Wenger Backs England To Win
Arsene Wenger has backed England to beat Croatia 2-0 in their crucial Euro 2008 qualifier on Wednesday providing Steve McClaren is brave enough to change his system.
Wenger has studied the match closely as part of his role as ambassador for the Castrol Performance Index, a scientific system which analyses the performances and effectiveness of players in the tournament.
One of the biggest decisions facing McClaren is whether to play Frank Lampard or Gareth Barry in midfield - and whether to stick by David Beckham. And Wenger`s verdict is that England can clinch a place in Austria & Switzerland next summer by playing ALL of them alongside Steven Gerrard in a five-man midfield. He said: "I believe in this kind of games when you are a manager you are tempted to play with a little bit of security and take players who know what it means not to make a mistake.
"Therefore experience has an advantage. I personally believe he will go with Gerrard, with Lampard, AND with Barry and Beckham. He will change his formation, for sure. And it`s an important decision because I personally believe that`s the best way to be tight defensively without losing too much his potential to go forward.
"He still has players in central midfield like Gerrard and Lampard who give you hope of scoring a goal. Once England have scored then Croatia must score twice to knock them out so you must still go into the game trying to score.
"I know England have most often used 4-4-2 but I feel there could be an innovation on Wednesday. But I`m not Steve McClaren and I leave that choice to him. I personally think it will be 2-0 to England. That will put them top of the group and then you cannot say they have under-achieved!"
McClaren`s other big decision is whether to stick by out-of-form goalkeeper Paul Robinson, even though Castrol Index stats showed he was by far England`s worst player in the 2-1 defeat in Russia.
Wenger said: "He will certainly take that into consideration. But that debate is going on at the moment in England and nobody has found an obvious solution apart from Paul Robinson
"I still think he will go for continuity on that front. And the whole country has to be behind that because Robinson has delivered good games for his country as well." Having said that, Wenger believes Croatia`s statistics prove they will be a tough opponent at Wembley and should not be underestimated. He added: "From the outside it looks as if England has an easy task - but it`s not.
"There are only two factors when a team has nothing to play for: are they very easy to play or are they extremely difficult to play. I would be temped towards the second solution.
"Croatia just lost a game but are still qualified. There is no special pressure and Wembley has a special aura in the whole of Europe. Nobody wants to miss that kind of opportunity to play a good game. I think it is a very dangerous game for England.
"Also you cannot go into a game like this only trying to draw it, you cannot give that kind of message to your players. So you have to prepare the game like you want to win it but knowing that a point is enough."
If England do reach the finals Wenger believes they could even go on and win it.
He concluded: "England will be one of the favourites if they qualify and then it will depend on the form of their strikers and whether they are injured or not injured. But they have the potential. In the end you get what you deserve. We have seen many times people just sliding through and then winning tournaments."
Arsene Wenger was speaking at the HQ of Castrol, sponsors of UEFA EURO 2008 and founders of the Castrol Performance Index. Wenger is the official ambassador for the Castrol Performance Index. For more information go to www.castrolindex.com .