What Will England's Strengths and Weaknesses Be in The World Cup?

Sports News - May 30, 2010

So that’s the phoney war over. We’ve all had our say about England; who should be in and who should be out. We’ve discussed which formation they should play and which personnel should play it.

Injuries haven’t been as bad as feared, Barry excluding.

Results are largely irrelevant in the run-in and we can all point to other countries’ dodgy performances in warm-up games to prove that.

So where are we? What have we learned from the last couple of England games and of the qualifying campaign?

I’d argue that one great comfort for England is that we do not lack goals. We are blessed with goal threats from the front six. We scored more goals than anyone else in qualifying and even in these two friendlies racked up five when not playing well. It’s a cliché but goals do win games. Without being full of goals you’re making progress in a tournament really tough work.

England is strong offensively. We are threats from either wing, from either overlapping full backs and from right across the midfield. We have possibly the widest range of striking styles in Rooney’s muscular vision, to Crouch’s angular freakishness, to Defoe’s fast feet and to Heskey, not really a striker at all but employed to let others score goals.

We shouldn’t have any trouble scoring goals in this World Cup. No, our problems lie elsewhere. With two full backs who love to go forward we risk being exposed on either side. Johnson is clearly defensively suspect – especially his positioning at set plays.

Perhaps our greatest worry is the central defence pairing of Terry & Ferdinand. Rio has lost some of his pace and keeps making basic errors. He looked very rusty against Mexico in the first half. Terry has never had any pace and his positional sense has been suspect also at set plays. We risk being turned by speedy forwards playing deeper and deeper to make sure that doesn’t happen thus drawing more pressure on to the defence

Neither shows composure on the ball. Ferdinand at one time was supposed to be England’s ball playing centre back but he rarely does any of that anymore. The inability of the central defenders to distribute to a regular high standard is a major weakness. We’re all sick of seeing those thirty yard dink balls from the top of the defensive third to the edge of the attacking third. Both of them seem to play those too often and regularly lose possession.

We also lack a world class holding midfielder at a tournament where many sides will be playing two; we’re hoping that an injured Barry can do the job.

It’s also disturbing how uncomfortable they looked when not playing 4-4-2. Many have said, and I agree, that no side playing a rigid 4-4-2 can win the world cup because they will be swamped in midfield by the likes of Spain, losing possession and inviting pressure on the back four constantly.

This tactical conservatism could be our downfall .The experiment in the second half against Japan was a welcome tactical change which will surely be essential at some point.

We need to accept that the defence is a weakness and not worry about it. England’s best chance is to go for aggressive and attacking play and get it into our heads that we need to outscore the opposition whatever it takes.

There should be no holding onto one goal leads, trying to defend our way to victory. We are not good enough at that. England needs to be bold and progressive. This is the World Cup to do it in. The cooler temperatures will allow a pressing, higher tempo game. Let’s play to our strengths and go out all guns blazing. Even if not successful, it would be fantastic to watch. Better that than another whimpering loss on penalties. We have nothing to live up to any more. Now is the time to cut loose.

10 thoughts on “What Will England's Strengths and Weaknesses Be in The World Cup?”

  1. I don’t agree with your argument about the defence being England’s weak part. If you want to have attacking full backs that give you more going forward then not being as solid at the back is the price you have to pay.
    If you want to have the likes of wes brown playing at right back you will be stronger in defence but you will also lose out on what G Johnson can give you going forward.
    So it basically comes down to what you want out of your team and i want attacking fullbacks. Fabio must think so too because providing they are fit it is the one area he does not change.

    1. I know your argument is based mainly on the centre backs (Terry, Ferdinand) but can we put all the blame on them? With the lack of a very good holding midfielder and full-backs that bomb on, then it is no wonder that Terry and Ferdinand often look average.

  2. One of the better posts that I have read on here. The defence will be fine. I just hope Capello goes with Hart in goal who looks the most assured and confident of the three. Rooney is looking very isolated up front regardless of who plays with him, behind him or out wide. Cole looked the most likely when he came on. Heskey showed nothing other than a reminder of why he has scored so few goals at international level. Lennon needs to start on the right in a 4-5-1. We have to pack the midfield as both Japan and Mexico outplayed us in the middle with their short passing game. Just imagine what Spain will do to us if we go 4-4-2. But most of all we need our big name players to finally show up in a major tournament. Lampard, Gerrard, Rio, JT and Rooney….the time is now. I’m trusting in Capello’s man management skills to get the best out of them. Otherwise he can f-off to Inter Milan after the finals!

  3. I am wondering if maybe Johnson should be looked as a Dani Alves and just concede that he can’t defend effectively so why bother placing such a responsibility on him. Start Johnson deep and let him bomb the right from the far pitch providing width and drawing the opposition’s defence out employing a libero (either Carragher or Milner) to either drop in his place or freeing Rio to do so. All 3 of England’s group opponents are particularly susceptible to being carved up by rampant wing-backs and if recent World Cups are any guide, how much you get out of your wing-backs determines how far you go. Alternatively you could try 3 centre-backs but that’s likely to be a disaster if applied to Germany or Ghana and their 4-2-3-1s.
    So maybe something like one of these?


    Using Carragher/Milner as an ostensible libero:



    Carragher/Milner Johnson
    A Cole
    Terry Ferdinand






    Carragher/Milner Johnson
    A Cole
    Terry Ferdinand




    A Cole
    Terry King Ferdinand


  4. “England is strong offensively.”

    Anyone who watched both the friendlies against Mexico and Japan, it is blatantly obvious that England looks extremely shaky up front. Two goals in the game against Mexico came from defenders, and Crouch’s arm-assisted goal looked flukey to begin with. With sloppy Mexican defending and a third tier goal keeper, England lucked into a win against a side which dominated possession and the majority of opportunities on goal. Against Japan, Rooney’s performance was almost cringeworthy. From bad passing to only a few shots, Rooney was out of position playing in a play maker role of sorts as opposed to his usual Center Forward role. And again, sloppy defending from a team ranked 45th in the world led to the inevitable goals from their own defenders.

    1. Top European scorers with 34 in qualifying including 9 in two games against a team ranked 10th in the world.

      I’d say this makes us pretty strong offensively.

    2. I agree with TCAP. Against Japan, two own goals and a missed penalty is hardly an endorsement of a strong offensive showing by England.

      The Gaffer

      1. Do you think Spain are going to struggle because they beat Saudi Arabia in injury time?

        No, because it was a friendly. Just like the Mexico and Japan games, and we still scored five goals!!

        The competitive results and performances of qualifying say we are a good attacking team.

  5. Their strengths are how much experience and leadership they have which after Brazil is 2nd to none, imo….well Spain and maybe 1-2 would argue and have a legit beef to that.

    Their weakness is that they are NOT consistent whatsoever and they have bad lapses which seem to ALWAYS kill them.

    England could roll through their first round games and bow out in the 2nd/Quarters easily, imo

  6. honestly england should be playing a 433 with 2 wingers but lack of a decent left footed attack shoots that in the arse.

    simply put englands problem isnt defense, defensively they are quite decent. You cant expect johnson to play like alves can because at barce he is at a team that has possession for most of the game and has messi causing havoc in front of him. look at brazil alves cant get onto the team because maicon is a more complete fullback in most situations.

    englands biggest problem is keeping control of the game. With barry and lampard playing behind gerrard you had 2 composed central mids that could affect the tempo of the game, lampard was withdrawn slightly further back but expected to attack during wide play.

    In terms of attack this is easily englands problem, very 1 dimensional, yes they have different strikers but many of them are below average. Rooney is excellent at not only moving but also his build up play, gerrard is also amazing with his ability to not only make bullshit happen but his running causes massive problems. What england miss is a left winger, i know its been heralded for ever but simply put the way england play with rooney and gerrad they need a winger to stretch the fullbacks, an oncoming a.cole can then either draw the fullback further leaving massive amounts of space for a winger or the winger can pass to cole for a cross in. This is essentially what happens at chelsea. The right winger is seen as more a foil for johnson as well as a person to help move in centrally, milner is fine for this role.i think 2 unorthodox wingers with a more withdrawn player in place of gerrard could work but i doubt england has right winger like that.

    as long as england can hold their shape defensively and counter quickly they should have a chance, give up the midfield but dominate the wings and the world cup could be theirs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *