Friday, June 16, 2006

England: WTF*

Good: They won. They're guaranteed a place in the next round.
Bad: They don't look all that likely to go any further, even if they come up against a mediocre Germany next.

Good: England had the lion's share (no pun intended) of possession.
Bad: Didn't know what to do with it. Every other play was either a diagonal ball out to the wings or a long pass up to Crouch. Whereupon it was promptly wasted.

Good: Peter Crouch's goal -- hair-pulling and all.
Bad: Peter Crouch for the previous 83 minutes. He got a little too caught up in the Crouchinho hype, I think.

Good: John Terry. A couple bobbles, but he more than made up for them with that goal-line clearance.
Bad: Paul Robinson. If you want someone to flap uselessly at crosses, why not just start David James?

Good: Steven Gerrard. He wasn't flashy, but he got the job done. His goal was a bonus. (And how much must Shaka Hislop hate him right now?)
Bad: Frank Lampard. If he's going to be given the attacking midfield role ahead of Gerrard, he needs to prove that he deserves it. Shanking the ball wide or shooting right at the keeper is not deserving it.

Good: Wayne Rooney. Who cares if he didn't really do anything once he came on? At least he's fit.
Bad: Michael Owen. He tried hard, but his touch just wasn't there. Needs more time to get back to 100%, but time is already running out.

Good: Sven's substitutions. I was so sure he was going to put Hargreaves on for Carragher, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Aaron Lennon instead.
Bad: The fact that he even needed to make those substitutions in the first place. Also, Jermaine Jenas. Just because.

So, what do England need to do? (Aside from the obvious, which is: suck less.) I would love to see them try something unorthodox in the game against Sweden, and play 3-5-2. Just for the hell of it. I've heard that Gary Neville still might not be fit for that match, so you could either play Ferdinand, Terry and Ashley Cole at the back -- the way they did for the last half-hour against Trinidad & Tobago -- or go with three centre-halves in Carragher, Ferdinand and Terry (I think yesterday proved that, whatever Jamie Carragher's obvious merits, he's just not an attacking fullback).

Then you could stick Michael Carrick in as the holding midfielder (or, if you must, Owen Hargreaves) and give Gerrard the freedom to go forward and bang in a few goals. Hopefully he'd provide some inspiration for Lampard, too. Alternatively, you could start Beckham in a more withdrawn position and play Lennon out on the wing to run at the defenders. Oh, and while we're at it, remind Joe Cole that he is, in fact, supposed to be playing as a winger, and therefore probably shouldn't be cutting in towards the centre every single chance he gets.

Ok, that's the midfield sorted. Up front, I'd still like to start with two strikers, simply so that they'd all have a chance to get back into the groove. Crouch needs to stop trying the fancy shit and focus on the simple things that he does really well. Rooney needs playing time to get match fit, and Michael Owen needs to get his head on straight. (I know he's lacking match fitness as well, but in his case I think it's as much mental as physical.) So, maybe you start with Crouch and Owen, and bring one of them off at halftime for Rooney. (You'll notice that I haven't mentioned Theo Walcott at all. That's because I think Sven's forgotten he exists.)

In other news, while everyone was off salivating over Brazil, Argentina have contrived to become scarily good. Group C is no longer the Group of Death -- it's the Group of Complete and Utter Slaughter.

* I was going to title this post "Whither England?" but I thought that'd only be funny to me.

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