Saturday, 31 May 2014

What did Roy learn last night? And the Rooney conundrum.

I'd suggest that Roy will be reasonably happy with his teams last run out at Wembley before they fly off for their hot weather training camp in Miami. His side were given a good send off by a large crowd, who were seemingly understanding at the lack of intensity displayed by a comfortable England.

The main thing (along with working on formation and shape) from these warm up matches is that we come through unscathed, with no injuries, particularly to key players. And, other than a reckless early challenge on Gerrard that had us all wincing, it was a thankfully routine evening. With Jagielka and Rooney returning from injuries, they got much needed minutes, though there is clearly a way to go until they're up to speed.

It took a while to make a break through against an organised and fairly deep Peruvian defensive unit, with early periods of the game seeing our opponents dominating possession. From this point of view it was a decent exercise, as undoubtedly the Italians will set up similarly, although clearly they will have far more penetration going forward. We seem to have learnt that the International game requires patience (maybe through Capello in fairness to the odious disciplinarian), that we haven't always got the ability to impose ourselves for fear of leaving gaps.
However, once we had opened the scoring, the game did open up and it looked like it would be a question of how many (although it didn't quite pan out that way)?
And what an opening goal it was too. Sturridge showing real class to caress the ball across the keeper into the top corner from outside the box. Great to see him bring his club form through to the England stage. I for one have been critical of Sturridge's commitment to the England cause in the past. Too many times has he pulled out of squads with minor knocks just to be miraculously playing again a few days later for Liverpool. I know he's not alone, but that it was only his 6th start for his country, paints a picture. It appears that Roy is granting him his wish to play centrally through the middle as our most advanced player, and it's worth noting that his hold up play (and strength) has improved considerably. It's time for him to show us what he undoubtedly believes he can do at the top level.

With Sturridge becoming the central attacking figure, it leaves an interesting question mark over our talisman, Wayne Rooney? Where does he fit into the 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation that we will definitely play? He is not good enough at dropping deep into midfield, plus there would be better options in this role (Wilshere, The Ox). It's a waste of his talent seeing him playing deep in midfield, but that is basically what Roy is asking of him by starting Sturridge up front. Rooney's best ever form has come where he's been told to stay up top, and not under any circumstances come back. Playing for Manchester United in 2011-12 he scored 34 goals by doing so. He's an instinctive finisher with exemplary movement. The early days where he burst onto the scene with raw pace and a fearlessness have gone, replaced with a more rounded but nowhere near as effective individual, keen to work hard for the team at the expense of doing what he's best at.
There have been calls from many to see him benched. I'd argue that in this set up, with Sturridge as the focal point, this is not that ridiculous a call. We can't just crowbar players into a team. However, you can't overlook a player who has scored 38 goals for his country, only 11 strikes off being our top scorer of all time at the age of 28. With 7 goals in 8 games during qualifying (easily our top scorer) you just can't leave him out in my opinion. I'd have him playing through the middle and Sturridge on the left instead of Welbeck. If you drop Rooney but play Welbeck, then frankly you are mad.
We all know Rooney's struggles for fitness and form in previous tournaments, and it genuinely seems from his comments and attitude (see his training videos from his family holiday) that he is desperate to finally make the impression he is capable on the biggest stage of all this summer. The only way he can do that is for him to lead the line, score goals, and not trudge around in the centre circle while we're attacking.

I argued in my previous blog that Baines isn't of the class we need at the World Cup. Nothing I saw, admittedly in a warm up friendly against Peru, last night tells me otherwise. The main reason he's in the team is because of his set play deliveries, and time and again he failed to put dangerous balls into the box. Throughout the Euro's and qualifying, we've had Gerrard taking these kicks and so many times they've led to goals, and now we just hand that over to Baines? Not for me. I know we eventually did score from a Baines corner, but he just hit an area and Cahill did remarkably well to connect.
I'd like to see Luke Shaw get a start in the next game, assuming he recovers from his 'head cold' (move to Manchester United).

Glen Johnson is a player I like. He was brilliant in the Euro's (our best player with Terry and Gerrard in my opinion) and has generally been a good player for England for years. Last night he looked lethargic, flat footed and like he could make a mistake at any moment. His touch was poor on many occasions and against a better team he'd have been punished.
It doesn't help that he is nailed on to start. I think the lack of competition has led to him being far too relaxed about his position. He needs a kick up the arse over the next fortnight.

Jack Wilshere looked lively when he arrived. I was a little surprised (as was Glenn Hoddle) not to see him starting. As an exercise to get vital minutes on his return from injury, it would have been perfect. Roy is clearly preserving him though and I still expect him to start against Italy.

Joe Hart proved once again what a great keeper he is by making a couple of crucial saves in the first half. One with his foot after Baines got caught up field, and another as he back peddled to scoop away a wicked deflection that looked like it was looping over him. If he picks up an injury in the coming weeks, frankly we've no chance.

Just a quick word on the ITV coverage. I for one never watch the build up, half time, nor post match analysis (not that I do on BBC or Sky). However, Adrian Chiles is deeply unlikeable and downright boring, and Andy O'Townsend has the potential to ruin the World Cup for me. How is someone who offers so little in the way of tactical knowledge and basics of the English language in such a position? He's like a walking cliche.

So, the team jets off to Miami hoping to experience conditions not unlike Manaus where they open their World Cup account in 2 weeks time.  Next up is another friendly against fellow qualifiers Ecuador on Wednesday.

What did you think of the match? Do you think that team is what we're looking at to start v Italy? What changes would you make? Rooney or Sturridge? Or both?
Please leave comments below, or contact me via Twitter @russellheaps

1 comment:

  1. I agree it's worth starting the tournament with Rooney. As you said, all the signs are that he appears taking this tournament more seriously in terms of attitude and fitness. He is also fully fit for a change. However, Rooney should recognise that for the first time in his England career he is actually fighting for his place in the team. Goals in qualifiers mean little now. I honestly think it's a gamble putting all our faith in a lone striker who has scored one goal (a tap-in from 3 inches in 2012) in major tournaments since 2004 in favour of a striker in red-hot form. I'd play him off Sturridge personally.