Part III: 60 Days To The Rumble at Rustenburg

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

England’s Offense

Rooney: What *can't he do?

* 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.

Tuesday’s thoughts…

“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.

Edu's time policing the midfield at Ibrox--against ginormous opponents apparently--should make him ready...

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.


Tuesday’s Thoughts….

Michael Bradley must pay careful attention to Lampard….

… 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.

Tuesday’s Thoughts….

Who gets fit first, Cole or Davies?

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.

TSG’s Thoughts….

(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.

Crouch might have a bigger impact further up the pitch...

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….

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/04/12 at 7:08 PM

    I think this post is missing some of those fancy graphics…

    Anyway, I think all would agree that Jozy’s situation at Hull is a mirror image of Emile Heskey’s situation with England.

    And with that said, does anyone remember what striker role Jozy was playing during the qualifiers when he was scoring all of those goals? Was it Ching holding up the ball alongside him for most of the time? I have a bad memory…


    • The T&T hat-trick game saw him partnered with Ching up top. I think the El Salvador game (September one) was probably he and Davies, and the Costa Rica match saw him with the plodding mule that is Connor Casey.


  2. Posted by Gino on 2010/04/12 at 9:26 PM

    I hate to rain on everyone’s parade but I’m of the opinion that Spector starts at LB against England, like he pretty much has been doing the whole season for West Ham. This means Cherundolo would start at RB as he should because he and Spector are our two best fullbacks. I see very little sentiment on this or any other website but it seems to me to be a no-brainer. Bocanegra can start at LB against Algeria or Slovenia. As it is, I’m thinking he’ll start at CB against England because Gooch hasn’t even made the bench yet at AC Milan. Not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic.


    • Posted by Jim S on 2010/04/13 at 6:32 AM

      I think have spector at LB is not necessarily a bad idea for two reasons. First, as you stated, he already plays left back for west ham, and recently has been really settling into that role well for them. Despite not winning there last couple games, he’s been playing the strongest of all their defenders.
      Second, he plays in the epl and knows all the guys strengths and weaknesses for the english side. On the down side though, he has shown an ability to push up into the attack and mkae some excellent crosses, but if we put dempsey on the left with hime, he won’t be able to to make those runs since dempsey wouldn’t cover creating a massive challenge for the center backs. tough call, but definitely a good thought


      • Spector is much better crossing on his right foot so he’d only be making those Beckham-style crosses from deep as RB. Worth considering.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/14 at 7:30 AM

          How far is Holden from returning? His delivery is very good too. And as he’s further up the pitch, he can really put the ball in the danger area between the back four and bending away from the keeper. If he’s not in the side, I’d keep Spector at RB as Tuesday said.


    • I agree that Cherundolo and Spector are our best full backs but tactically I’m not so sure about this. If England field a true winger on the right, and they don’t really have many other options, one of the main things our RB will have to do is to tuck in and defend the far post against the cross as Gerrard/Rooney tries to get in the box and put his head on the ball. Does that sound like a job more suited to Spector or Cherundolo?

      As for the Gooch question – I’d rather see a fit Gooch paired with DeMerit in the middle and either Heath Pearce or Penalty Addict Jonathan Bornstein out at left back. The reality, however, is that if Boca is fit, he’ll probably start, despite being the least suitable option to deal with a winger like Walcott.

      “Bradley . He is capable of covering the ground neccessary.” should read “Bradley will have to track Gerrard into the channel. He is capable of covering the ground necessary.”


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/14 at 7:44 AM

        Another consideration to ponder:

        We have talked about the LB tucking in so the ball is played on the outside inviting the cross (rather than Walcott cutting inside) to the back stick, where RB needs to be strong positionally and aerially.

        But, what if Walcott makes the diagonal run to the by line between the 6 yard and 18 yard box and cuts back into the danger zone for late runners? Wouldn’t you want a Left Back who is able to cut out this threat too (without diving in naively)?


  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/12 at 9:41 PM

    You’re not raining Gino…I was going to throw this in before.

    I think BB is just crafty enough that he may do this in an attempt to “deceive” (I use the word lightly) Capello on his line-up.

    Spector at RB makes a lot of sense as he’s defended both Walcott and Lennon already.

    That said, I think there is a shot of it happenig, but the odds aren’t there yet.

    On challenge with Cherundolo is that he moves the ball slower than BB likes, lacks crossing power and sometimes loses shape.

    Oh and it’s an opinion Gino and a well thought out one…not pessimism.


  4. Gino, great comment. And I like the Dolo-JD-Boca-Specs d-line if Gooch isn’t available. Hadn’t considered it really , but it makes a lot of sense.


  5. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/13 at 5:57 AM

    Every time I have seen WHU this season, Spector has been at right back?


  6. Posted by Jim S on 2010/04/13 at 6:46 AM

    Well written analysis guys, it’s great to see all the different ideas. George, I agree with starting the game that way, but i think come the second half England would be smart to deploy Crouch becuase it would change things up on the US defense and create problems. Such as, you previously mentioned that rooney has become very effective sitting back between the central back and midfielders, but at the same time as tuesday mentioned. Both Edu and Bradley (if they work together) could offer the assistance needed to sit back and keep rooney”mostly” at bay, and since we primarily do attack downt he flanks and bypass the central mid this doesn’t change our play, hence not being as effective as possible once walcott has slowed down a bit. When I refer to slowing down, I’m not just referring to speed, but as most sprinters know, quick bursts speed wear your muscles differently. As you legs and hips grow tired, you really have to concentrate on turning you hips square for crosses, causing more errant and/or less accurate balls. This forces most plays to send more lobbing crosses which Heskey, nor Rooney if Heskey clears space for him, would have a chance at against demerit or gooch. So put in Crouch and push Rooney up a bit to create spaces, giving crouch them space to run into the high lofty crosses creates more problems for the central defenders and would force the US defense to site further back and rely on a super fast counter attack. If the US is lucky enough to have CD9 back in form it at least gives us half a chance, but without speed, the English defense will have an easy time defending the “kcik and run” counter. But i definitely agree with starting heskey. I think Rooney definitely benefits from his ability to create spaces.


  7. Posted by Gino on 2010/04/13 at 9:25 AM

    BTW, hats off to George and Tuesday. This is why TSG is the first place I go now when I log onto my computer. It’s great to read such intelligent content, and not just from the writers but from the posting community as well. I really hope this site continues and grows long after the World Cup is over.


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