Monday, 14 June 2010

Too Two Dimensional

Two days on from England's opening game and although the pessimism seems to have subsided for now there is still certainly plenty of food for thought for Fabio Capello. Aside from the goalkeeping debate there are more fundamental issues that need to be addressed between now and England's next game against Algeria on Friday.

The initial response to the unfortunate 1-1 draw with the USA from many, including myself, was far more doom and gloom than it ought to have been. England were by far the better side and did, at times, play some good football. The three points slipped through Rob Green's gloves but England looked untroubled for the majority of the game. Moreover, England are not, of course, the only side to struggle in their opening game as it is only Germany who have put in a performance worth taking notice of.

Nevertheless, there are still concerns to come out of this match, concerns that were all too clear in England's warm up matches. The draw may not have been 'terminal', as everyone has been quick to point out, but it was far from the start the nation had hoped for. England had 45 minutes to get a winner after the Americans equalised and they proved unable to do so. They lack the attacking impetus to cut through their opponents defence. Watching Germany pick apart Australia last night illustrated just how off the pace England are. I would not advocate radical changes nor would I expect them but Capello faces the same old problem of how to get the most out of this current group of players.

Gerrard and Lampard can play together in the middle of the park but in doing so you will inevitably sacrifice the attacking qualities of one of the two. Watching Gerrard standing on the halfway line and playing simple passes was made all the more frustrating by Shaun Wright-Phillips' uninspiring performance on the left-wing.

Barry's return will undoubtedly simplify Capello's tactical and personnel problems as it is safe to say that he will slot into the holding role along side Lampard allowing Gerrard to move back onto the left flank. Despite all the praise that has been heaped upon Capello the national team is still being troubled by the same midfield dilemma of trying to accommodate Gerrard and Lampard as well as the lack of a genuine left-winger. The option of playing a 4-5-1 formation is one that has been too rarely experimented with but would be a useful alternative at certain times or against specific teams.

Heskey did play well on Saturday night, as good as anyone in an England shirt. His lack of goals, however, make him a relatively two-dimensional threat and, in my opinion, the 4-4-2 formation that is currently being employed by Capello on the whole is somewhat predictable and two-dimensional. It allows for teams to comfortably match up against England and it also forces Rooney to come deep to join up the midfield. This may have suited his game four years ago but with when he is collecting the ball on the halfway line and only has Heskey ahead of him it is easy to see why England have been failing to create enough clear cut chances over the past few weeks.

Playing a 4-5-1 would enable our best players to play in their preferred positions. Rooney could play up front on his own as he has for Man United with great success this season. Barry could sit in front of the back four giving Lampard the chance to get forward at will and also allowing Gerrard the freedom to play off Rooney in a role similar to that which he plays for Liverpool. Lennon would continue on the right and then Milner, Cole or Wright-Phillips could play on the left wing.

I am aware that many would say that this is not the time nor place to experiment with such things. The players themselves, however, would be playing in the positions that they are familiar with. With Algeria and then Slovenia our next two opponents I see no reason why these changes cannot be implemented.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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