The news of England’s defeat to Uruguay and likely exit from the World Cup has gone around the globe a hundred times in pictures and words with the blame falling at either Rooney’s or Gerrard’s feet, depending on your allegiance to Liverpool or Manchester.
The truth is that in an England shirt you can expect the players picked to play their hearts out no matter which team pays their club wages. I agree that Rooney has a poor World Cup record with only 1 goal in nearly 800 minutes over three World Cups and I also agree that Gerrard, once unflappable and probably one of England’s best players never to win a league title, had a significant hand in both goals conceded last night. However I don’t think the blame for either loss against Italy or the latest one against Suarez can be laid squarely at their feet alone.
Roy Hodgson is the man to blame for me. Before the Cup England played a game against Honduras and couldn’t score. This in spite of the media applauding his selection of the most attack focused England team in decades. France opened their World Cup 2014 with a group match against the very same Honduras and put three goals away, not to mention 20 shots at goal, 10 on target!
Italy played 5 midfielders in the first game. Pirlo at his advancing age dominated proceedings, critically for England, the old man dominated Gerrard, in fact the whole Italian midfield dominated the game. Uruguay fielded 4 midfielders, England stuck with just two central mids despite the shortcomings against Italy.
For all his efforts in Liverpool colours this season, even Gerrard cannot prevent the effects of time on his legs. Henderson, his midfield partner isn’t good enough to play for England in my opinion but putting that aside, the field is too wide for these two to cover alone, especially when faced with the pace and prowess of Cavani and Suarez.
In my opinion old Roy missed the trick. He should have filled the midfield with more bodies, closing the space where the fast and skillful players run at defenders like Jagielka, who is probably the slowest player at the WC.
Both Johnson and Baines spend more time in the other half on the overlap then they spend defending, leaving just the old man Gerrard, the overrated Henderson, old no-legs Jagielka and Cahill to protect Joe Hart. The perfect recipe for failure.
Add to this mix, Sterling out of his depth and Muslera, the Uruguay keeper, having a blinder and pretty soon all the players are faced with the same question the next morning: “Beef or chicken?”
England dominated possession 62/38 but only managed 2 more shots on target (8:6) and three more in total than Uruguay (13:10). How is it possible to only get 13 shots on goal with 56 minutes of possession?
With the clock showing 64min Sterling was put out of his misery and withdrawn. His replacement, the future star of English football, Barkley entered. Barkley is a gifted attacking player, like Sterling. Young like Sterling but more physical, far bigger stature and, for my money, a better player, more complete if you prefer. Both are talented but for me Sterling just didn’t add anything in either game.
With the game lost and the drinks order being collected, Hodgson decided to throw poor Ricky Lambert into the misery he had created. With no time to have any impact he might as well have left Henderson on for the final three minutes.
I believe a radical rethink was needed after a spirited loss to Italy. England may have played well in that game but tactically the line up is flawed when you have three strikers and a winger, 2 wingbacks and 2 defensive mids. There’s no balance in a line up like that, not to mention the amount of players asked to perform at the highest level outside their regular positions.
Personally I don’t think Joe Hart is in the best form of his life but here is the formation I would have played, luckily we’ll never know if I would achieve more success.
Johnson Jones Cahill Baines
Oxlade-Chamberlain Lampard Gerrard Milner
If needed I would sub Sterling for Oxlade, Smalling for Jones, Barkley for Rooney.
Agree? Don’t agree? Leave your opinions and comments below.
Images: Google Image search / Sky Sports / BBC Sport