Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix pay football. Hat tip to Adam Spangler via Bruce McGuire.
Here’s a guest post from Shaz Rahman, who wonders how England might set up now they’ve got a squad.
Now that we know the 23 man squad for Euro 2012 we can start speculating how England will lineup against France in the first group game. In one sense England’s squad is pretty bleak reading as there are very few names on that list of 23 players who will frighten the likes of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. On the bright side recent performances against Spain and Netherlands have demonstrated that England do still have something about them. It’s interesting to contrast these games though: a defensive display with a goal from a set piece beat a tired Spain, whereas an expansive and open display against Holland resulted in a 2-3 loss with Robben running riot.
Ignoring the obvious fact that nobody really attacks Spain, I still believe England will be best served following the functional route. We don’t necessarily have the players to beat the likes of Germany and Spain with attacking football. We will have to accept that possession will not be ours for the majority of the matches against the top teams (e.g. the knockout rounds, which could be cagey and play into our hands). This means that defensively we will have to be very strong. I would go with a 4-4-2 with a rigid two banks of four in defence. I would try to break with pace on the wings as there well could be space if the oppositions full backs push on to attack. One area I think we would struggle with in this approach is trying to break down weaker teams like the Ukraine. However I do think it is the right way to go as it gives us highest chance of success against the best teams.
On to the team itself.
(Ed – Bonus points to Shaz for leaving out him)
In modern football full backs have become crucial attacking players. Cole and Johnson are very good at this. Johnson would have to communicate well with Walcott, both in attack and defence, or that flank could be a mess. On the left side Young can cut inside allowing Cole to provide the overlap. In the centre of midfield Parker would need to act as a kind of third centre back, providing protection to the defence, especially when the full backs push up as well as passing the ball to retain possession. Gerrard can roam forward to provide support for Defoe/Rooney and Carroll in the final third. Carroll would try to hold the ball up or flick the ball on to Defoe or Gerard. I would also place a high amount of emphasis on set pieces. When Rooney comes into the team I would try to keep him higher up the pitch. Rooney would need to link well with Gerard. In defence as long as we keep the two banks of four we can afford to have Rooney run around like a man possessed. The focus of the attacks would be to counter attack with speed down the wings.
In terms of our hopes for the tournament I expect us to draw with France and beat Sweden as well as the Ukraine. I think we will lose to Spain in the quarter finals. Reaching the quarter finals would be a success. By 2014 we should see a different England, where some of the 2012 squad are more established and some of the better young players not at this tournament have developed into what we hope they might be.