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Friday, October 14, 2005

Could Ledley King's ambition lead him to Arsenal?

So, following his excellent performance for England against Poland at Old Trafford, Ledley King has predicted his future in the national side could lie in midfield. The 24-year-old believes he has a better chance of establishing himself at international level in this position, rather then the central defensive role he plays for Tottenham Hotspur.

There is no denying Sven Goran Eriksson is angling towards a regular centre-half pairing of John Terry and either Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell. And with the latter being 31-years-old at next summers' World Cup, King may not have to wait too much longer before he is in direct competition for a place in the starting eleven.

Sure, he will face challenges from the likes of Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson, and with a little luck Wes Brown and Jonathan Woodgate. Yet his ability and consistency are as good as and possibly even better than his compatriots from Liverpool, Birmingham City, Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively.

All this considered, King isn't exactly a million miles away from a place in the England back four. You could say an injury or loss of form to one player of whatever combination Eriksson plumps for would give him an excellent chance of breaking into the team. But if he decides his best chance of establishing himself for the Three Lions would be by opting for a midfield role, his job would get so much harder.

For starters, he would have a couple of his White Hart Lane colleagues to battle it out with. Whilst Jermaine Jenas is one of those players very much on the periphery with England, Michael Carrick is a player who has shown more than enough ability to warrant a place in the squad and when called upon, in the first eleven. Indeed, in the much valued holding midfield role, the former West Ham United man could soon become one of the finest in the country.

As if that isn’t food for thought for King, there are also a number of other top class players busting a gut to get into the national side ahead of the World Cup Finals. Steven Gerrard of Liverpool and Frank Lampard of Chelsea, of course, are very much Eriksson favourites and understandably so. And how about Joe Cole, more accustomed to a central role yet currently playing out of position at Stamford Bridge?

And if Scott Parker continues his fine form for Newcastle United, there is every chance he could force his way into the plans. Ditto Danny Murphy of Charlton Athletic, who can consider himself unlucky not to have been in the squad for the recent double-header against Austria and the Pole. And then there is Owen Hargreaves of Bayern Munich, who will be as eager as anyone to feature on his home-turf next summer.

England have a wealth of talent in the midfield department. On the basis of above, King would be better off focusing his attentions at playing in his regular centre-back berth than trying to force his way into the midfield four. Especially as all those players listed are all guaranteed to be asked to play in this position when called upon for their club sides. The same certainly cannot be said of the Spurs man, who has almost as much competition for his club as he does for England.

It has been well documents that Martin Jol has an abundance of midfield talent at his disposal. For those who need a reminder – or have simply lost count – here is a quick breakdown: Edgar Davids, Carrick, Pedro Mendes, Jenas, Michael Brown and Sean Davis. And then there is the likes of Teemu Tainio, Andy Reid, Aaron Lennon – all normally employed out wide, yet all capable of playing in the centre.

King has played – and impressed - in the midfield for Spurs on a number of occasions. Yet he is unlikely to be asked to play there for the foreseeable future, especially as he has earned a reputation as one of the best defenders in The Premiership over the past couple of seasons and especially as he is needed more in the heart of the back four.

There is another way for King to establish himself as a top-flight midfielder, mind. Roy Keane will soon be departing Old Trafford, and Sir Alex Ferguson will not need asking twice should he receive any indication the player could be available. Then again, perhaps King needn’t move so far north. After all, isn’t there another club that play in red and white, who are also in need of a new midfield lynchpin and wouldn’t even require him to move home…?

We're all hoping he stays put.

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