Brian Glanville: Current England Formation Clearly Flawed

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth over England‘s defeat by a technicaly far superior Spain at Wembley. The implication being that we just do not produce the players with the technical ability to compete with such opposition.

Yet when we look back at the recent World Cup and at Spain in particular what do we find? Why, a Spanish team which was held to a 2-2 group draw by Morocco then went out on penalties against a supposedly far less gifted Russian team. Meaning that it is always dangerous to draw conclusions on limited evidence. Russia, after all, could no more match the technical qualities of Spain than could England yet they persevered, held on and held out to prevail on those penalties.

Football being as it is a game of infinite ironies, there is scant doubt that England scored a late equalising goal which should have stood rather than being ruled out for a non-existent foul on the goalkeeper. Though even Gareth Southgate, while insisting the goal should have stood, admitted that Spain well deserved to win. The fact is though that in the closing stages the Spaniards notably tired and England were pressing for the equaliser they should ultimately have been given.

That’s football; a game of ever predictable ups and downs.

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That this England team simply will not do was clear enough. Southgate has his own clear idea of how it should play, with an emphasis on playing the ball out from the keeper and relying on steady passing rather than ever kicking the ball long. But I seriously question whether his tactics at Wembley were right. True, the England goal came from a supreme pass by the doomed left-back Shaw, but that pass came from some distance.

Yet again there was no winger to get to the line and pull back into the goalmouth, the most dangerous ball of all. Hard to find such a winger; Aaron Lennon a couple of World Cups ago was a splendid example but though he is playing again for Burnley, time one feels at least at international level has passed him by. Theo Walcott, back in form with Everton, seems just about the only real option now he has rediscovered his form since leaving Arsenal.

As for a creator in midfield, there wasn’t one to be seen against Spain. The closest to such a figure was Ruben Loftus Cheek but having shown the initiative of choosing him in the squad despite being sidelined at Chelsea, Southgate did not have the initiative to send him on. Now he has gone to West Ham an obvious candidate in Jack Wilshere seems to have lost his way.

There is talk of calling up the precociously gifted teenager Phil Foden of Manchester City where alas for all his constructive gifts, he cannot find a place in the top team. That he has the right big game temperament was surely shown by the display at Wembley in the charity curtain raiser.

But the present England formation seems flawed to me. No real passer of a ball, no winger to get to the line. Harry Kane guilty of a major defensive mistake was ill served up front.

Before the game Kane was presented with the golden boot award for topping the list of World Cup scorers with his half dozen goals. But since some came from the penalty spot his achievement can hardly be compared with that of Gary Lineker, whose half-dozen goals in Mexico all came from open play.

In midfield, Liverpool‘s Jordan Henderson is essentially a pedestrian figure and I wonder, as do some in authority, when Dominic Solanke is to be given a decent chance in Liverpool’s attack rather than being condemned to rest on the bench. He surely proved his worth in international tournament competition.

Changes by England, both tactical and of personnel, seem vital. Spain were surely no super team yet till they obviously tired, they were embarrassingly dominant.

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