By Chris Harris

Get the balance of your team right and the results usually follow. That is one of the golden rules of management but even the finest coaches in the game find it an elusive trick to pull off.

Steve McClaren has managed it twice in the past week. The England manager was without a number of high-profile stars for the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel and Russia but their replacements - Gareth Barry, Emile Heskey and Shaun Wright-Phillips - excelled in back-to-back 3-0 victories.

Like others who watched those Wembley displays, Arsène Wenger was struck by the 'balance' that unsung trio provided for England's midfield and attack.

"Who spoke about Barry and Heskey before these games?" he asked at his weekly press conference. "They were two very important players and that shows how quickly things can change in the game.
"A very famous manager, Rinus Michels, said the balance of the team sometimes depends on one player not more. That is why a team sport is so subtle.

"Frankly I am very happy that England has done so well in the last two games because there is always this feeling of 'are we good enough, are we overrating the players?', 'the other countries win and we don't'. It is good for the game."

So what of Wenger's own team? Some claim that the departure of Thierry Henry has improved Arsenal's 'balance' because the Frenchman was pivotal to so much of their play. Wenger is not so sure.

"I would not say that," he said. "You always look for that balance as a manager. It is like an engine. You think 'oh, we are not creative enough, I'll put one more offensive player in there' and suddenly you upset everything. It depends sometimes on one simple player.

"The balance of the team looks right now but the big games will tell us more."

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Chris Harris 14 Sep 2007