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Five Things I Learned From England 3-1 Switzerland Euro 2012 Qualifier

Wayne Rooney England 2010/11 Diego Benaglio Switzerland Switzerland V England (1-3) Group G 07/09/10 UEFA Euro2012 Qualifier Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

England continued their perfect run in Euro 2012 qualification on Tuesday night with an impressive 3-1 win away to Switzerland. Before the match, a clash of world class club managers was touted as the main story line as Fabio Capello faced off against Ottmar Hitzfeld. Between the two, three Champions League trophies are shared, while a myriad of various domestic trophies, too many to count, are split between the two veteran managers. While England dominated the majority of the match with a few decent spells thrown in by Switzerland for good measure, here are a few observations that stuck out to me.

England are simply better than Switzerland. Not breaking much ground, but remember, it was Switzerland who were the only team to defeat eventual champions Spain during the World Cup this past summer. One couldn’t have blamed a weary England fan for being a tad bit nervous heading to Basel for what could have been a potential banana peel for the Three Lions.

When the match got down to brass tacks, it was Capello who simply boasted the better starting eleven and squad for that matter. Both teams set up in a similar formation, 4-4-2, with one forward dropping off in a more central advanced midfield role. England didn’t take long to exploit a weakness in the Swiss defense which was David Degen on the left side of midfield and Reto Zeigler at left back. Before Theo Walcott left the game on a stretcher, he was able to get at left back Zeigler on more than one occasion while it was Glenn Johnson from right back who also aided in England’s early attacks down the flank. In the 10th minute, Johnson found Rooney with a well timed cross for England’s opener.

England’s central defensive pairing of Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott were rarely bothered in the first half and held together tight when the Swiss were at their best. Maybe not tested to any extremes, but the former Everton partnership reunited on the international stage passed with flying colors.

Joe Hart is human after all. The wonder goal from Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri was never going to be saved by any keeper in the world. It was a well timed brilliant strike from the 18 year old who was able to show his quality when England’s back line fell asleep for just a second. Excused for Shaqiri’s strike which he saw very late, Hart wasn’t quite his normal brilliant self yet didn’t commit anything close to a Robert Green type blunder England fans won’t soon forget from the World Cup.

On just a few occasions, Hart’s normally assured self seemed to lack confidence and was at times almost caught out because of his decision making. At only 23, no one can blame Hart thus far in his young international career. He’s only appeared a handful of times for the senior team and he’s yet to cost England a goal or points. Although Hart is easily the #1 in everyone’s book, he’s sure to make a mistake sooner or later. The real quality of Hart will be on display when England fans are able to see how he performs after a forgettable performance for England.

Wayne Rooney is best playing just behind a central striker, but can still score goals. Of course we knew this didn’t we? 34 goals in all competitions for Manchester United last season playing further up the pitch than ever before may have clouded thoughts on where Rooney is best played. Depends on what you want out of him really, goals or creating them? Is Rooney as complete an England player as there currently is? On Tuesday night, all of his footballing abilities were on display. He scored England’s first when Glen Johnson found him after a well timed run into the box, a natural striker’s ability. Yet he continually dropped back into midfield to pick up the ball in order to spread play further forward to Jermaine Defoe or to the wings through James Milner or Adam Johnson.

Maybe Rooney had something to prove with all the off-the-field hype concerning his private life, or maybe his recent dip in form has sparked him to prove his critics wrong on the pitch. Whatever the reason, or whether he’s creating goals or scoring them, Rooney is most effective when he’s involved in build up play. Whether he picks out a killer ball or scores from a movement he’s had a large hand in, Rooney is best just behind a central striker but always a dangerous goal scoring threat.

Adam Johnson and not Theo Walcott is the answer to England’s right side of midfield. He doesn’t quite have the explosive pace that Walcott does, but he’s more effective than the Arsenal winger and a better decision maker. Still young in his England career, Johnson is the type of player who embodies someone who’s about to make something happen. Upon his entry into the match after Walcott’s injury, Johnson showed his class by touching the ball out to himself and spinning around the aforementioned Ziegler who surely must now be happy he’s done facing England’s right side. Johnson crossed into Defoe who should have done better, but it took just a few seconds for Johnson to leave his stamp on a game he just entered into. Johnson’s also a quality finisher as he showed with his second half 69th minute goal. He narrowly avoided being caught offside and was found by Steven Gerrard when he cut into the middle from the right and side stepped the keeper to slot home.

England can pass the ball after all. Was it just me, or did England seem to almost ping the ball around the pitch with a bit of swagger? After all the hoopla concerning their tired performance in South Africa, this new look England seems to have rediscovered their mojo as the squad settle into a new season of club football. England played with confidence, little to no fear and dominated possession against the Swiss while they fairly easily broke down a Swiss defense once said to be difficult to penetrate.

Frank Lampard’s services were definitely not missed as a quiet and confident Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry had their way in the center of the pitch while midfield foes Pirmin Schwegler and Gokhan Inler chased aimlessly.

The unconvinced will point to England’s ability to usually coast through qualification while they fail on the big stage at major tournaments. Yet this is an England squad only a few years removed from the dreadful qualification of Euro 2008, a tournament they failed to participate in. England fans must take the wins on Friday and Tuesday in stride and place them into the overall grand scheme of the England team within the past year. It’s been a great start to a new chapter in the England book, yet still a flawed script that hopefully ends rewarding.

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  1. Thomas

    September 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I think the last 2 games brings out one of the hottest topics of debate, Gerrard and Lampard, and the proper use of Wayne Rooney.

    To say the 2 cannot co exist in midfield is a stretch. But what I believe has surfaced is that selecting both players detracts from the effectiveness of the team.

    The best team needs to include Adam Johnson and James Milner. I think this much can be established. In order to start both the City men, as well as a combination of Gerrard and Lampard, you have to either drop a Defensive Mid or a Striker.

    Personally, unless you can curtail Lamps to play a deep lying role (probably best for his longevity with the national team anyway), you have to much of a liablity in the center of the park.

    Rooney plays best, at least for England, playing in the need an out and out striker for him to do this.

    England’s best line up on paper:

    Johnson Rio Terry Cole

    Gerrard Lampard

    Johnson Milner

    Englands best lineup in practice:

    Johnson Rio Terry Cole


    Johnson Milner


  2. Brian

    September 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    If Gerrard is going to play as far back as he is, it’s a waste. Lampard is the best passing midfielder in the England pool, bar none. It’s him you want picking those passes out to players like Johnson and Rooney.

    If you tell Frank “Listen, we don’t want you running up into the box anymore, that’s Gerrard’s job, sit back and dictate play,” Lampard is good and tough enough to take on the job and push England’s ball posession over the edge.

    Gerrard doesn’t have the discipline or tactical ability to continually be the onthe ball player in the England midfield – his strengths lie elsewhere.

  3. Brian

    September 8, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Things I learned:

    1) English are again awash with joy over a good run of form in qualification…which is exactly what they enjoyed before they enjoyed that dismal World Cup.

    2) Rooney is the offensive creator in the side and not the goalscorer; stop forcing Crouchy in to play in the hole, it’s Rooney’s job now.

    3) Johnson is 5x the player Walcott is and that will never change in Theo’s favor.

    4) Gerrard still runs around like a headless chicken – get him an offensive role going forward and let Lampard pull the strings from midfield. Gerrard can play narrow left with Cole providing width all day on the touchline.

    5) Joe Hart is human, but his human is much better than anything else human England have had in a long time!

    • Dave C

      September 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      (1) Unfortunately you’re exactly right. We’ve won two games against crappy opposition, and people will no doubt be getting their hopes up now. It makes me wonder why England can’t replicate this good form in tournaments though. It’s not simply just that Switzerland are poor opposition – they’re no worse than Algeria or Slovenia. I wonder if there’s some underlying mental problems that stop England performing in a tournament environment.

      (2) ABSOLUTELY! I’ve always considered Rooney as more of a traditional, withdrawn “number 10” than an true centre-forward. I think the fact that did so well for Man Utd last season in an advanced position disguised this. It proved that he CAN do very well as a true centre-forward (partly because the service from the rest of Man Utd team is so good), but I don’t think it takes away from the fact that he is BETTER in a withdrawn position. He’s got an incredible range of passing, and great vision, a natural inclination to drop deep, and I think he has the personality that thrives on being the main man responsible for most of the creative work, and I think all of this is squandered when he’s expected to stay far up the field on his own.

      (4) Lampard pulling strings in the middle with Gerrard at “narrow-left”? Isn’t this how they played (badly) in the WC?

  4. IanCransonsKnees

    September 8, 2010 at 2:23 am

    I don’t know if the Arsenal fans reading this are aware but the groundsman at the Swiss stadium is from Stoke on Trent and a Stoke fan to boot. He’s admitted to leaving the grass a little bit longer than normal to aid Theo Walcott’s injury. Ryan Shawcross and Tony Pulis bullied him into it apparently. Apparently we’re now looking to bring in Yves Oehri who stitched him in the January transfer window.

  5. nicky

    September 8, 2010 at 12:27 am

    I can’t seem to find out who set up Darren Bents goal..

    Can you help~?…

    • Jesse Chula

      September 8, 2010 at 7:36 am

      I believe it was a straight ball in from James Milner.

      • Poker Rakeback

        September 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

        No, it was a slide pass by A. Cole

        • Jesse Chula

          September 8, 2010 at 10:17 am


          Oddly enough, that was what I seem to remember. However, I didn’t have any replays at my disposal when I answered that and read in Henry Winter’s match report on the Telegraph that it was Milner.

          Guess big time journos are wrong from time to time as well.

  6. Poker Rakeback

    September 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    SWP has hardly played this year, you can’t ask him to come on and look like Messi. He needs to move and get playing time, still I don’t know why fabio is picking him as he always comes out with something along the lines of ‘players must be playing first team football to be picked for the squad’. As SWP is not, why is he even in the squad?

  7. Jacob

    September 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Great article!!

  8. VillaPark

    September 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Would definitely like to see Ashley Young included on one side with Adam Johnson on the other. Use Walcott as a second-half substitute to inject pace against a tired defense.

    Hart should have been the goalie in South Africa.

    Lampard is a tough call. We see that Gerrard is probably the one of the two to start, and them playing together never works. It’s just a matter of finding a way to potentially bring him in to a necessary match or as a sub. Either way, when you look at other top countries, they seem to always have a top club player on the bench because he does not fit with the other 11 players in the starting lineup. It seems like now would be a great time to go in that direction.

    Make good use of players like Bent, Milner, Jagielka, etc. There’s nothing wrong with starting a player for one game based on matchups to inject some fresh legs on opposing teams, especially when it gets to Euro 2012, World Cup 2014 and so on.

    Switzerland is not a pushover as witnessed in the World Cup. This was a solid win.

  9. Smokey Bacon

    September 7, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Arguably England’s best performance under Capello in my opinion. Dominated the game against a team that beat Spain at the World Cup.

    Some things I learned from both qualifiers….

    1. Gerrard deserves to retain the captaincy.

    2. Gerrard and Barry are England’s best available central midfield combination until either Hargreaves gets fit or Rodwell emerges to replace Barry.

    3. Stating the obvious – Johnson should start ahead of Walcott & Hart is England’s number 1.

    4. Ferdinand, Terry and Lampard need to fight for their places and not walk straight back into the team for the next game. Jagielka looks like an international and deserves a run, as does Milner who I thought was superb tonight.

    5. Bent’s finish was real class

    6. SWP still has no business being in an England squad.

    • Patrico

      September 8, 2010 at 8:10 am

      Great article, and I agree with this entire post, especially that Ferdinand and Lampard should not be able to walk back into the squad when fit.

    • Dave C

      September 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      2- I wouldn’t hold your breath on waiting for Hargreaves to come back!

      4 – Definitely! In fact I think the main problem with Terry and Ferdinand is that they are both (a) old and (b) extremely injury prone. Therefore, there is just no point in building a team around them, since they inevitably won’t be fit or at their best in 2012. It makes a lot more sense to groom Jagielka, Dawson, Lescott or Cahill during the qualifiers (which they hopefully can handle anyway) so we have a set of healthy reliable CBs in place for the tournament.

  10. Poker Rakeback

    September 7, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Good post Jesse, agree 100%. A. Johnson was fantastic tonight, showed moments of sheer class and deserves to start ahead of Walcott. I’d like to see A.Young play on the other flank, who knows, now walcott and milner are out we might just get to see it.

    A.Young – Gerrard – Barry – A. Johnson

    Looks good to me.

  11. titsmcgee

    September 7, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Didn’t really think Gerrard was “quiet”…his passes were on the money all game.

    • Jesse Chula

      September 8, 2010 at 7:38 am

      No, I agree. What I meant was quiet, but effective. Gerrard went about his business just fine without grabbibg the game by the neck.

      He didn’t need to get forward as much as he has in previous matches because of how good Rooney was. Gerrard was definitely solid.

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