England drew 0-0 with Algeria, and were desperately poor. It was a distressing result, with many expecting England to play better against Algeria, who were not very good against Slovenia.
As this graph shows, England had a lot of passes in the midfield and back, but in the final third, but also a lot down the middle. Algeria, playing a 3-4-2-1 when in possession, 5-4-1 when not, had 5 players in the center, the 3 centre backs and 2 midfielders.
One reason the middle of the park was so congested was the positioning of Steven Gerrard. Gerrard was nominally the left midfield player, cutting inside for Ashley Cole to bomb forward. However, as the graphic below shows, instead of cutting in, he occupied the same area of space as Wayne Rooney, Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard.
In previous tournaments, one of England’s problems was that Gerrard and Lampard couldn’t play together (Is it no coincidence that in England’s best performance of the last world cup, 2-2 against Sweden, Gerrard didn’t start?). Under Capello, the problem remains, though, with Barry as the holding midfielder, neither has the responsibility to defend. Neither had a good game; as with the with rest of the England team, they were desperately poor, and the incident where Lampard failed to successfully pass to Gerrard 10 yards away inside the first 20 seconds set the tone for the whole match. The match was desperately callinh out for someone who could deliver an incisve pass, yet just as in the US game, Joe Cole sat on the bench and watched Shaun Wright-Phillips and Peter Crouch come on instead of him. Joe Cole has to start against Slovenia instead of Gerrard or Lampard. Capello might not like him because he cuts inside; yet Gerrard does the same thing and passes the ball better.
Another player who should start is Michael Carrick. He might not have had a great domestic season, but he and Joe Cole are the closes players England have to good technical players, and after the performance put in tonight, technicality is needed.
Credit is due where it’s deserved: Algeria defended exceptionally well and made it difficult for England to break them down. They were looking for a point, with the possibility of getting a goal on the break. As stated earlier, playing a 3-4-2-1 meant that when England came down the middle, they were well prepared to defend.
England were extremely poor with the midfield too congested. They’ll need to stretch play against Slovenia and include Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to provide incisive passing. Wayne Rooney will need to more of a factor, otherwise England will go home early.
Thanks to the Total Football 2010 app for the iPod touch for diagrams.