England 3-1 Mexico

Posted: May 25, 2010 in England
Tags: , , , , , ,

This isn’t going to be an England blog, by the way. It’s just that nothing really happens for another 16 days or so, and I won’t pretend to be the sort of site where you can find all the latest news (Lassana Diarra out of the World Cup, Cambiasso and Zanetti being overlooked for Argentina). Like I have time for that sort of caper. The whole point is that I will enjoy the World Cup (it’s uncomfortable to abbreviate that to WC) from the perspective of other teams’ fans, not just England. But for the time being, it’s only natural that this will be a little Three Lions-centric.

Really enjoyed my first experience of going to Wembley to watch an England game. No pressure at all, just soak it up in the sunshine and not worry about the horrors of your team losing. It was a bit weird. For starters, when England scored it was sorta hard to celebrate any more than when I pop down to Underhill to see Barnet win (they only ever win when I’m there. This is why they only won 10 games or so last season) ie you’re pleased but you’re not ecstatic. Especially when it’s a friendly, and especially when England are basically getting schooled.

Ah, England. “Don’t read too much into warm-ups” a friend wisely told me today. The trouble is, it’s quite hard not to read too much into warm-ups when the offering on show is quite alarming. Granted England won 3-1 but for 45 minutes there they got what is known in the footballing industry as “a dicking”. Sure, they were a different force in the second half, presumably due to the tactical reshuffle of swapping Gerrard into the centre at Milner’s expense, and also presumably due to a bit of a bollocking by Capello. But that first half illustrated why England only have the slimmest of chances in Soufafrica; namely that international also-rans (by which I mean; non-elite teams – I just can’t think of a non-condescending way to describe it) keep the ball better than we do and generally look better. Are better? Hmm.

Sure, if we get outplayed in all three group stage games and win 3-1, who’s going to give one? Not me, that’s for sure. Unfortunately teams with better strikers than Carlos Vela will stick those chances away and generally butcher us.Teams we could expect to meet from Round 2 onwards.

I think Capello will be reasonably happy though, although perhaps not for the reasons he wanted to be: namely that he can start to rule out a few players from the final 23, announced June 1st after the friendly against Japan on Sunday. It’s just a shame that the England squad of 30 can basically be boiled down into four categories, “not good enough”, “ok”, “good”, and “Rooney”.

Here is how I would put the first 3 of those divisions:

GOOD: Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Lennon, Crouch (fucking love Crouchie), Barry

OK: Glen Johnson, Milner, Heskey (I’d still start him though), Green, James, King (fitness…), Upson, Walcott, Wright-Phillips, Joe Cole (fitness), Defoe, Carragher.

NOT GOOD: Baines, Carrick

Players like Adam Johnson, Joe Hart and Michael Dawson I’ve left out on the basis that we don’t really know, but it’s safe to assume they’re no better than “ok”.

My point here is that to my eyes, we have, at best, 9 “good” players. Only one of whom, Rooney, is actually likely to put the fear of god into anyone outside of the group stages. The rest are a mixture of bluster, muscle and pace without any of the necessary skills/attributes to join the “good” players.

My other point is that Baines was fucking awful last night and should probably be jettisoned on the basis of that one performance, and that you might as well take me to the World Cup over Michael Carrick. Sure, I’m one of the worst footballers you’re ever likely to see with a turning circle equivalent to the QE2, but still.

I just don’t understand what Carrick actually does. I mean, I could quite happily jog in space in front of a back four for 90 minutes (well, 10), caressing the ball from full-back to full-back, then merrily jogging after it to do it again. What I can’t do is force the pace of the game, make progressive passes, tackle, dribble, run quickly, head the ball, get forward or anything that makes up an international midfielder. But neither, it seems, can Michael Carrick.Watching him play is like watching someone playing for the pass completion % on the old Opta stats. That’s not possession football, it’s fucking boring. Ditch now please.

Based on the large number of players who are still “unknown” in my book, there’s not much point me suggesting my final 23 just yet. I’ll do that after the Japan game to see how much me and Fabio think alike. But for Christ’s sake I hope Carrick’s not involved. Baines; I have some sympathy because he was exposed enormously in the first half which reflects almost as badly on Gerrard as it does on him – when Milner moved into left-midfield Baines had more cover and looked more comfortable. But last night was a big opportunity for him (expect Warnock to start against Japan) and he fucked it up.

Incidentally, I thought Walcott had a good game last night. No-one agrees with me. To be fair to everyone else, Lennon’s short contribution showed guile, awareness and control that Walcott was lacking – but then Lennon is a good couple of years on in his development than Theo and has refined his game accordingly ie he doesn’t fuck up 75% of his crosses. I’d take both but if Lennon is getting his fitness back then it’s a no-contest who should start on the wing.

One final thing to emerge from last night: really, really hope Barry is going to be fit. As you can see from the pic, had a phenomenal vantage point from which to watch the game unfolding/passing England’s midfield by due to their lack of movement/awareness. I think we’ll miss him more than any other player.

Apart from Rooney.


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