England so far have been…poor to say the least. Still, it hasn’t been for want of effort or heart as some fans would believe. If they didn’t care then the scorelines against the United States and Algeria would have been much worse. However, changes need to be made, not only to qualify from the group, but to ensure a satisfactory run in the World Cup.
Against Slovenia, England will face another team with the underdog mentality, a team that will sit back and absorb possession and then attack on the break. Against America they showed they can produce in the final third, so the victory England need will not be attainable with the tactics currently employed.
England’s problems so far, have not stemmed from their defense, but from a lack of goals. That is not helped by the fact that their one true striker has to come out to midfield to receive a touch on the ball. Watch the Algeria game and you will see Rooney come all the way out to the halfway line to receive a pass, and then lead the attack into the final third. It’s unacceptable that he should be reduced to taking contested strikes from 25 yards out because England cannot give him service at least equal to that which he receives from his Manchester United teammates. After all, the one thing nobody was worried about going into the tournament was the strength of England’s wingers.
Yet that has been a weakness, play on the flanks is essential to open up space in the opposition box and yet England have put makeshift players there. Gerrard on the left with the asterisk next to his name saying “with license to roam” is not a solution, because he is constantly roaming. And can you blame him? He is at his best surging forward through the middle, and when placed on the left he automatically gravitates there. Against Algeria Ashely Cole was left by himself to cover the offensive and defensive duties of the entire left side.
Gerrard needs to be in the hole behind Rooney, so that the opposition has to focus on somebody besides Rooney. It’s all very well Heskey using his strength to flick balls down, but if nobody has space to do anything with the ball, what’s the point? Defoe can also be used instead of Heskey because of finishing ability, for two matches running now, England’s offense has stuttered, because it relies on too few outlets.
Taking Gerrard away from the left means that Joe Cole can be brought on, and after looking lively in the warm ups, I have no idea why he hasn’t played. Maybe he’s a prat but so are the majority of footballers anyway. He can do multiple things with the ball, which is important because the opposition know what England will do with the ball up the field every time. It’s either aim for Heskey so he can give it to Rooney or toss a cross into the box for anyone. Cole can cut inside and create for himself and others, again adding more variation.
The bottom line is, when something isn’t working, it needs to be changed. The talk of England not having the talent is rubbish, stack the squad up against the likes of Germany or Italy and it comes out ahead, and even the most pessimistic will say they’re even. The team is not the best in the world, but that doesn’t mean they can’t achieve a solid run in this tournament.