Scouting the Enemy: Analysis of England-Egypt

Watching the England-Egypt game there are reasons for the US to both feel good and feel nervous. While the 3-1 scorline against the African champions is certainly impressive, England was on the back foot for much of the first half and the 1-0 lead that Egypt took in at halftime was probably deserved.

However, the quality of England on the ball is undeniable and even when play is running against them they are quite able to slice through an opened up opposition through quick precise passing and intelligent off the ball runs. With a central midfield of Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, as well as Gerrard on the let, this is an England team designed to create, but not necessarily to defend.

Reasons to feel good:

We can possess the ball against England. A constant weakness of US teams has been the ability to control possession against top sides. We saw this against Holland where a three man central midfield, consisting of two destroyers in De Jong, Van Bommell and an attacking midfielder in Snejder, put tremendous pressure on our central midfielders, forcing turnovers and preventing the US from settling. However, this should not be the case against England, as Egypt demonstrated.

Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard are not ball winning defensive midfielders. While both can put in a challenge, neither are all that fleet of foot, and against Egypt’s quick and crafty attackers they tended to try to contain them as opposed to pressure them aggressively. This meant there was quite a bit of space for Egypt’s midfielders to exploit.

England’s backline look susceptible to pace. Egypt looked dangerous when they pushed forward and ran at England’s defenders, both centrally and out wide. Terry and Upson centrally, just aren’t that quick, and when backtracking they look a bit nervous.

England’s fullbacks struggled to get forward. With no Glenn Johnson or Ashley Cole, Wes Brown and Everton’s Leighton Baines simply didn’t get forward. Brown put in a few crosses from fairly deep but neither got to the touchline or into the area.

Frank Lampard can’t score for England. Lampard had two easy chances in the first half, but for some reason Fat Frank can’t hit a barn door for England. In 06 after an amazing goal scoring year, Lampard had a horrendous year.

Theo Walcott has pace, but not much else. Walcott was pretty poor and seems to have the same creativity on the ball as Robbie Rogers – attempt to push it by and run by players. Unlike Rogers he has loads of pace and did in the early moments put the ball on a silver platter for Lampard. But Walcott was defensively exposed on a number of occasions, as he left Wes Brown isolated.

Gerrard at times gets lost on the left. Playing on the left Gerrard was pretty anonymous in the second half he moved to a much more central position, much the way Modric plays for Spurs.

Robert Green. Get crosses in the box and get shots on goal. He doesn’t seem to make mistakes, but he doesn’t look very confident on the ball either.

England have options off the bench but they are a bit one-note centrally. Midfield players like Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Milner, and Carrick are all very similar. Carrick plays a bit deeper and is probably a bit better defensively allowing his central midfield partner to move up. Milner is definitely quality and adds a bit more pace, but in general the injection of any of these players won’t really alter England’s shape or its tactical approach too much. In other words, it doesn’t really matter who plays and where for Bob Bradley, the preparation and tactics should be the same.

Now for the bad:

England have a number of players that can pull the strings and cut you open. Despite being on the back foot at times, can create chances against the run of play against Egypt. With their quality England should be able to create many chances, as they have the quality to provide excellent service to their dangerous strikers. The US central midfield will have to be careful not to drop to deep and allow Barry and Lampard space and time to pick out passes.

Rooney and Defoe can score in a flash. No surprise here.

The Crouch-Beckham connection could be potent off the bench.
Beckham didn’t play, but one would expect that those two would likely be used together. This tacticaly approach most likely won’t happen against the US due to the quality of our central midfield in the air, especially if Onyewu is on the field.

England will deploy pace on the right. With Walcott, Aaron Lennon, and Wright-Phillips, England have pace to burn on the right. That will challenge whoever we have at left back, especially if it is the calamity that is Jonathan Bornstein. But Bocanegra or Spector will be tested.

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3 Responses

  1. Don’t underestimate Lampard. His scoring record for England is impressive. A ratio of better than 1 goal in every 4 games is not achieved through just one good year.

    Hopefully, the England defence will be in better shape come South Africa. Ferdinand is badly missed when he is not there as he makes up for Terry’s lack of pace. Johnson is an asset in attack (although a liability in defence) and Ashley Cole is a quality player (though a dreadful human being).

    Where England are weak, as you rightly point out, is in strength in depth. Carrick, though a great player, has never had a long run in the team and therefore never looks totally comfortable at international level. There is no substitute for Rooney or Gerrard in terms of creativity and, as the game last week showed, no pace in the defensive second string.

    So all-in-all, England’s first team is very strong but their second team is little better than average. Let’s hope, from an English point of view, for no injuries.

  2. Shocking bit of news here. All of the bad news involves Spurs players.

  3. Frank Lampard has been nominated in the nominations for the 2010 Sony Radio Academy Awards – the radio industry’s equivalent of the Oscars.

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