This is a guest post by TSG writer “GeorgeCross.”
Preview: England vs. USA – 12th June 2010
During the warm-up games, England did not play their best football, but they did not play their best formation or personnel to get the best out of their key players. Much of this came out of necessity because of the question mark surrounding Barry’s fitness, which with Lampard, provides England with their best partnership at the base of midfield. There were also two spots up for grabs supposedly.
Unfortunately, Barry has been ruled out. Barry’s importance cannot be understated – Capello chose to take an unfit Barry over fully fit Huddlestone or Parker. I feel that this decision speaks volumes. Obviously England always knew that this would be a possible scenario for 12th June and they will clearly have worked on a contingency plan for Barry’s omission. I have been thinking about how we will solve this issue.
I did think about Capello tinkering with his formation / personnel on a grander scale, but the main thing is to separate Gerrard and Lampard, so that they are not in the same midfield band. To me that is crucial, and is why you won’t see them playing side-by-side. Otherwise, one will be asked to curb his natural instincts to go forward, which doesn’t make sense when you have a designated DM in Carrick. It’s been tried time and again and they just do not gel.
On Sky Sports, Sir Geoff has championed the idea of dropping Heskey, and playing Gerrard in his more favoured and arguably best position, just behind the main forward (Rooney). While I like this idea a lot, I cannot see England playing this way from the start because they haven’t really practiced with this enough in real game scenarios. Perhaps Capello doesn’t want to show his hand? I doubt it.
The most simple and obvious solution would be to have a like-for-like replacement in Carrick. As much as it doesn’t fill me with confidence because of his recent performances, he was after all, the chosen deputy for the defensive midfield role, ahead of Huddlestone and Parker. Milner was equally as unimpressive against Japan, if not more, so I see Capello going with Carrick and keeping everything else the same.
Rooney will be partnered up top with a big man – and I feel that will be Heskey, even though this game has Crouch’s heading ability written all over it. Even though Heskey’s scoring record in inferior, he can create so much space and opportunities for the likes of Rooney, Lennon, Gerrard and Lampard. The simple fact is that England is a superior team, keep possession better and score more goals with Heskey than with Crouch.
England will return to their tweaked 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation that served them so well during competitive games since Capello took over from McLaren. In light of the recent injuries, I believe the starting XI will be:
Back four: G. Johnson, King, Terry, Cole
Defensive Mids: Lampard, Barry Carrick
Midfield: Lennon, Rooney, Gerrard
USA 4-4-2 Deployment Vs. ENG 4-2-3-1 Deployment (click to enlarge)
If Capello chooses his usual M.O. in possession, expect to see Barry Carrick much deeper than Lampard. Lennon will be hugging the right touch line to try and stretch the US and hopefully isolate Bocanegra, so he can run at him with pace or cross (think Croatia at Wembley).
Whereas Gerrard will be tucked in on the left, playing quite narrow. It is well documented that this allows Gerrard to link-up with Rooney; it also helps to draw his opposite inside and invites Cole to overlap and exploit the space created by Gerrard. In addition, Gerrard forms a nice little triangle with Lampard and Barry Carrick, which can also give the latter two more passing lanes. Rooney will be dropping deep like a False Nine, dove tailing with Gerrard, and making diagonal runs behind the full-backs
US will be very well organized in open play – Bradley will have them well drilled. They will have men behind the ball, and make it difficult for England to break them down. I am not suggesting that the USA will just sit back and take the onslaught, but I can see England having the majority of possession, albeit in front of the USA – something that Bradley will not be displeased about. The key for the USA is keeping their shape out of possession of the ball. I think the major reason for this is England have more potential goal scorers in their 1st XI than the US, and at the end of the day, this is an immeasurable advantage.
England must be very disciplined themselves, as the USA do possess players with skill, speed and finesse to upset the best teams, so England cannot be too complacent and over commit players offensively (think 2nd goal vs. Brazil) . That means that our full backs must make the correct decisions when to push forward and when to hold back – even though I do not expect Bocanegra and Cherundolo to gallop forward, they do have the ability to add numbers to the USA’s offense.
In addition, if you refer to my Chalkboard, you will see that Johnson’s offensive play is limited compared with Cole’s on the other flank. This is by design because of Donovan. Johnson needs to concentrate on his position, because Donovan is the one player on the USA team that possesses both ‘speed of thought’ as well as ‘speed of motion’. Lennon will be expected to put in a defensive display to double up on Donovan when the USA breaks. The Netherlands basically kept Donovan quiet and the USA did not register an attempt on target until the 88th minute, and that came from a set-piece.
If Altidore had Donovan’s or Dempsey’s intelligence, I would be very worried, but the fact is that he is in over his head at this level – he does not possess the nous or ruthless running power (especially after his latest set-back) to lead the line effectively. Because of this, more offensive duty will fall to Dempsey. Capello will task Barry Carrick to keep Dempsey quiet as the withdrawn forward (which might also be a tall order given his lack of fitness due to the ankle injury sustained on 5th May).
From what I have seen, the US has struggled with set pieces, which is probably due to Onyewu long lay-off, and DeMerit’s and Bocanegra’s recent health problems. This is why I will said earlier that Crouch starting could also be interesting, but knowing Capello, it is more likely he comes off the bench as a sub – England would sacrifice Crouch for Heskey as Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard play better offence with Heskey in the team. I would not be surprised if England scores from a set-piece.
The other thing I have noticed in the USA warm-up game is DeMerit following players up the pitch (and committing silly fouls – see earlier comment about set pieces). Does Edu have the nous to fill in? Will Bradley Sr tell Edu to pick up Rooney when he drops off? (See Gerrard’s goal vs. USA last year. Granted it was Bocanegra and Defoe…)
I also expect Cherundolo to start over Spector, even though Spector has a critical height advantage. But I feel Cherundolo’s better decision making and positional sense gets him the nod to start. If this is the case, expect Lennon to cross a few to the back post to test out how the USA deals with this.
Possible England in-game substitutions
Heskey for Crouch: Big-man for big-man, but Crouch is more static in the box. He has a remarkable scoring record and could be introduced if we are in desperate need of a goal. It might be an option for ‘route one’ football. See above for comment on US aerial weakness.
Heskey for J. Cole: Two options here. One is to have Cole playing in the hole or the other is to move Gerrard inside and have Cole on the left.
Lennon for J.Cole: Again, two options here. If England is not successful down the right hand side with Lennon’s speed, Cole has proven for Chelsea he can operate on the right. The other option would be to put Gerrard on the right and Cole on the left, as I feel Gerrard’s delivery is more reliable than Cole’s, whilst Cole can still cut in from the left on his stronger right foot (not losing the over-lapping width of A. Cole).
Johnson for Carragher: If Johnson is getting caught out of position which enables the USA to exploit the space behind, do not be surprised to see this change. Especially now that we don’t have Barry as insurance.
Rooney for Defoe / Gerrard for Milner / King for?: If the game is tight, there is no way Capello takes these players off. The only scenario that they are subbed is if the game is safe and they are taken off for protection / the next game.