Karl Henry: Unsung Hero?

14 06 2010

This is Ghostgoal’s latest post for www.wolvesblog.com  :

The holding midfield position is an unattractive role. It is rarely filled by a player who scores goals. They don’t even try killer passes. And yet it is a key position in the modern game, so much so that this World Cup is seeing many sides operate with two functional stoppers in a 4-2-3-1 formation. England, however, bucked the trend by fielding Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard centrally in a two-man midfield against USA. One of the criticisms of that partnership is their unwillingness to concentrate on ball retention – simple passes to team-mates that keep things ticking over and are an important part of a successful side at the highest level. Gerrard plays with Mascherano & the much-criticised Lucas filling the role at Liverpool while Chelsea have Mikel and Essien with Lampard at Stamford Bridge.

In 2002, England went with Nicky Butt in the holding midfield role at the World Cup. He had an impressive time, with Pele even improbably naming him as his player of the tournament ahead of the quarter final with Brazil. In 2006, Owen Hargreaves was entrusted with the job and was England’s official Player of the World Cup, earning the FIFA man of the match award in the quarter final defeat to Portugal. Let us hope Gareth Barry can provide a similar base for our stars to play from in 2010.

Wolves have their own player in this position, the captain himself, Karl Henry. He has come in for criticism – ‘the crab’ is one of the kinder nicknames – and has been on the receiving end of the odd boo here and there. What he does do is keep hold of the ball as the statistics for the win over Fulham at Molineux show:

These passes may not be incisive through balls to Matt Jarvis or Kevin Doyle but the idea behind the role is that these passes find the full-backs in space or perhaps a more progressive midfield player who can create something. The problem for Wolves was not Karl Henry but more the fact that the players he passed the ball to, say George Elokobi, would then often play an aimless long ball, making you wish Henry had tried to do something himself! With further investment in players expected in the coming years, there is every reason to think Karl Henry will be a player that grows in importance and effectiveness as quality players are added around him. Indeed, as Gabriele Marcotti of The Times recently noted when speculating as to the strength in the depth in the Premier League, maybe there could be a role for our captain on a grander stage – Euro 2012 anyone?

segment from Gabriele Marcotti’s piece on England squads in The Times




2 responses

15 06 2010

It’s an important position without doubt, it certainly isn’t a new development either. The attitude to the position has certainly changed in recent years, you only have to recall the differering attitudes to Didier Deschamps and Claude Makele to spot where the change happened (One was labelled a ‘water carrier’, the other as the real Galactico). The reality is somewhere inbetween the two. Every team needs one but too many of these players are described as world beaters IGHO. The top players in this position can do all the negative aspects of the game such as winning tackles, covering ground, showing discpline to retain position and keeping possession. But they also bring something else to the party, they can play a killer pass when the situation dictates, they can score from distance. Hargreaves for example has an excellent right foot and is deadly from set pieces, Essien can maraud forward and score from range. Historically both Keane and Viera were able to read games so well they were able to go with the ebb and flow of a game, sitting when required but injecting life into a game with an offensive surge, although admittedly this was possible due to the quality of the players next to them, with both Scholes and Petit able to do work in tandem with their midfield partners. For me a player who purely breaks up the play and brings nothing else to the table should never be labelled as ‘World Class’. I don’t see too much difference between David Batty and Javier Mascherano, other than the period they played the game in.

15 06 2010

Yep. certainly some interesting points there. With often two holding midfielders operating together in a 4-2-3-1 it is really disappointing to see that in some teams neither of those players have the range of passing I’d like to see in the role. One guy breaking up the game and playing simple passes in there is good.. two seems excessive.

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