Post Theo attack…
We continue our series on the Rumble at Rustenburg looking at the players in the England attack and how the States neutralizes them.
Part III, England’s Offense and Neutralization
* Wayne Rooney by GeorgeCross
Rooney’s all-round game is getting better and better – he’s not playing like a traditional No. 10 or even a traditional No. 9, he’s like a hybrid of the two, which is what I meant by calling him a “No. 9 ½” . His touch, vision, link-up play and movement are going to cause a lot of problems for the USA.
Who picks him up as he comes deep to look for the ball and also who tracks his runs into space created by Walcott, Heskey and Gerrard? I don’t think the USA has a player who is intelligent enough to man-mark Rooney out of the game to make him ineffective. I also do not feel that the USA possesses a player who is good enough to stop Rooney without drawing fouls and cards, which could be a very important factor.
Rooney is playing in a similar role for Manchester United as he does for England, which is only good for England. Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello have Rooney playing more centrally and also more in that ‘pocket’ between the opponent’s back four and midfield, and both are reaping rewards with his phenomenal goal scoring.
“How the hell do you stop Wayne Rooney?”
Stopping him may not be, possible, but minimizing his influence is a key. This is all about the defensive efforts by the midfielders out in front of the US back four. Rooney starts from this space, Gerrard likes to cut inside, and Fat Frank likes to arrive here late. How do we defend this space? Do we hold a higher defensive line and give Rooney/Gerrard space to run into or does the US sit deeper and concede space in the areas where Fat Frank always fancies a shot?
Maintaining good spacing between the central defenders is a key.
Don’t show Rooney a route through the heart of your defense – make him beat you with something special. If the English attack is coming from the right flank, DeMerit must stay close to Onyewu and trust Spector to get to the far post. Rooney, in his false-9 role, excels at finding space between the two center backs whenever the defense is stretched.
For this reason, I think Edu needs to be ready to drop in between the center-backs as an auxiliary central defender when the CB’s are stretched by runs into the inside channel or on the counter-attack. This isn’t a man marking job as much as occupying the space Wayne Rooney wants to run into and being ready to step out if the ball comes back out to Lampard in a shooting position.
* Frank Lampard by GeorgeCross
Lampard is a great asset to England as he really is a goal scoring midfielder, who regularly scores for both club and country. Lampard has this great sense of timing and positioning in the final third which makes it difficult to pick him up. Plus, I feel with Walcott running at Bocanegra, that’s a penalty waiting to happen, and Lampard doesn’t miss too many.
Michael Bradley must pay careful attention to Lampard….
…..as he looks to time his arrival in the area at the top of the box.
Two very different approach in central midfield for the teams. The US will field two destructive players at the base of midfield with the creative attacking play coming from wider areas. It will be an interesting battle in the center of the park because the US plays a high pressing game with which England don’t always cope well. US must avoid the middle of the park in the attack where Capello’s system should yield a numerical advantage against our usual 4-4-2-based systems. The US tends to bypass central midfield in attack anyways, so this should not play to their natural tendencies. The US must deploy an attacking midfield player (Donovan or Dempsey) to pressure Frank Lampard and deny him the time and space he needs to create.
* Steven Gerrard by George Cross
Gerrard doesn’t possess Walcott’s pace so his threat isn’t a mirror image on the left hand side. But we know that Capello likes to play Gerrard on the left because of his ability to cut in (Fig. 6) and shoot or dovetail with Rooney. By cutting in, he is giving Cole** plenty of opportunity to attack the space in behind Spector (green shaded area) and provide an outlet to get behind the USA’s back four to drill the ball across the six yard box. Gerrard’s makes great runs and his goal vs. USA last year as an excellent example of “3rd man running” – he lost his man from wide and the centre backs didn’t know what to do and nobody tracked him.
**If Cole isn’t fit, it is still an issue but not in the same magnitude as the drop off from Cole to whoever is massive.
Without a fit Cole to provide the threat of the overlap up the left touchline and create space in the inside channel, does Gerrard have another indifferent display for England?
This would allow Spector to tuck in conceding space for the right-footed Gerrard in the outside left channel and the central defenders to move across more quickly. The challenge on the left will occur when Rooney runs into the outside left channel, pulling Spector wide and creating space for Gerrard in the inside channel. Bradley . He is capable of covering the ground neccessary.
As of writing this, Capello revealed that Gerrard’s spot may be under threat, saying “a lot depends on what kind of form they’re in” when asked to address the question of whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together.
I think a defensive mid would have to track a run by Gerrard into the inside channel if Cole was on the overlap, opening space for Lampard’s arrival.
* Emile Heskey by GeorgeCross
Even though Heskey’s goals-to-game ratio is very unimpressive, what he brings to England’s offense is immense. His hold-up play and strength cannot be ignored. But what is most important is Heskey’s movement and interaction, because he creates space for Rooney and Gerrard to exploit. So, if Heskey comes short (to receive the ball to feet), then DeMerit has to go with him leaving space behind (same happens on the other side if Heskey drops off towards England’s right). Even though DeMerit is not the fastest defender, I do not feel Heskey is quick enough to be able to come short and ‘spin’ DeMerit.
The other important part to Heskey’s game that does not get the credit it deserves is the fact that he is not static in the box. This is important for England’s team play because it enables Gerrard and Lampard to attack the space that Heskey has vacated. I feel that this is the main reason why Peter Crouch does not start even though he has a fantastic scoring record in an England shirt.
(My apologies in advance that I had a chance to read GeorgeCross’s responses before mine as Tuesday did not…in fact I had not asked them to debate…)
In regards to England employing a holding striker, I feel the US would be dodging a bullet. It seems pretty clear by now that Fabio Capello will employ speed on the wings in the USMNT’s vulnerability. Will Defoe make an appearance for the Three Lions in the starting line-up. This would be wise if you are Capello.
While the common thinking is to bring on the speedy striker when legs are tiring, the Yanks–especially Jay DeMerit–are capable of coming up very aggressively off their line to attack a ball handler. A simply slipped pass to Defoe could present a whole world of trouble for the Yanks with none of their defenders having the best make-up speed.
That said, Capello will likely employ a Heskey or a Crouch and that would be a mistake. Either of these players will have their back to the goal and run up against a defender who has an attribute to stifle their game (DeMerit, grit and workmanship; Gooch, physicality, and Boca, technical ability). Further, their presence would actually clog the game in the middle, something the US deals very well with. So long as the US funnels to the middle and stands up the holding players, it will be a good day.
Of the two I am actually more fearful of Peter Crouch who has a tendency to drift far upfield into open spaces if he’s not getting service and layoff great switch-field passes.
We’re nearing the home stretch….Part IV tomorrow….