Right then, we’ve got the dreary underwhelming start out the way with, and had Beckenbauer’s jibes lobbed our way, so it’s now time for England to show the world what we can spiffing well do, old chap; probably just scrape through by the odd goal, leaving everyone bored, depressed and reaching for the noose by half-time, but oh well.
To be honest, some centre ground needs finding following last weeks game. England weren’t great, lacked an incise edge, and didn’t seem to possess the attacking guile to really punish the USA. Hence, some of Beckenbauer’s assertions actually seemed reasonable (but let’s still shove them right up his arse, yeah?).
However, there’s no need to get overly pessimistic; opening games are notoriously rigid, as many of the other matches have duly (and often dully) demonstrated, England still looked in control, creating some openings, and a slow start leaves room for the sort of steady progression often displayed by subsequent victors. But, anyway, it’s now time to pick-up a gear, and here is the team I’d like to (but don’t expect to) see do it:
Formation: Four, Five(ish), One. (see ‘Midfield’)
Goalkeeper: David James. Not just because of his mistake, but personally Green would be my third choice anyway. Joe Hart is clearly a very good and solid keeper, and one I like a lot, whilst the argument that he doesn’t have enough experience to be the starting keeper always seems to leave you in an exasperating catch-22 cycle; you need to be given the experience at some point in order to possess the adequate experience. Nevertheless, I’d still go with James; because he’s a good keeper and, yes, possess that magical ‘experience’ – so I’m just contradicting, arguing with, myself here…what a stupid s**t I really am, I actually deserve to die.
Defence: Glenn Johnson, John Terry, Michael Dawson, Ashley Cole. Much of the defence now picks itself, particularly as injuries stack-up and King has to be fixed back together with duck-tape, playdough and love after most games. I’m still not utterly convinced by Johnson, but he’s usually good going forward and, again, there aren’t really many other options. Cole is clearly a shoe-in at left back, whilst in central defence John Terry’s partner is the most unsettled area. As Carragher’s ‘pace’ looks like it can be easily exposed, I’d lump for Dawson after a sturdy season.
Midfield: Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole. It seems many have been calling for this formation, and I certainly felt before the tournament that it would be a viable option. Implementing a holding midfielder – preferably Barry given his ability to hold whilst offering composure, simplicity and a calming influence – and utilising Gerrard just behind Rooney should allow England’s (arguably) most threatening assets to thrust forward.
Exploiting this partnership effectively will be vital for real progression. Moreover, wide players with pace could stream forward, cutting inside into a supportive position when required or simply pulling out, stretching the play, and providing further potency. Lennon would provide pace on the right, though he seemed to squander a few opportunities against USA, and Joe Cole throws up something different and dynamic (if Cole is to be deployed as more of an impact player, then start with Milner). This, balance should ensure the centre of midfield remains compact, coherent and solid when defending, but fluid and more liberated (i.e. Lampard and Gerrard) when in possession.
Forward: Wayne Rooney. England’s ‘belle of the ball’, (though he shouldn’t be immune from criticism), he effectively held the line for much of Man United last season and has stated he enjoys the role. With midfielders swamping forward in support, this may also conversely enable him to centre his focus on getting in goal scoring positions and bagging me that golden boot bet.
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