England 1-2 Germany – 1 step forward and 2 steps back

Get all the updates on the latest England-Germany match here.

If England continue their progress at this rate, we will lose in Russia and crash out of the Euro 2008 qualifiers (as opposed to going out in the quarter-finals of the actual event).

I say this because with 7-8 first-choice players starting for England, at home, the team lost to a German side with a weakened midfield and enough injuries to make you want to point and laugh.

Scoring chances? Yea, created them, missed them (Dyer and Owen, take a bow). But I don’t think the team should be criticised in that respect – Owen is rusty and by the time the qualifiers come around, he’d have a few more games under his belt with Newcastle United and would take the sort of chances that he got against Lehmann yesterday. Smith and Dyer won’t get to play in the qualifiers unless there is a severe injury crisis, so their efforts (or lack thereof) can be disregarded.

Player Ratings

Paul Robinson: At fault for ‘that’ goal, but in reality it was a series of errors that led to that goal, including poor defensive cover that allowed the first shot to come in from midfield, which Robinson blocked but didn’t catch, and then Nicky Shorey’s clearance that didn’t go out into touch but fell to Bernd Schneider, who was at that point open to run down the flank and cross (where was Joe Cole and why hadn’t he tracked back?).

Robinson will come under criticism the most, but the whole team was at fault there, especially the midfield (wait till I get to Carrick). Should Robinson be replaced? If memory serves me correctly, James was dropped precisely because he made gaffes like these. On TV the idiot commentator said that James was a better keeper than Robinson – I’d point to Jamo’s mistakes as England goalie and the fact that he has an excellent defensive line ahead of him at Pompey to help with his clean sheets as counter-evidence.

Carson should have come on instead of James – blood the future instead of the past, you know what I mean?

Micah Richards: Fantastic game, but really, why was he moved away from right-back? He was troubling Pander and would have created a few more chances from the right flank if he had stayed in his place. Brown is a fine right-back but doesn’t have the dynamism of Richards.

John Terry and Rio Ferdinand: I think Terry should have done a bit more in marshalling the midfield in front of him, but otherwise he did fine. Not convinced with the decision to take off Rio, but if you’re going to do that then give Brown a central defensive role or give Taylor a run-out, why compromise your attacking threat on the right flank?

Nicky Shorey: Fair performance and looked decent going forward. He’s an able deputy for A Cole and W Bridge and at least we have that position secure, eh?

David Beckham: Came into central midfield too often for my liking – he doesn’t have to station himself right on the touchline but by staying forward AND wide his mere presence would have troubled Germany more. Looked good in the first 20 minutes but then as England faded and Becks started wading into central midfield to help out, got out of the game.

And he didn’t look too convincing with his crossing, corners or free kicks (ok, a couple of them were great).

Frank Lampard: Good display by him and a well-taken goal. He missed an easy scoring chance but apart from that the only complaint I had was that he didn’t take the lead in midfield and sort out the problems England were facing.

Michael Carrick: Worst player on the pitch yesterday, even worse than Dyer and Smith because his poor positioning cost England two goals. I am a BIG fan of Carrick, and I still think that he deserves to play for England, but what he did yesterday was inexcusable.

Part of the blame should probably go to McClaren here, but as a player if you see that your side are giving too much space in midfield to the opposition, what are you going to do? Well, if you’re a central midfielder who has played the defensive mid role for his clubs in the past, then you’re expected to take the lead, sit back and anchor the midfield. Carrick is experienced enough to know what to do in these situations. Someone (Lampard, Beckham, Terry, Rio) should have talked to him during the game and you could see Beckham going in to cover, but as far as the shape of England’s midfield was concerned they were terrible, and a big reason for that was Carrick’s positioning.

I’ve seen him do better, and I know he can be much, much better. Mate, get your act sorted out, and most importantly, make sure you know where you are supposed to be playing on the pitch in different situations (club v country). Take some initiative, dammit!

Joe Cole: Cuts in far too much for my taste – SWP did a better job in the limited time he had on the pitch, mainly because he went wide and forced the defense to open up. Joe Cole can beat a man with his pace and ability as well (if not better than) as SWP, but it’s harder to do in a crowded part of the pitch, where JC usually is.

Alan Smith: I understand Jermain Defoe is ‘similar’ to Michael Owen and all that, but this was a game where Defoe should have gotten 90 minutes, especially considering that Alan Smith will never be an adequate emergency striker replacement for England. Pointless appearance – sorry Smudger, we love you but the team always comes first, remember?

Michael Owen: Should harry defenders more when they have the ball, but apart from that all he needs to do now is play as much as possible for Newcastle and hopefully get a couple of goals for them. Him and Crouch will be England’s main strikers against Russia in the toughest game left in the qualifiers, and we need him to be on his top game there.

David James (sub): Why is Jamo in the squad? As a backup keeper? He’ll be out by the next year, and it’s high time that someone younger was tried in England goal, and Carson has been around for a long time, so why not give him 45 minutes? Pointless, backwards, pointless and backwards. James is a good keeper – nothing personal against him, but he’s as good (or bad) as Robinson and I’d rather have someone new come in than bring in the old guard to repeat the same mistakes. At least give them a chance, ya know?

Wes Brown (sub): Didn’t do too shabbily, but shouldn’t have played at right-back, because it killed the attacking verve we had on the right flank.

Peter Crouch (sub): Perhaps brought on with the Russia qualifier in mind, so not much to say against him but he didn’t do much, mind you.

Kieron Dyer (sub): More ‘experience’? Just giving the old boys one last chance? Dyer created a couple of good chances but when you’re playing a support striker on the left flank (Joe Cole), Dyer’s selection makes little sense, especially since Defoe stayed on the bench all of 90 minutes.

Shaun Wright-Phillips (sub): Best of the subs, gave England real width and pace on the left flank (despite being right-footed). If Lennon is not fit in time for Russia, I’d give Downing and SWP as much chance as possible in that game.

Gareth Barry (sub): By the time he came on Germany were content to sit back and soak in the pressure and the game had gotten a lot more open so he didn’t have much ‘sitting back’ to do. This would have given him good exposure with the squad but if he wants to play for England regularly he needs to either pick a different position than central midfield or become the sort of midfielder that England lack (a combination of Hargreaves and Carrick – passing, tacking, discipline to sit back AND good going forward). Barry has all those abilities, but he needs to sharpen them and turn things up a few notches.

Tactics & McClaren Watch

Time to bring in Jurgen Klinsmann and ditch McClaren? Might make us more disciplined and definitely more aware tactically during the game. It’s not happening until we crash out of the qualifiers or the Euro 2008 itself though.

England vs Germany Preview

England are due to play Germany at Wembley on Wednesday, 22nd August.

Darren Bent, Owen Hargreaves and Steven Gerrard are out of the England vs Germany friendly on Wednesday, despite all 3 players playing full games on the weekend for their respective clubs.

Steve McClaren announced the squad for the friendly on Friday with the emphasis on morale-building and getting all the players together in view of the Euro 2008 qualifiers, even if those players are currently injured and not up for a role at Wembley.

Having said that, it’s interesting to note that Gary Neville and Ben Foster are not in the squad – now seeing that the other injured players were called up, I would have assumed that those two would be included as well but McClaren preferred to call up James and Campbell instead (Campbell has withdrawn since then as his injury hasn’t cleared up yet).

England squad for 22nd:

Goalkeepers: Robinson (Tottenham), James (Portsmouth), Carson (Liverpool, on loan at Aston Villa).
Defenders: Richards (Manchester City), Brown (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Taylor (Newcastle), Neville (Everton), Shorey (Reading).
Midfielders: Beckham (LA Galaxy), Lampard (Chelsea), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Carrick (Manchester United), Barry (Aston Villa), Downing (Middlesbrough), Dyer (West Ham).
Strikers: Smith (Newcastle), Owen (Newcastle), Crouch (Liverpool), Johnson (Everton), Defoe (Tottenham).

Good to see Taylor graduate from the Under-21 and B squads and win a place in the senior squad, even if it is just a friendly. Hopefully he’ll get playing time against Germany, although seeing how life is tough for England and how we’re preparing for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, he’s unlikely to get much of a chance.

And with Micah Richards giving a man-of-the-match performance on the weekend there’s a good chance that Taylor will not get much out of the game, in anything at all.

Owen and Terry are unlikely to play, and with Crouch suspended for the Israel game I doubt that he’ll start either.

I’d expect Robinson and Carson to get a runout (can’t see James getting a go, he’s most likely there as backup in case someone gets injured between now and September. Richards, Rio, Ashley Cole, Shorey and Brown should all get time on the pitch. Neville is in there as backup and Taylor as well, although Phil could get time seeing that Ashley Cole and Richards are the only ‘first-choice’ fullbacks that are fit.

In midfield, Lamps and Carrick should start, with SWP on the right and Joe Cole on the left. Becks, Downing and Barry will get time on the pitch and we might even see Smith popping up in midfield (although I don’t see the point of that). Don’t understand why Dyer was picked ahead of Jenas, and I suppose that a move to Sunderland means you get dumped from the squad (Richardson), while being charged with assault means you don’t get picked at all (Barton).

Up front, Owen (or Johnson) and Defoe should start, assuming that McClaren will go with a 4-4-2, not sure why Ashton isn’t in there though.

Overall, a fair squad considering that England are building for the qualifiers and I completely understand the need for experience, but it’s not ‘experience’ we need, it’s the ability to win games. Becks brings that (his experience is worth squat if he can’t score free-kicks and provide killer passes), but I doubt that James brings that, and at this stage Phil Neville or Kieron Dyer don’t bring that either. I like Nev, but I’d rather see someone younger take his spot permanently in the squad now.

Hopefully I’ll get to watch this game and then we can all sit around and make fun of McClaren again. On a serious note, here’s to a home win – we need it.

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