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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Israel v England - a bore draw

Funnily enough Steve McClaren made the exact changes I would have except for Micah Richards on for Phil Neville, whereas I would have opted for either of Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard coming off for Kieron Dyer to inject more pace and urgency in attack. Certainly Aaron Lennon has played for Spurs on the left and for good reason too but he is within a known set structure different entirely to the England set up. Lennon looked quite uncomfortable yesterday and seemed restricted in forming anything enterprising once the Israelis began to double their marking. They picked up that his left foot was his weakest and forced him mostly to turn onto his right foot and shephered him away from the flanks to come inside and then end up passing the ball back.

Gerrard hardly made runs down the right and therefore did not deliver many crosses, opting instead to hold back and allow for Neville to go down the wing. Otherwise Gerrard gave a hint as to how he wanted to flow, coming inside and doing more of a midfield contribution than as a winger. Lampard made two telling chances on goal, where he should have made more of the first one after being played in by Gerrard. The second was a acrobatic half volley that almost made a second chance for Wayne Rooney. The defence were troubled on occasion, notably Pini Balili turned on the ball and wide enough to not trouble Paul Robinson. Yet the telling player was Israel's Tal Ben Haim, who made himself something of a wall between our attack and the Israeli goal. Rooney had little trouble with him at Old Trafford recently yet he, Andy Johnson and anyone else approaching goal were hindered by the Bolton defender. Rooney only actually came into the game more after he and Ben Haim had a little set-to from which both were booked.

But in all it was a bore draw from an England perspective and for the record defender Arik Benado should have been booked again for deliberately blocking off Lennon but for some reason the Norweigan referee took no action other than award a freekick. Ben Haim also blocked off Johnson in identical fashion and again the referee took no action. We have these top players from the Premiership who go out on a limb almost every week yet internationally we are struggling to score, much less win, and that is not right at all. We had the pace of both Rooney and Johnson to inflict problems on Israel, that of Gerrard and Lennon and Lampard's ingenuity and yet we were boring in attack. Pace wasn't enough, therefore, and so creativity is another factor to be considered and in that the likes of Jermaine Defoe, Kieron Dyer and Stewart Downing are the ones for me who would have given that. Downing has been in sharper form domestically and we needed him on the left where Lennon was being squeezed out, and Defoe has a reputation, not of late I must add, of squeezing a shot from almost anywhere on goal.

The issue that crops up is the selection of both Lampard and Gerrard, both central attacking midfielders. In doing so means there is no one covering once under a counter-attack in central midfield, so we adopt a holding midfielder in Owen Hargreaves but yesterday on occasion when Israel did break the centre was found wanting in an England shirt. I would have looked on taking off either Lampard for Dyer and move Gerrard into the middle, or a straight swap of Gerrard for Dyer. If we are to have both Lampard and Gerrard together, then we either allow both to go forward and take the risk of leaving the middle exposed, or we have Rio Ferdinand dropping down as an ad-hoc holding player once the central midfielders go up.

On the horizon are the likes of Gareth Barry, Darren Bent (unfit), Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and the likelihood, as a result of seeking success, is English players are having to go on loan to Championship teams to get noticed. The thing is we have to take risks now and perhaps it is evading doing so that is our main Achilles heel. Before the choice of Peter Crouch upfront was interesting, intriguing, and yet now Rooney and Johnson are available, I failed to see how innovative they both were yesterday. It is a hard decision but a set of players can be chosen on reputation and gain nothing, alternatively little known players or players of less stature internationally could come in and do an excellent job.

Right now, the urgency is rising with the wins of Croatia and Russia yesterday. Croatia were one down before half time yet came back with a superb freekick from Shaktar Donetsk's Darijo Srna that went straight in from a tight angle. Croatia contended with ten men to gain a winner before time while Russia made a tidy job against Estonia. Five points ahead means at the least England must win all from now, particularly when we next meet Croatia and Russia, to claw back the deficit. But I could not understand was we had the need for three points yesterday and nothing less yet the players, practically with exception to the defence, played as if they were in a friendly. Very frustrating.

A mention to Scotland for their superb win against Georgia, the Scots gained the lead on 11mins through Kris Boyd but were pegged back by former Rangers man Shota Arveladze minutes before the half time break. Craig Beattie scored the winner just minutes before full time and the Tartan Army go to Italy on Wednesday.

Ireland recorded a 1-0 win against Wales via the aptly named Stephen Ireland in the first football match at the Croke Park stadium, and Northern Ireland witnessed more excellent work from Leeds' David Healy as his hat-trick not only aided the side to victory but recorded Healy as the first Irishman to score two international hat-tricks. Another mention to Porto's Ricardo Quaresma, who collected on the right by the penalty box to cut inside and dip a tremendous effort up and over the Belgian keeper during Portugal's 4-0 win.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

sack mclaren

3/25/2007 11:10 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Two words, huh? It takes more than that and a sacking to transform England into form again. A selected few should be designated to go gung-ho on opponents, take them on, create panic, open them up, we want someone naturally creative like a Joe Cole, someone who can get hold of the ball and turn on it to break through when you have opponents who will keep players behind in defence to restrict space. Also the team in general needs to inject more movement in their play, more pace, step up the play when it simmers down, keep up the tempo. The urgency was non-existent yesterday from a team who are third looking to keep pace with the top two with a win and three points. That's the point to get across to the players, if they had the passion from the fans they would be battling much more to score.


3/25/2007 11:20 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

when sven left so should have mclaren. england needed a totally fresh start but instead we are witnessing all the same problems that we suffered whilst under sven - players playing out of position, poor passing and control, sluggish/slow tempo, the wrong substitutions - you name it nothing has changed and nothing will whilst sven's assistant remains in charge. i bet the FA are regretting not hiring big phil!

3/25/2007 12:20 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

In beginning a fresh start would, or should, have meant the possibility of dropping ANYONE who appears not upto the task ahead of them. Like when Ferdinand was dropped for Campbell and Terry for the WC qualifier against Austria in October 2005. Right now, it is still a question of whether Lampard should be dropped to move Gerrard into central mid, to have Lennon on the right where he is far more effective. Consider whether England have too many in attack or my Ferdinand notion.

What is fundamentally clear is we were in need of three points from yesterday and we played like we had already qualified. Not enough urgency and more drab playability and turning up for duty each time to hear 'That was crap, don't let it happen again' over and over and over and over again is not bringing home the message. Perhaps dropping one or two for others to start could be one answer.


3/25/2007 5:34 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman for your commentary and the two anons for their comments.

The consensus is that it was poor and that sums it up. It was quite disappointing to see that Aaron Lennon was not switched to the right side when it became clear that the Israelis had worked out how to deal with him on the left. Surely McClaren should have been more decisive in changing that situation.

The Lampard/Gerrard conundrum needs to be faced up by McClaren. Considering that when Joe Cole is fit he goes into left midfield and that Lennon is allowed to play naturally on the right side it will be time for McClaren to make the tough choice and drop one of these two big names to the subs bench.

Its an unenivable choice- but it is one that needs to be made because the evidence is clear: trying to complement these two similar players in the same England team does not produce a team that is balanced nor very effective.

3/25/2007 7:54 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

It's a difficult life...being England manager!!! I'll say not more on that!

But on the are probably spot on about the Gerrard/Lampard thing...there's just no creativity there...both great players...but just hasn't worked.

If Owne Hargreaves could playmake...England might have that spark. The wingers like Lennon and Joe Cole should be doing a lot more obviously...the English are usually very strong at crosses/headers - should go for more of that. Perhaps it's just a difficult mental block...but it's not pretty any which way...

Good luck England!

3/26/2007 3:22 am

Blogger Arsenal Analysis said...

Good post.
I think that Lampard and Gerrard cannot be played in the same 11. They are similar players and putting square pegs in round holes is asking for trouble and also disturbs the balance of the team. Also Lampard is made to look better than what he really is by the high quality of players he has around him at Chelsea.

3/27/2007 8:53 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Arsenal analysis, the opportunity appears to have arisen with the news nw that Lampard is unfit for tonight's game due to a cracked bone in his right hand as a result of Rooney whacking a ball onto it. If Rooney could do that, perhaps he could have taken better aim on Saturday to rid the Israel keeper or perhaps Ben Haim, the two players who simply kept between us and three points.

With Gerrard potentially in the middle as a result, Lennon on the right and Downin on the left, the look is slightly uneasy but perhaps more promising. We should utilise Lennon's burst of pace, much more than we did on Saturday, and Downing has been in good form domestically with his assists and crosses and odd goal.

I hope Downing can produce that form tonight, were he to be selected. but crucially is Rooney, he was not at his best at all on Saturday, seemed at some unease. When Rooney flows, you know he is in his zone, for he doesn't waste time on petulance but gets on with the game because he is feeling good about his contributon. If he feels he is not getting tat zest from his game, then he doesn't focus well.

Funny how tonight is about how much rather than how we approach the game. I am not that optimistic, quite simply we need three points and we MUST get three points, which is unequivocal. It's the focus once the players prepare on the day that is pivotal to our game. For they are among the best of English talent, we know what they can, we have to establish how they can produce it as a collective unit as opposed to their individual contribution with other foreign players.


3/28/2007 2:41 pm


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