England: Tactics From Across The Pond

This is a guest post by TSG writer “GeorgeCross.”

Preview:  England vs. USA – 12th June 2010

England Review

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.

Gareth Barry will be missed early on...

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.

Starting XI

Will this be the combo up top?

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:

Goalkeeper:  Green

Back four:  G. Johnson, King, Terry, Cole

Defensive Mids:  Lampard, Barry Carrick

Midfield:  Lennon, Rooney, Gerrard

Forwards:  Heskey

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.

Will Altidore inflate his game on the world stage?

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.

Preview:  England vs. USA – 12th June 2010

England Review

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.

When Saturday comes, England fans – where ever they may be – can sigh a huge relief knowing that Carrick will be zipped-up in his tracksuit, with his arse firmly planted on the substitutes’ bench.

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.

Starting XI

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:

Goalkeeper:  Green

Back four:  G. Johnson, King, Terry, Cole

Defensive Mids:  Lampard, Barry Carrick

Midfield:  Lennon, Rooney, Gerrard

Forwards:  Heskey

INSERT CHALKBOARD HERE

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.

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22 responses to this post.

  1. Excellent post, GeorgeCross. This is an intriguing game made more so by the fitness issues on both sides.

    I think that substitutions will be the key in this game.

    Reply

  2. Nice work George! Excellent analysis of the questions facing Capello. Can’t wait for Saturday to see how all of this plays out.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/09 at 12:07 PM

      Thanks Tuesday (and for letting me overwrite your Chalkboard to do mine).

      I think we’re on the same page about the US need to effectively defend their left flank, as I feel that England over relies on this tactic. I should have done my homework and backed this up with actual facts. I really wish we had a speed merchant on our left. I know Capello toyed with this in the warm up but cannot see SWP starting.

      I am also concerned about the lack of left footed players in the England set-up. It has always confused me why Ashley Cole, being a definite starter, doesn’t practice taking set-pieces. It would give us a welcome added dimension.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Jim S on 2010/06/09 at 12:00 PM

    First off, nice article George.

    Second, so as not to piss any england fans here with the picture on the right, here is a nice usa-england banner pic:

    http://www.215.org/usa-england.jpg

    feel free you use.

    Reply

    • Posted by MJ on 2010/06/09 at 2:16 PM

      Also, ESPN Classic is rerunning USA and England World Cup games in a marathon today. They’re on USA-Portugal ’02 now.

      Reply

  4. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/09 at 2:32 PM

    I do think it is highly amusing that DeMerit, Dempsey and Donovan have come out and said on the record how they’re not scared and don’t fear England – nobody expects you to! I think it is a little over-compensation.

    Reply

    • Posted by KMac on 2010/06/09 at 2:58 PM

      George,
      Great piece and brilliant analysis as usual. Well done sir.

      As for the fear bit, I think they are just taking a page out of Winston Churchill’s famous speach, ” …there is nothing to fear, but fear itself…”

      I hope for a quality represation by both sides for an entertaining match. Good luck to both sides.

      Reply

      • Posted by KMac on 2010/06/09 at 3:42 PM

        sorry “representation”

        Reply

      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/10 at 11:05 AM

        Not to be too niggly but in light of the competition at hand, it should be noted that “fear itself” was our guys (FDR) quote. Although Churchill would have gladly taken credit for it I’m sure)))

        Can’t wait for the games to get on so we can actually discuss football results and tactics and not feelings.

        Good stuff, gentlemen!

        Reply

    • Yeah, I bet they’re secretly just quaking in their boots.

      Reply

    • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/09 at 3:26 PM

      I’m thinking you probably read cherry picked comments from UK publications. For some reason, I found myself watching parts of the US press conferences on the ussocer site. If they were quotes from responses to the questions asked that I heard (more or less if they were scared of England), well, they were unavoidable standard drivel. Deuce in particular I recall saying he of course wasn’t scared because anyone who was shouldn’t be there. Methinks there are a lot of reporters with too much time on their hands waiting for games to start and they’re trying to pull headlines from talking point responses to stupid questions.
      Otoh, I read somewhere today that Donovan also said that England have no weaknesses. I wouldn’t read much into any of these comments.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/10 at 4:49 AM

        If by “UK publications” you are referring to New York Times or Sydney Morning Herald, then yes, you are 100% right!

        Reply

      • England have no weaknesses? I think Donovan must’ve learned how to take the piss up their in Liverpool.

        Reply

    • Posted by Fireball on 2010/06/09 at 3:50 PM

      Being a former newswriter, I’m pretty sure they’re responding to a hack’s direct question: “Do you fear playing England?”

      Great, piece George. Looking forward to Saturday.

      Reply

      • Yes, actually – it was a handful of English reporters asking that looking to write that exact headline and suddenly it’s a repeated all around the world.

        England may be better than us, but they are nothing to be frightened of.

        Reply

  5. interesting. i think you ignored something that I found incredibly key and interesting from watching a couple of the english friendlies – Carrick’s lack of confidence and class on the ball. Against Mexico, he gave the ball away numerous times in bad spots, and one thing the US has shown in the last year is that killer instinct when someone makes a mistake. whether or not Carrick’s dismal performance on the ball carries over will be interesting to see, but for England it has to be a major concern, considering Cole’s interest in getting forward and Johnson’s ability to stray off to nowhere. I don’t see a Donovan/Altidore or Dempsey/Altidore counter against King and Terry ending well for England at all.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Soccernst on 2010/06/09 at 3:33 PM

    Interesting to describe the US defense as weak in the air. This exact crew in central defense is capable of creating a complete no-fly zone to shut down route 1 balls. “Capable” but I agree they have been suspect of late, and not confident we can rediscover the lockdown button. Hopeful, but not confident!

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/10 at 5:28 AM

      Biggy: Carrick’s weakness is express, with my comments about Barry. He does lack confidence, which is why I believe he made the multiple unforced errors. With respect to his general class on the ball, I have to disagree. He is normally very comfortable on the ball, with good technical skills. Whether Dempsey, Donovan or Altidore can take advantage of his lack of confidence will be seen. Remember, Carrick was made to look very ordinary which lead to his being dropped, but on the other hand, the USA are no Barcelona and do not press in the same way.

      Soccernst: The reason I have said that the USA is weak in the air is not based on when your back 4 are all 100% and in form, it is based on recent outings. Look at all the goals you conceded in the warm up games – they were all due to pretty basic fundamentals, and were very fortunate not to be punished more. England have the players who will take their chances (well, maybe not Heskey!!). You have a very very good goalkeeper, but he won’t be able to bail you out every time.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Tom M on 2010/06/09 at 4:15 PM

    Nicely done George. Its great to have to have someone knowledgeable to give us the English perspective.

    Reply

  8. Posted by John on 2010/06/09 at 7:38 PM

    Mano de dios on espn classic right now.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Andy on 2010/06/09 at 7:39 PM

    I just want to say thanks to both Tuesday and George. The amount of soccer/football knowledge I have gained from TheShinGuardian has been great and most importantly, has lead to an even greater appreciation for the game. I find myself visiting other soccer sites less and less and replacing that time elsewhere with more time at ShinGuardian.

    Is it Saturday yet?

    Reply

  10. Posted by moosecat on 2010/06/10 at 8:08 AM

    putting Donovan on the right may counter Cole’s ability to get forward. either by keeping Cole back or making him pay on by countering when he is caught upfield.

    on the other hand. donovan’s offensive abilities may be negated on that side with him tracking back too much to cover Cole

    Reply

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