Reflections on England v Algeria - World Cup 2010

Last night’s performance veered from frustrating to unbearable and, by the end, unwatchable. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in an England World Cup side before. So what went wrong and can we take any positives from this match?

The performance

First, I could waste some of my own time and yours by rating players out of 10. Instead, I’ll make it simple. Nobody got over 6 and the majority were 5 or less. For a World Cup game against supposedly inferior opposition, that’s frightening.

Heskey didn’t hold the ball up enough and struggled to play his team mates into promising positions.

Rooney seemed tired, his touch has deserted him, and he’s clearly angry with himself and the position England finds itself in.

Lennon seems unable to make meaningful contributions and is quickly marginalised.

Lampard and Gerrard misplaced way too many passes and only occasionally threatened Algeria enough to look like scoring. Put simply, they are not functioning as a midfield partnership.

Barry earned some valuable match fitness. That’s pretty much all I can say about him.

Johnson and Ashley Cole failed to attack Algeria’s flanks.

That horrifying back pass aside, Terry did OK. Now he has to work alongside another centre half for the Slovenia game.

Carragher got himself booked and never looked completely comfortable.

James did enough to keep his place against Slovenia.

Of the subs, only Defoe made an impact.

Overall, England lacked drive, guile, pace and imagination. It was as dispiriting a performance as I can remember from an England side, and I’ve seen quite a few over the years.

What should England do for the Slovenia game?

Heskey should be replaced by Defoe or Crouch.

Gerrard should be pushed forward into the hole behind Rooney and the other striker.

Joe Cole should start on the left side of midfield.

Barry should hold a position in front of the defence and stay there.

Someone should tell Ashley Cole and Johnson they can get forward to support attacks.

Dawson should play, not Upson. The Tottenham man is quicker than his West Ham counterpart, who could be all too easily turned by nippy Slovenian attackers.

If Rooney isn’t playing well, he should be replaced after an hour or so.

The formation should be 4 (Johnson, Terry, Dawson, Ashley Cole) 1 (Barry) 3 (Joe Cole, Lampard, Gerrard) 2 (Rooney, Defoe or Crouch). 4 – 4 – 2 isn’t working and it’s time to try something different.

Above all else, England need to play as a team, not individuals. Failure to do so will result in an early exit.

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