I am the only one who pines for the good old days when England toured the country, and brought fans from Southampton to Sunderland a taste of what it really means to support England? Wembley has become a white elephant for the FA: a good-for-nothing Catch 22, useful only, for hosting Take That's next middle-ageathon.

5. Why are England obsessed with becoming Spain-lite?

It's an epidemic that's perpetrating the game at all levels. It's a pestiferous plague squirming its way into our footballers. It's turning the nation into a quivering wreck just thinking about it. So why then, are Fabio Capello and his men obsessed with becoming Spain-lite?

Spain, and Barcelona in particular, have been doing this brand of tiki-taka football since Johan Cruyff proposed the idea to then president Joesp Nunez back in 1979. That's over 30 years of coaching, tactical awareness and expertise. England however, haven't even moved into the National Football Centre at Burton. We're over a quarter of a century behind our Iberian cousins, and we expect to be able to play the same intricate football as them?

Let's not kid ourselves about the 1-0 win on Saturday. Scorelines can be entirely deceiving, and this one was exactly that. England hardly touched the ball in the first half, and when they did, the sight of Theo Walcott trying to play a delicate one-two with Frank Lampard brought a collective sigh audible up in Carlisle.

If England want to do well in next Summer's European Championships, then they need to ditch this idea that possession is king. A tight, compact centre-midfield two of Jones and Parker can work wonders. Two full-backs of attacking intent, preferably: Micah Richards and Ashley Cole. Wayne Rooney in the hole behind Darren Bent; flanked by Daniel Sturridge and Adam Johnson is a team with counter-attack written all over it. We can't compete with Spain, Holland or Germany when it comes to keeping the ball, so why try?

Other stories about Manchester City:

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Manchester City Legend Dennis Tueart: “Replacing Pele Was A Shock…”

“We’ll Score When We Want” How Manchester City Became The Goal Kings

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