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Rodwell - our future Right Back?

By John Williams :  01/03/2010 :  Comments (15) :
I have watched Jack Rodwell this season and I am not convinced that David Moyes is correct in believing his position is as a defensive central midfielder; to my mind he appears as natural a defender as we have produced in many a year. I wonder whether we are missing an opportunity – its often suggested he will become a central defender but should we be playing him at Right Back at this stage rather than in midfield?

I’d suggest the following factors to consider:

1. Our need – Neville is 33 and is slowing up, for me he’s had a poor season at RB. Hibbert is 29 – he’s a great tackling defender but his distribution is poor. Coleman we’ve only seen glimpses of him and he looks promising but he’s 21 and has come from Irish league football – that’s a huge step up.

2. Pace – an absolutely essential requirement for a FB. Opposition wingers tend to be pacy, especially in international football, and to be a top quality FB you’ve got to have the pace to match them. A fast fullback has the ability to support the attack, overlap and then get back from an attacking position to defend; Evra at Man Utd is exceptional in this quality. A fast powerful FB can play the covering defender – if an opposition forward gets beyond the central defenders a pacy FB can get across and challenge. Gary Stevens was outstanding at this. Jack Rodwell has pace – he’s a terrific athelete. Playing at fullback will allow him to use this pace to hurt the opposition whereas defensive central midfielders tend to patrol a relatively small central square of the pitch and seldom run at full pace for any distance.

3. Passing – Rodwell is undoubtedly a fantastic passer of the ball – his short and long passing have great accuracy and weight (one exception being the overhit pass against Sporting). A great long passer of the ball from defence can be a real asset if he can create goalscoring opportunities from defensive positions. And no, I am not talking about long floated hoofs up the pitch; when a ball is hit high the opposing defenders have time to set themselves in position to clear or at least challenge the receiving forward. I’m imagining that with his quality of passing Rodwell could play passes to our forwards’ feet or chests, or into the channels or over the opposition defence for them to run onto. Of course quality passing retains possession of the ball which we have painfully learnt in Lisbon is an absolute necessity if you want to compete in Europe.

4. Tackling – I have to confess I‘ve been slightly disappointed with Rodwell’s tackling in central midfield. He came through with a reputation as a great defender and perhaps I expected more. I think playing in central midfield is a very different game to play compared to playing in central defence. In central midfield the game takes place all around you ,i.e in front and behind you. In defence you are always facing away from goal and see the play coming towards you as the opposition attack; as a result its easier to set yourself in the correct position to tackle; also decision making of when to tackle is easier when playing in defence. I believe that when Rodwell does eventually play in defence his tackling will be an outstanding attribute in his game.

5. Height – with our present FB’s we have a lack of height in defence especially when defending opposition set pieces. As a result Moyes brings back all the players including our taller forwards to defend them and consequently leaves no one up front. It infuriates me as it means we can never hit the opposition on the break. Perhaps with a taller Rodwell as part of the defence Moyes may feel he can take a chance and leave a forward up front, but don’t count on it.

6. Where else can Rodwell play in the team? When Fellaini is fit I presume that he’ll play as the defensive central midfielder. In central defence we have Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin, Yobo, and I understand the club have very high hopes for Duffy. Rodwell’s far too good to be a squad player. I’d hate to think of him wanting to leave because he can’t get a place in the team.

7. International football – RB is a problem area for England. The prospect of Micah Richards playing there in future years is depressing to say the least. The England team is desperate for a quality RB.

For me Jack Rodwell ticks every box for the attributes of a potentially great RB. Except one – I have absolutely no idea whether he can cross the ball well (however that’s never stopped Neville and Hibbert having careers as RB’s). With Rodwell’s great touch on the ball I’d like to think he’d have no problem.

In recent years I’ve started to believe that full backs are increasingly key players in successful teams, particularly when opposition teams set themselves up defensively and ‘park the bus’. Quality players in full back positions become invaluable on those occasions as they tend to be the only players on the pitch who will be afforded some space and time on the ball. If they’re good enough they’ll use that to unlock the opposition.

So far in his career at Everton we’ve only seen Rodwell play in central midfield and although he has done well and shown promise, he hasn’t shown exceptional ability in that position. I believe Jack Rodwell is an exceptional talent who can probably play well in most positions on a football pitch. I believe his ability is such that he could become a truly great player. However, I believe he will only become that great player when he plays as a defender, not as a midfielder.

Reader Comments

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Sam Hoare
1   Posted 01/03/2010 at 22:53:50

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Not a bad shout though playing him at right back would negate one of best assets which is actually his shooting. He has a strong left and right foot and can hit the ball tremendously well.

My worry is that athletic and talented as he is Moyes will see him as a utility player and fit him in many different positions depending on who else is available, whereas what he really needs is to learn how to dominate in one position.

Personally i hope that the centre of our team next season will be Heitinga and Jags, Arteta and Fella in whcih case RB may well be the place for Rodders...though that would depend on Moyes dropping Neville. Which seems unlikely.

Sean McKenna
2   Posted 02/03/2010 at 00:17:21

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I can remember Rodwell playing right side of midfield in one game, he was absoulte terrible. However, I see your point in this article, but I believe Rodwell could be our Steven Gerrard in years to come.

I totally agree with the Big Fella and Arteta in the middle but as this season has proved the modern game is about a squad, not just the first team, so Jack will get plenty of game time. The only fear is that Rodders will be sold come August and the sound bites from Moyes suggest he is trying to drum up interest in the sale.

Danny Burke
3   Posted 02/03/2010 at 05:46:13

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Rodders will be a great centre mid. He has the ability and drive to come from midfield and create and score (see Utd goal), I would love to see more of that from him.

He will no doubt be able to do a job at RB but so can Jags and we all know what his best position is. I reckon keep him central and in midfield and if he develops into a CB so be it.
Anthony Hawkins
4   Posted 02/03/2010 at 07:27:02

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@Sam Hoare: All young players get pushed around the pitch to get experience. Experience of what? Primarily positioning. If you know where other players are likely to be and where they are likely to pass the ball, you can move into sensible positions and understand where you are needed on the pitch.

If you look at all the players from Beckham through to Rooney, Walcott and Ferdinand. When they were younger and being trained, they were placed all over the pitch.

Rodwell could do a job at RB but that’s not his natural position and you have to ask what he would glean from playing there.
Paul Scicluna
5   Posted 02/03/2010 at 07:33:03

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I seem to remember Ian Snodin going from midfield to right back and doing rather well, RB is still a problem at the moment, Didn't Joey Yobo used to play there for his country? just wondered if that may be a safer bet than playing him in the middle at the moment
Michael Brien
6   Posted 02/03/2010 at 08:05:55

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Personally I think Coleman should be given a run at right back and Phil Neville in a defensive midfield role or at left back. Leighton Baines tends to get caught out of position too much for my liking. As a full back his first responsibility is defence, once he gets that side of his game sorted out I think he will be ready to be a regular international player.

Coleman may be inexperienced in terms of games, but at 21 I think he can handle the pressure. He showed a lot of character in bouncing back after the match at Benfica. I think he has loads of potential and could do a good job at right back.

Geoff Edwards
7   Posted 02/03/2010 at 08:14:56

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Steven Gerrard played RB a fair bit during his developmental years too.
Sam Hoare
8   Posted 02/03/2010 at 13:01:41

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Fair point. A bit of moving around is definitely helpful in developing an understanding of the game.

However, I feel there must come a time when a player realises where his strongest position is and knows that he is going to be playing primarily there.

By 18 it was fairly obvious where those players you mentioned were going to be primarily playing for the rest of their careers. Not sure the same can be said of Rodwell yet.
Peter Warren
9   Posted 02/03/2010 at 15:49:25

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Rodwell has potential to be a great and dictate and control a whole game.I think central midfield is perfect at moment and as he matures he will naturally move to centreback. I think he can become a beckenbauer , got huge potential but still a hell of a long way.

He would be wasted at right back. I do agree with John in that full back more important in modern game but I think a specialist right back is needed and Evra / Cole are perfect examples in left back position.

I hope Coleman is the answer although I get the impression Moyes not convinced. I hope he gets game time between now and end of season
Matt Traynor
10   Posted 02/03/2010 at 17:59:58

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Paul Scicluna,
Snodin ended up at right back as we were short for a couple of games, and he’d been absolute "Milligan" in midfield for a while - not a patch on the player we signed in our last Championship season from Leeds.

He did remarkably well, so much so he made the place his own, and was about to be called up by England in that role when he got a terrible hamstring tear - from which I don’t think he fully recovered - certainly lost a yard of pace which, with his passing and tackling, made him a great RB, albeit discovered somewhat by accident.
Derek Thomas
11   Posted 03/03/2010 at 00:57:26

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At last somebody else has realised that while Rodwell = heaps of potential, that potential has to; a) blossom, b) find a role to grow into.

If that is to be with us is for another day.

Can he improve, that is the question. He is for his age a good all rounder, with no obvious weakness, sadly as yet, in my eyes at least no outstanding strength, no WOW factor.

Trying to fit him in somewhere, any where, even right back is clutching at straws in a vain if maybe unconsious way to refuse to admit that he isn’t Der Kaiser and maybe we should snatch the arm off who ever comes with big money, if any
Eamonn Turner
12   Posted 03/03/2010 at 02:52:43

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I agree with Peter that Rodwell has that priceless Beckenbaur like ability, able to find space in tight situations and do everything at seemingly half pace with composure.

Obviously the goal against Manure demonstrates he has got the "wow" factor in his locker, but for me he would be wasted at right back.

Definately has to play CM or CB. He is Fellaini like in many ways.
Michael Brien
13   Posted 03/03/2010 at 08:22:08

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What was it you wanted to ask, Ciaran?
Kiern Moran
14   Posted 03/03/2010 at 12:24:57

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I think thats a very good call. Rodwell has to play, Neville is at the age & pace that he can only realistically fill the water carrier role, I see Rodwell has having the potential of being a right footed Ashley Cole.
John Williams
15   Posted 03/03/2010 at 18:06:43

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Few people suggest it would be ’a waste’ to play Rodwell at FB. Suppose they’re right really.

Now I come to think of it, that Maldini bloke who played left back for Milan, some people say he was the greatest professional to ever play for Italy, I know he played over 900 games for Milan and 126 games for Italy, I know he won 7 Serie A Championships and 5 Champions League medals, I know he was voted World Player of the Year, but imagine what he could have done if he’d played in central midfield? What a waste!!

And as for that Roberto Carlos — played at LB all his life! What a dickhead! What a player he could have been. Only 4 Spanish league titles, 3 Champions League medals, 125 international caps and World Player of the Year — a shocking waste of talent.

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