Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

System Error for Sven; Inflexible Formation Is Harming England

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

System Error for Sven; Inflexible Formation Is Harming England

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID THOMAS

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON has just announced his first England squad since the World Cup, but for all the debate surrounding Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer's inclusion, I believe the biggest question mark hangs over Eriksson himself.

Since that dismal defeat against Brazil, Sven's taken a fair amount of stick, with most criticism directed at his lack of passion as England floundered in the second half. Over the weekend, he admitted his critics had a point, adding that all England's second-half performances at the World Cup were poor.

He's also regretted not getting his defence to sit on the one-goal lead, and not telling his players to pass the ball instead of hoofing it aimlessly.

But if Sven seriously believes England's problem against Brazil was that they attacked too much, not too little, I fear for his judgment.

If he couldn't get his message across, I fear for his powers of communication.

In fact, England's real weakness was, and remains, far more fundamental: the inflexibility and negativity of their 4-4-2 formation.

England persistently played a defensive game, with the midfield quartet retreating towards our back four.

That opened up a huge gap between them and the two strikers.

Neither David Beckham, nor Paul Scholes (who seldom made the late, attacking runs that were once his forte), had the fitness to bridge the gap from box to box. Nor was there anyone with the imagination to create openings in the last third of the field. Teddy Sheringham was finally found out as too old for the job. Joe Cole was never given a proper chance. Kieron Dyer was patently crocked. That left only one option.

Welly the ball and hope for the best.

This is not just being wise after the event. Before the World Cup I noted that the most successful England managers, Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, changed both personnel and formations in 1966 and 1990. …

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