So, the first couple of matches have been played and England top group B; but it’s hardly been convincing. Our first two games have been against teams who we should be putting away every day of the week. We drew against Russia and scraped past against Wales in the last minute.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been impressed with our performances in both these matches. We had around 70% possession in both games and were by far and away the better team. Having said this, if it weren’t for Sturridge saving the day against Wales, we’d have only scored one goal in each game. You can’t expect to win matches with a solitary goal, and to be honest, we should be expecting comfortable, even convincing wins against the likes of Russia and Wales if we want to compete with the big boys. Despite our dominance we weren’t good enough where it mattered – in the final third.
Roy Hodson is a bit of a dinosaur I’m afraid to say, and somewhat conservative in his approach to football. He likes to line his teams up so that they are hard to break down. As a manager, he’s at his best when he is an underdog and has a hard working team who are solid and can grind out results.The England squad, however, is not that. Yes we’re hard working, but we are better on the front foot. You give this team the freedom to be flexible and express themselves, and you’ll get the best results. Players like Rashford, Sturridge, Vardy, Lallana, Barkley, Sterling,Wilshere and Alli are best when they’re allowed to be dynamic and creative. My plea to Roy is let them do it. Be brave. We don’t need to worry about Slovakia’s team, we should not pick our team to try and dilute their threat, they will be picking their team to try and stop us.
Following on from this I would line my team up against Slovakia like this:
The back five pick themselves. Despite Hart’s mistake against Wales, he’s still one of the top five keepers in the world for me.
In front of the back five I’ve gone for a diamond with two up front. I went for this system over a 4-3-3 because I think it will be more potent. Yes, a striker has to miss out, but for me that’s preferable to two strikers doing a job on the wing. As for the width, our two fantastic full-backs can give us that.
There shouldn’t be any surprises about the four in midfield, with Lallana having played well enough so far to keep Wilshere out of the team. Though I do think Alli has to be more impressive against Slovakia if he wants to keep his place with the aforementioned and Barkley snapping at his heels.
Up top is where Roy has to be brave. Personally, I think Kane has been pretty poor so far. I don’t remember him having a single chance in the two games he’s started. He’s looked tired and hasn’t been moving well for me. From what I’ve seen he’s stood still a lot, has;t made any runs and hasn’t been causing defenders any problems at all.
As for Raheem Sterling, well I think he’s the main reason we’ve been missing a cutting edge in the final third. He’s a good player in the middle of the park when he can skip past a couple of players like they’re not there. As soon as he’s near the box however, he looks like a headless chicken doing a ballerina impression. He never looks up, and has absolutely no awareness of where anybody is in the box. If he does miraculously look up and identify a player, his final ball is inevitably dross. If he ever gets a chance six yards out as he did against Wales: high and wide.
Roy was forced to bring Kane and Sterling off at half time against Wales out of desperation. As he himself admitted in the post-match interview, he was slightly forced into it because of the score-line and our worrying lack of potency.
Though I’m tempted to start Rashford (as I was incredibly impressed when he came on on Thursday), I’d play Vardy ahead of him just because I feel like he only needs one chance and he’ll slot it. Not only this, but his speed and movement will stretch opposing defences as he will tirelessly run the channels. This in turn could create space down the middle for any number of players to take advantage of. However, I do think Rashford is a secret weapon that Roy could deploy at any time, particularly if Vardy becomes invisible, as he sometimes does.
As for Sturridge, he’s a proven goal scorer and a brilliant finisher. He changed the game when he came on against Wales, always looking like he would score at any minute. As for the goal, what a finish. On his wrong foot, with a defender on the floor in front of him with a goalie who seemingly had the near post covered. I thought the chance was gone, but how wrong I was. A must starter.
What do you think? You agree? Lemme know, cheers.