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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Historic Irish win finds Eriksson under fire

Northern Ireland's first win over England since 1972, their first at Windsor Park since 1927. Denmark's first win at home over England since 1948. Winning qualifiers is proving something of a tricky affair,as we constantly go to shoot ourselves in the foot, remedy the wound reasonably enough to only have it reopened again. So far we are involved in setting records, negatively.

Was this another win that meant more for the hosts than for their guests? With all due respect, we are seen as able enough to accomplish topping the group after the 10 matches but in reality remaining second for the play-offs. Now we rely on winning our remaining games against Austria and Poland to top the group, and fortunately Poland's last remaining game is against us so we have our destiny tightly in our hands. We don't need to rely on other sides for good results, like we could have done with in Warsaw last night.

Amongst the arguments about the appropriate formation is the fact that no-one outside the England camp, with the exception of Wayne Rooney, are content with the current formation if it means playing Rooney out of position. Nothing has been confirmed but I'm certain his frustrations were borne from not being at least tucked behind Michael Owen. Why can the England coach not see this? If he sees Rooney is positioned where he shouldn't be, as was stated by John Motson during commentary, then instructions should be sent immediately to re-position him. That could have made the difference between his contribution and his eventual frustration.

Word has been said about Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, though Gerrard has been the more industrious of the two since Wales. I don't know why. Beckham was far more involved than before but he couldn't cajole the two centre-midfielders enough with his play. His "postage stamp" freekick and Gerrard getting forward to set up Owen for an acrobatic effort were the only two chances to speak of in the first half. But Rooney loves to play his football from his more centre forward position, it was where he was when he latched on to the pass to score the consolation against Denmark. Where he was when he latched onto the Joseph Yobo mistake to score at Everton. Where he was when he jumped onto the hesitation by Jean-Alain Boumsong to score at Newcastle.

We had a good non-productive first half, having the majority of possession , yet Northern Ireland giving us enough to keep us aware and on our guard. In the second half we came forward but wouldn't guide the kind of final ball that we are known to thrive on, that takes a touch or finish from one of many talents we have. The Irish treated most of the balls into the box as rejects, heading them out with clearance and determination. England were not on the end of those balls enough to even cause a scare, cause panic. We were not playing in Windsor Park, we were playing somewhere below par.

The goal came because Northern Ireland kept their pressure on us with hope we'd buckle somewhere while we kept ours on them with no focus. Having gone into the break 0-0 without England having any more than two hearted chances on goal, coach Lawrie Sanchez had that to recall for inspiration in the dressing room. When Aston Villa's Steven Davis came forward on attack, we backed off, no central midfielder going to Davis, no Beckham in his holding role, Davis was allowed to pass through to David Healy on the right. The defence had stepped up but Rio Ferdinand is clearly playing Healy onside and the Leeds man went on to finish like England should have done. Add to that an almost carbon copy effort by sub Warren Feeney afterwards that skimmed across Paul Robinson.

Graeme Le Saux correctly mentioned that Joe Cole would be introduced if nothing came within the first moments of the second half, and early enough he came on for Shaun Wright-Phillips with barely 10 minutes gone. SWP was key on the right hand side and with time and some insight could have used his pace eventually to get behind the Irish defence, albeit they had two defenders on him at times.

Almost immediately after the goal Owen Hargreaves comes on for Gerrard, five minutes later Jermaine Defoe came on for Lampard. Hargreaves is not England material, much less central midfield material. He lost possession deep in our half and almost gifted Northern Ireland a chance. When he was on the ball in our half they pressured him to almost good effect. The shape of the side is mish-mash, Beckham is right midfield but cannot run with Rooney struck in front of him, Joe Cole equally with Defoe, Owen is the sole striker to aim for. Our response was one of desperation. Not even four minutes injury time could muster an effort of quality on target, Maik Taylor kept cool command in goal.

I thought the Denmark game was the kick on the backside we needed. But, having just scraped past Wales through a deflection and now lost to a side ranked 116th in the world, who hadn't won a competitive match for four years, never beaten us for over 30 years, never beaten us at their national ground for over 75 years, it seems we need more than a kick. Sven Goran Eriksson shouldn't be sacked now or quit unless England fail to qualify. Eriksson said it was up to the media and the FA as to whether he stays in his coaching role, but it's not. It is up to the players he selects.



Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman for this article. England are depressing to watch. What is the deal with Gerrard and Lampard? They are apparently £30m midfielders- but for England have contributed nothing in the last two matches.

Gerrard looks lost on the pitch- starts as a surplus central midfielder- then gets pushed out to the left. Does nothing in both roles, and to round things off looked thoroughly depressed.

Owen can't play up front on his own- he needs a Heskey or Crouch type player to feed off. The bare minimum is that he needs Rooney up there with him.

Beckham is always looking for the hail mary pass when instead he should keep it simple and make more use of Lampard and Gerrard.

I thought England had solved the long-running left-sided problem with the positive introduction of Joe Cole into that position last season. But now he gets left out, and yesterday we see Rooney or Gerrard struggle in that position.

After four years in charge it has come to this mess. £4m per year to produce this rubbish.

Alan Hansen said it best when saying that Eriksson has got things backwards. Instead of starting with the system and then picking the right players to suit that system, he is picking players first and then finding the system.

I think there should be serious debate whether or not Gerrard and Lampard can both play in the same team. They make the same runs, take up the same positions, don't link-up together.

And surely Parker and Murphy are better than Hargreaves and Jenas?

So much wrong- and no confidence that the man in charge will put things right. A hopeless position in World Cup year.

On a plus point- what a beauty of a goal by TH! Who says he can't do it in big games.

9/08/2005 1:22 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Theirry Henry's goal last night was a very good one, picked the moment when he had a second to spare, had the space and used the defender to block his move from Shay Given. A la Henry, he curled it in. I sense you are happy for him as a gooner fan.

But lets not digress from England's match. There is a clear opinion that Eriksson is not installing confidence of the team's progress into the fans.

I dislike any formation that has one striker. I like 4-4-2 but with Lampard and Gerrard practically wanting to do the same thing, the centre of midfield is now becoming confusing. So the holding man is required, allowing Gerrard and Lampard to roam free.

When Gary Neville, John Terry, Sol Campbell are fit, the defence keeps its 4, therefore any formation with 3 across the back is out of the question. Eriksson must now realise that two strikers are essential, one Rooney, the other will probably be Owen, though I think it should be a toss out of he and Defoe, depending on their league performance.

Now England need to be scoring and scoring early. We can average a 2-0 advantage with most teams, including Austria and Poland.

If we still fail to find an appropriate left sided player, then either J Cole or SWP will do, that player perhaps swaping sides on occasions to be less predictable and offering both players a chance to use either foot.


9/08/2005 4:08 pm

Blogger SKG said...

i haven't seen england this bad this the days of graham taylor and kevin keegan.

bottom line is ericsson has two more games to save himself.

on paper england look formidable no matter what formation they play. but these past few matches just go to show that it doesn't matter if you have the best players in the world, you need to be organised, passionate and be fighting to win - the three things sven lacks desperately.

9/08/2005 7:19 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

England need to revert back to 4-4-2.

Midfield: Joe Cole, Becks/Scott Parker (holding midfielder), Stevie G, SWP.

Rooney and Owen Up front

4-5-1 is not for England.

9/09/2005 10:19 am

Blogger Abdul said...

I agree with everything that has been said by Redsman and in the comments. England, in their present state, are not even close to being capable of winning the World Cup. Major rethinking is needed!

9/09/2005 12:19 pm


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