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June 26, 2006

Lessons learned for England

Ok, so this is what I reckon we learned from the game against Ecuador.

1. Ashley Cole is coming back into form and played a blinder – thank f**k for that.

2. Robinson does not seem to be the world class keeper we were lead to believe he was (though to be fair he has not had much to do over the last 4 games)

3. (and I never thought I'd say this) Hargreaves seems to be delivering on the pitch rather than just on paper. A better replacement for Neville than Carragher who would be better employed at the centre of the back 4 rather than on the right

4. If we play 4–1–4–1 we need to make sure we get ball to feet rather than still playing as if Peter Crouch was up front rather than Rooney. The number of times England pinged the ball high to the front man only to see it go to the opposition was depressing. Every time Robinson kicked it forward rather than passing it into midfield we cried with frustration. The formation depends on passing through a team – not passing over a team.

5. Lampard has not turned up. Will the real Frank Lampard please stand up. What is wrong with the lad. Better move Beckham into the middle and put Lennon on the right…

6. Lennon and J. Cole are the major threats at the moment. Boy, did Lennon look good on the ball. Both he and Cole have been the most threatening players for England so far. Gerrard seems to labour in obscurity when he plays with Lamps, so with the above point in mind – drop Lamps, stick Beckham in the middle (for his free kicks), let Gerrard roam forward to support Rooney with Becks hanging back to provide the incisive pass with Lennon and Cole marauding up the wings.

7. Carrick looked solid enough

8. Terry had a bit of a mare, but I would still support his inclusion thanks to his mammoth defending in the previous 3 games.

9. We will get beaten by better teams at the moment

10. We have to thank our lucky stars that Portugal lost three key players last night to injury or suspension – phew…

11. but…. the other Portuguese players are still rather good, and let's not forget the presence of Big Phil

12. Sven needs to learn to drop players – remember everyone thought it would be Jimmy Greaves leading England to victory in '66 only for him to be dropped. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the individual for the good of the team.

June 16, 2006

England fans – who do you fear?

So, we are into the second round of group stage games. Having seen all the teams in the competition who do England fans fear – who looks like a contender?

On current performance I think England have a lot to be worried about. There are quite a few teams with more pace and purpose than us at the moment. If we can't find a way to let our midfield boss the game then I fear for the worst.

I worry about Ecuador who look pretty tough – more resiliant than Germany, though would you want to play the Germans on their home turf?

Spain look pretty hot as do the Czechs. As for France and Brazil – BRING 'EM ON!

Seriously though – this is looking like the most open and competative world cup in years. It is also the most attacking, though it saddens me that England seem to be playing the defensive minded game more commonly associated with the Italians of the 80s and 90s rather than the expansive fast game we know and love.

A note on Rooney and why he is so important (and Lennon too) – the T&T coach said at half time that the England movement was very predictable. This is the problem with Crouch and Owen at the moment – they run in straight predictable lines, staying in the channels. This is easy for defenders to deal with.

Rooney runs across defenses and moves in a way that pulls people out of position – he is a lot less predictable and creates spaces for the likes of Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard to do their thang. Lennon did the same thing, pulling the T&T defense towards the corner and giving both Beckham and Gerrard the space and time to make an impact.

You have to be disruptive at this level – disruption and confusion is what creates opportunity. Predictable lines and pedestrian pace is all too easy to defend against.

And just to pimp my podcast sideline a little – link

I think I might go back to Henry after the group stage and see how his predictions stack up – France and Brazil not looking so hot now huh!

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