This article refers to a previous game. Read the latest England v Holland news here.
England were frustratingly pedestrian, and the only thing that changed from Croatia was the formation (a 4-5-1 instead of a 4-3-3 that people think we played) and the return of Joe Cole to the side.
Reading the news this morning, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Dutch had an absolutely horrible match and that England were unlucky to get a draw.
It’s almost as if after the roasting McClaren has gotten from the media recently, the FA had paid off the journalists to write positive reviews.
The reality was that England suffered in this game from being negative and defensive – and it’s a problem they’ve had since forever. Marco van Basten’s side had width, pace and aggression – all this despite having a markedly weaker team. There was no Sneider, no de Jong, no Nistelrooy, no van Persie.
It was as if Chelsea had traveled to the Reebok to face an overly-aggressive Bolton side and were being cheered for a shoddy performance.
or lack thereof.
The fact that Holland spent most of the game camped in England’s half meant that on the break Cole, Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard had chances to create scoring opportunities, but they were few. England defended, defended, defended, and Holland dearly missed the guile of van Persie and the experience of van Nistelrooy.
England started with a 4-4-2 that quickly turned into a 4-3-3 with Cole pushing forward, but in reality this was a 4-1-2-3, which in turn became a 4-6 as Johnson and Cole were stranded on the half-way line and Rooney continuously had to come back deep into England’s half to get the ball.
The goal (video below) allowed England to relax, but for all their superior talent, they did nothing to suggest that the mistakes of Croatia had been rectified.
Holland suffered from missing key personnel (England only missed Neville and Lennon), and if you see the Rooney goal in replay you’ll see that Edwin van der Sar, who sat out of this game, would have easily come forward and dealt with the cross.
What worries me is England’s lack of offense – England had 3-6 players in midfield at any time, Holland had 3, and Seedorf dominated with impunity. Seedorf, Robben and van der Vaart were easily the best players on the pitch from both sides, although Micah Richards, Rooney and Joe Cole deserve mentions as well.
England are third in their Euro 2008 qualifiers, and things still need to improve drastically for us to qualify for Switzerland and Austria.
Why was Crouch not played if England were playing 4-5-1? What’s the point of playing Johnson if you can’t play 4-4-2?
England had no width, Holland had all the width and as a result we were always on the defensive. McClaren should have seen that coming and countered it. To be fair, he did counter it, but the result was an overly-negative England.
Macca’s seen Rooney play at Old Trafford, so he knows that the only way to get the best out of him is to surround him with a talented pair of wingers. Cole will do in a pinch but Johnson and Gerrard are no wingers. England missed Lennon, and would have benefited from starting SWP and Crouch instead of Johnson and one of Gerrard and Lampard.
At full strength, England have one midfielder too many, and Macca doesn’t know how to deal with it. Lennon, Cole, Rooney + one of Crouch / Owen / Defoe / Ashton / Johnson are fine, although my money would be on Owen and Crouch. That leaves us with two midfield places, and one of them has to go to Hargreaves.
Who gets the axe?
Paul Robinson: A solid performance from the Tottenham keeper – he could be blamed for Holland’s goal but that was a collective mistake from the defence, not just him.
Micah Richards: Good, strong debut. Had to mark Arjen Robben and it is a testament to his talent and temperament that he was only beaten 3-4 times by the Dutch winger in 90 minutes (although one of those incidents left him with his back to Robben, off-balance and ultimately on the ground in the penalty area as Robben jinked and forced a save from Robinson). Should be a summer target for the top clubs, with both Chelsea and Manchester United looked for talented right-backs (although United have Wes Brown and Bardsley as backup to Neville).
Rio Ferdinand: For all his detractors, Rio hardly puts a foot wrong in crunch situations, and if you consider the amount of time England spent on the backfoot in this game, it was a fine performance from Ferdinand and co. to keep it down to one goal.
John Terry: Played ok, the leadership qualities that he shows at Chelsea are missing from his England displays. Handled Kuyt well.
Ashley Cole: Had a decent game, along with Micah was under orders not to attack too much and spent much of his time messing with Kuyt and van der Vaart.
Steven Gerrard: Is not at his best, and missed a plum one-on-one that he’d created for himself and instead of chipping or going around the keeper, decided to try bouncing the ball back off his legs. At least that’s what I think he was doing, because if that’s an attempt at goal then Stevie needs help. Anonymous in the tackling department too, and while England were playing both him and Lamps in midfield, Holland were able to dominate the centre of the park.
Frank Lampard: Is willing to track back and defend, and is good when going forward but England lacked the aggressiveness to make full use of him, and he gave the ball away a bit too much in midfield. Along with Gerrard, looked hapless against the Dutch midfield.
Michael Carrick: There’s a strong temptation to brand him as very poor – but he got no defensive support from Gerrard or Lampard, and to be honest Carrick still looks a bit over-awed on the international stage. There were several times when he should have slid in and tackled but he didnt, and playing him in the quarter-back role is only going to work if someone from defence (Ferdinand) or midfield (Gerrard) balances his skills. At United, Vidic, Ferdinand, Scholes and Rooney work with Carrick. In England, he had only Rooney because England were constantly on the backfoot and Kuyt, Robben and van der Vaart kept the back four very busy.
Joe Cole: The only midfield player to come out of the game with any credit, and that too because he showed a willingness to move freely across the park. Gem of a cross that led to Rooney’s goal. He is not a winger but that will matter little with the goal threat that he provides.
Andrew Johnson: A defensive England doesn’t play to Johnson’s strengths, and he was misused on the flanks. For my money he should have been played the full 90 minutes, because playing Richardson made little sense, even if Cole was not fully fit.
Wayne Rooney: The sight of Rooney tracking back and bringing the ball out of midfield is not rare, but for him to do so alongside Terry and Carrick outside England’s penalty area is disturbing. With Johnson misused, Crouch would have been better foil for Rooney, but as it was, Rooney was required to play a lone hand in attack (and in midfield). For once, he managed to score in such a situation, but the pressure on Rooney to rescue England is too great, especially when England play this way.
Shawn-Wright Phillips (sub): Needs a strong run in the side to be effective, although with his pace and width he should have been a natural choice for the 4-5-1 joke that McClaren played.
Kieran Richardson (sub): I like the kid, but what was he doing there? Crouch should have come on instead, and helped England score a 2nd goal. Not Richardson’s fault though.