Leighton Baines shouldn’t be considered for a wide-midfield role with England 0

Will Quinn weighs-in on the growing desire to see Leighton Baines play at left-midfield for England…

England have lacked a left-sided midfielder for what seems like forever, and finding creative solutions to the problem has become a bit of a national hobby. Managers have sometimes tried shoehorning their best players out there with Scholes and Gerrard. They’ve tried simply picking the best player there, no matter how poor, with Stewart Downing. Sven even once played Wayne Bridge there. Recently the position has become a bit of a footballing 12th man, a consolation prize for the best player that couldn’t make the team in his real position.

The latest suggestion coming out of Fleet Street is to try Leighton Baines there. England are in the unusual position of having two top-class left-backs, so it makes sense to play the more attacking of the two in the advanced position, where England have no natural player anyway. Or so the argument goes.

Moving from full-back to wing, however, is much, much more difficult than it might seem. The major difficulty in playing in more advanced positions is in receiving the ball, especially with your back to goal. Dribbling, passing, crossing and finishing are all important, but if a winger can’t find some space and control the ball under pressure, he can’t use any of those skills. It’s also a very specialist skill. At full back you get a lot of practice in most skills- you’ll occasionally have to go up for a header or have a shot. But you can almost go through a whole season without ever receiving a pass while facing your own goal. In contrast, playing on the wing, you have to do it all the time.

Some highly effective attacking full backs have failed completely when played higher up the pitch- Dani Alves, most notably, really struggled when given a spell there for Barcelona two seasons ago. Even among full-backs Baines is unusually ill-suited to the transition. Not only does he lack strength and pace, but it negates his major strength: the ability to create goals from deep, wide positions that few other players can threaten from.

It’s not that I’m sceptical about Baines’s ability - on the contrary, I think he’s vastly underappreciated outside of Everton, and should start ahead of Cole in any game England consider themselves favourite for. But the transition from full-back to wide midfield is almost never successful, even for players without Baines’s unhelpful skill-set and lack of international experience. England might not have many options on the left-wing, but Baines still shouldn’t be considered one of them.

Follow Will Quinn on Twitter.

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