Sunday, 3 June 2012


I am grateful to my good friend Barrie Harding for his reflection on last night's England international.

The overall performance was better. But it was poor in Norway so the only way was up. Belgium are a good technical side but forty something in the world ranking because they cannot score goals. As they showed last night. Welbeck took his goal well but, as with the Young goal against Norway, it was pretty much a solo effort and not the result of good team play. And in both cases the defending was poor and certainly not up to the highest international standard England will face in the Euros. Other than that, Welbeck made no real impression even though Kompany wasn't playing. I like the look of Vertongen, even though he was playing out of position. Very calm and assured and left footed as a bonus. I hope Spurs buy him.

Defensively England coped well against a team that played in front of them and not around or behind them. And without a goal scoring forward Belgium had no outlet for their pretty football. Joe Hart still had as much to do as their keeper but mainly from long range.

Offensively it was only when Defoe came on and Belgium were a little more tired did we see any pressure play. With lesser teams  it is even more important that we maintain pressure on the opposition to get the goals and, while we can build that pressure, we cannot sustain it because our traditional game is based on bish-bash football. We lose the ball too easily and then have to wait to get it back and we suddenly find that pressure turned on us.

Roy is struggling to find the best team. He's not changing anything and that's understandable. He cannot make wholesale changes at this late stage but he can, at least, put players in positions where they are the most comfortable and the most effective. And so far he hasn't done that. Rooney is by far our best attacking weapon so don't have him chasing back to the half way line trying to get the ball back. If he wants to contribute then have him go wide, not deep, to put pressure on the other team. Put Gerard up just behind Rooney and let him make those runs beyond Rooney when he drags central defenders out left or right. Get Young wide, switching left and right as the attack builds to provide that width. With those three attacking the middle three can hold the midfield. Parker is now pretty much established and has good holding qualities but very limited in passing beyond twenty yards and usually sideways. With Barry injured but with two left sided full backs and the need to maintain balance he should play both. A creative playmaker is needed now but we don't have one.. Roy should resist using another wide player and is probably left with Milner to occupy (and that's all he does) the right side of midfield. This looks a very defensive team, and it can certainly play that way and be very solid right up to the last third of the pitch. It's here we have the problems - as most teams do. Scoring goals at the highest level is tough and England won't score many. We just need to score one more than the other side. So far we've done that in the two matches but, as I say, with individual efforts and not team play. 

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