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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The value of compatible partnerships: Rooney/Heskey; Lampard/Barry; Brown/Ferdinand; Terry/Cole; Walcott/Rooney

It was a pleasure watching England play last night. And it feels great to write that sentence.

Capello picked a side yesterday of compatible partnerships across the pitch which linked together to produce a flowing team performance that simply overwhelmed Croatia on their way to a resounding 4-1 win.

Wayne Rooney said after the match that he couldn't have a better forward partner to play off than Emile Heskey. Michael Owen said the same thing last Autumn when he and Heskey combined to good effect against Russia. The much maligned Heskey now deserves to gain good sentiment from England fans - he may not score many goals but his hard work and proven ability to unsettle defenders is really appreciated by more talented forward partners. In my view Heskey should remain a starter: any player that gets the best out of the explosively-talented Rooney should be an automatic selection in the team.

Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard were a joy to watch yesterday in the way they seamlessly worked off each other in the centre of midfield. Barry now must be a fixture in the team like Marcos Senna is for Spain - he gives excellent balance and stability to the team. I would also prefer Lampard to stay in the team when Steven Gerrard comes back from injury - he is a more 'mature' player in the way he operates on the pitch and I think the degree of calm and composure he brings to the team is preferable to the more frentic play of Gerrard.

I noted yesterday how the defence had three well-grooved partnerships. No one can doubt that Ferdinand and Terry is a superb centre-back combination. Add to this on the right side of defence there is the combo of Brown and Ferdinand which works very well at Man Utd and on the left side of defence is the regular Chelsea combo Terry and Cole. This defence is strong and can get better because across the board there are well-honed partnerships.

Add to these complementary partnerships were the selection of two superb wild-card players on the wings. On the left hand side we had the excellent technical ability and 'football-intelligent' Joe Cole who knows how to score and assist. And then on the right is the 19 year old who has the temperament allied to talent to become a superstar: Theo Walcott. So happy for him to get a hat-trick and I also really liked the way he and Rooney linked-up together - we all may have seen yesterday in Zagreb the start of a massively exciting partnership.

Fabio Capello has shown his ability in his work and team selection for yesterday's match. Now lets keep it going for the next games against Kazakhstan and Belarus.


Blogger RedsMan said...

I noticed the difference between the two sides since Saturday and last night. Fourchanges of Brown for Johnson, Ferdinand for Lescott, J Cole for Downing and Heskey for Defoe. I felt the four from the Andorra game were good enough to win, in both halves. It took some booing and a change of wingers to gain the goals needed.

It was practically the same team last night, and for the first 15-20mins Croatia came at us, as they expected to do. However, we expected to come at them, which we did and I recall one moment where a Walcott cross went over, and another when I believe Walcott did cut back for Heskey but he was being clearly held back by Simunic (how the linesman didnt give it I dont know). But a fortuitous deflection Walcott's way paved the opening for a well taken goal and an advantage.

Croatia looked at 75% after that, as if they expected to just turn up and control the game but they ddint reckon on the unexpected. then R Kovac is sent off and they are one man and goal down and didnt look to have any reserve in them to battle through. England saw the advantage and took it.

For me, Croatia were not focused and we dug into that, aided by the sending off. A number of moments were not picked up on but we gained the win and goals. But I cannot vouch for the partnerships. England have played with these players before and we didnt hit it off with them then as good as we should have. I felt Brown was good, A Cole was good, and Ferdinand and Terry were sharp in CD.

Barry and Lampard was decent too, though I dont think they actually came to the boil until the sending off. Walcott was left unmarked for his first two but took his third well, but the sending off was quite pivotal to England's emergence in the 2nd half and you saw Rooney become more alive and spirited, who was for me MOTM.

The headlines are Walcott's and he has earned it with his goals and what was promising, albeit Croatia were at sixes and sevens, was Walcott pushing the ball and going for speed. Only Pranjic could have a hope and that hope faded every time.

Walcott had his pace advantage, and it made for an alternative option for Capello but it was hardly his pace that got him his goals, just his positioning. Were he to provide crosses from time to time, cutting inside and then crossing or passing low for others, then his wing play would have been superb to add with his goals. It is good, all good, but let's meet up on a team who will not listen to hype and actually provide good solid resistence for the 90mins, no sending offs and then we should be able to see this XI pushed to their limits and respond.


9/11/2008 8:20 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Very decent thoughts on the partnereships T, and a good touche there Redsman!

I agree to an extent for both view - I just thought it was enlightening that Capello is picking the right players, Heskey in this case, to help the TEAM. The dimension is different, but then again, Crouch had the same effect when it went well, but he is nowhere in sight for England at the moment.

I just thought that it was ironic that we have pretty much the same players, but a different style of working for each other, and keeping in positions as dictated by Capello - as Redsman said, the first two Walcott goals were down to keeping in position for Walcott, and some opportunistic strikes (and perhaps poorer than expected keeping - hard to say but the shots were along the ground and under the keeper's gloves on both occasions). I think there is a lot more improvement for Walcott to come, as even Arsene acknowledges.

But back to the partnerships...I never thought about the back 4, but that potentially is a nice way to go...two halves of two club defences...not too shoddy. As for the mid-field...I'm not quite sure yet - it's still an area of contest for me, which is probably improved by having a stable Barry in the middle. The Lampard/Gerrard thing is still to come for Capello to decide how it's going to work out.

9/12/2008 2:13 am

Blogger T said...

Nice one Nturtle and Redsman!

Yes, Walcott definitely has more improvement to come- as Wenger said yesterday lets not put limits on where he can go. When I heard Arsene say this yesterday I was reminded that he said in different words the same about Henry in his early days - saying that Thierry's potential was 'unlimited'. I always thought of this line as Thierry kept getting better and better in the Arsenal shirt.

Walcott is under the right club manager for his upward development - and in Capello he now has an international manager that will guide him well too. No coincidence that Capello and Wenger have good professional relationship and respect for each other - I'm sure they've discussed together how to look after Walcott.

Good insight on the Croatian mentality, Redsman. I agree they looked under the weather - but in my view it was largely the play and control of England that made Croatia look average.

9/12/2008 12:04 pm

Blogger alex butterfield said...

You make some really good points T. But like the other replies I have a few things that I disagree with.

Rooney & Heskey

It's hard for me to take comments such as Rooney's (or Owen's), about liking playing alongside a player, seriously. What question were they answering? How do you like playing up top with Heskey? Are they really going to say, 'it's a nightmare, to tell the truth, he's always offside, he's got no skill so centre-backs tend to double-up on me when you'd think it should be the other way round, and he never scores! Talk about a passenger, I have to carry him all game, and you've seen him, he weighs a ton." I think all players when asked that kind of question will be polite and complimentary. But what I wrote is all true of Heskey.

As you can tell, I'm not a big fan, but I'm always willing to judge players freshly on their current form. The problem is Heskey had a poor return last season (read: career since Leicester), and throughout his England career. And I'm sorry, but I don't care how much someone puts their self about, a striker has to score goals.

I actually analysed his role in depth on this site

I'd like to see Ashton given a chance, he's a halfway house between Crouch and Heskey, then it's up to him to prove his worth. Crouch had a chance and scored goals but mostly against weak opposition. Heskey has failed to impress (me at least - I guess he's good at looking like he's playing well - cos he has everyone else fooled). But then Ashton went and got injured again today, so who knows?

Lampard & Barry

They were excellent. Lampard wasnt really involved in much end-product though. But that's okay, we all know he can do it, he scored a cracker today against City. I've always been a huge Gerrard fan, but England comes first. I'd personally choose Gerrard over Lampard, but as long as Capello benches one of them, I'll be happy.

Brown & Ferdinand & Terry & Cole

You are right, this is an excellent back line. The interesting thing is we have other players to come in, a choice of Neville or Richards. (Though I see Richards played at CB today, and maybe it's time to let Neville call it a day.)

And your point about how they play well in partnerships is an excellent one. The right side and the left side are very comfortable with each other. I still don't like Terry, he was sent off today for deliberately preventing a goalscoring chance (the clearness of the chance might be sketchy, but it was clearly deliberate - he rugby tackled Jo and deserved the red) - he's so unprofessional, but I don't deny his talent.

As far as the game went. The sending off was harsh - the ref got a bit squeamish - and it made it easier, but the right team won.

I think there's still much room for improvement - but I agree with the sentiment that at least Capello picked the right men for the game and hope he continues to do that. We've proved we aren't good enough to pick our 11 best players and then let them go for it. We need to pick players to suit a system and for each opposition, and they need to be as disciplined as they were against Croatia.

9/13/2008 11:42 pm


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