Monday, October 09, 2006

England: Once again a shining example of mediocrity

Here's what we learned from England v. Macedonia:

  • Stewart Downing is emphatically not a world-class left winger.
  • Wayne Rooney is off his game (well, duh), but still probably better than Jermain Defoe.
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips deserves more than being left on the bench all the time.
  • Steven Gerrard is very talented, but even he cannot pass to himself.

So after that stirring display, Steve McClaren is thinking about switching to 3-5-2 for the game against Croatia. Because a game away from home against a tougher team is really the best time to try out a new system.

As I understand it, the 3 in 3-5-2 is supposed to be three centre halves. England -- despite having a buttload of good centre halves -- would be playing with John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and...Gary Neville. Who is a very good defender, but he is not and has never been a centre half. And Ledley King certainly played well enough against Macedonia to keep his place.

The bigger problem, though, is who do you play at right wingback? Ashley Cole on the left should be fine, but the options for the right side at the moment are apparently Phil Neville and SWP -- one of whom is too defensive, the other too attacking. I would've picked Steven Gerrard as the best choice there, actually, but he's suspended.

Which reminds me: I thought the point of trying five across midfield was to accommodate both Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the centre. Gerrard's not playing, so then why? Are you really that desperate to prop up Lampard? Or to find a way to work around playing Downing on the left again?

It just doesn't make much sense to me.

There are basically two ways to pick your team: Choose a system and find the best players to fit that system, or choose the best players and find a system that fits them. McClaren seems to be doing both, and neither, at the same time. And it's not working.

On the other hand, at least they're not Spain.

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