|England Flags photo by sk8geek via Flickr|
England struggled to an unconvincing 1-nil win over a spirited bunch from Wales on Tuesday night at Wembley, in a match more notable for the lack of ambition and cohesion from the England squad than anything else. Liverpool's Steward Downing combined with Manchester United's Ashley Young to put the English in front shortly before the half, yet the home side was unable to convincingly put the contest to bed in the match's second half, despite a starting lineup containing considerable EPL 'star power.' My belief is that this stems from a central midfield that played as if fat, dumb and happy, coasting through the game at three-quarters speed, and lacking the required creativity and quality to link up with the man up top, a bonafide goal scorer who goes by the name of Wayne Rooney.
o In fact, England spent the last fifteen minutes of the match on the back heel, as Wales threw attack after attack at their nearby neighbors. Sure, the English eventually held out and took all three points for Euro qualifying , but at the risk of being obvious, let me point something out. This was Wales they were playing, not Germany or Holland. At home.
o Indeed, England were very fortunate not to end up with a draw, as Rob Earnshaw somehow conspired to miss a wide open net from point blank range with roughly 15 minutes left, well after England had grown content with their slim one goal lead. I can't figure out how a team spearheaded by Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young can look so blase on offense, but Fabio Capello apparently has. Maybe it has something to do with the forcefield that is Gareth Barry in the midfield.
In any event, some final thoughts on the game:
o Martin Tyler prattling on the television coverage about how Wales should have moved Gareth Bale over to offer a challenge to Chris Smalling's inexperience was laughable. Did Tyler happen to see any of the United - Spurs game at Old Trafford just two short weeks ago, in which Smalling deposited The World's Best PlayerTM in his back pocket at the opening kick off and kept him fully contained therein until the final whistle? I'm guessing not.
o Can't say I like Joe Clark's eggshell blue 'keepers' kit. He looked like an Easter Egg out there....
o Barry, Milner, Young, Cahill and Downing: England's looking a bit like the graduate school for Aston Villa lately.....
o And finally, the more I see of James Milner, the less I think of him. What happened to the daring young player who was so exciting to watch a couple of years ago at Villa Park? He's morphed into Gareth Barry light -- and that's saying a lot. And yet England keep giving him the ball, expecting him to return -- any moment now -- to the form he used to have instead of the form he's displayed the last 18 months. Why England would keep seeking him out in an offense that contains Roony and Young, I have no idea -- if they made half the effort to get the ball at the feet of one of the two United men that they did to get the ball to Milner, they'd be twice the team they currently are.
This is farlieonfootie for September 8.