England 1 Norway 0 - We Were Clueless!
England Clueless Norway Poor
Considering England won, this might sound churlish but consider the opposition. Norway are ranked 53rd by FIFA. They're not Premier League, they're not even Championship, they're an average League One side. The Gillingham of international football.
Roy Hodgson lived up to his promise and his deeply ingrained nature, we played a rigid 4-4-2. In the first-half, Norway defended deep and let us have uncontested possession until we ventured into their territory. We looked comfortable at the back and, because we have some talented forwards, we looked lively and created a number of chances. Sterling and Sturridge stood out but Henderson, Chamberlain and Wilshere also played reasonably. The defenders looked comfortable on the ball and Norway posed no threat. We should have scored a goal or two in the first 45 minutes. Sturridge still has a tendency to over play when a simple pass would be devastating. He will learn.
The start of the second-half was a total turnaround. Norway, perhaps recognising the rigidity of our set-up, pressed higher up the pitch, harassing our defenders and flooding the midfield. England were bamboozled. Norway started creating chances. They should have scored. Hart made two excellent saves. England were desperate, pressed into passing back to the goalie, long punts up-field, scared to receive the ball. This was the England we have come to know and loathe.
Raheem Sterling to the Rescue
Then, totally against the run of play, Sterling won a penalty, dispatched explosively by Rooney. We made some substitutions. Most significantly, Rooney was replaced by Welbeck. Instead of a flat 4-4-2, we played a diamond with our shining jewel, Sterling at the apex. We were transformed. Sterling was a revelation. He ran the midfield, beating players at will, linking play, a constant menace, the heartbeat of the team. At times he seems to be playing in another dimension, opponents incapable of penetrating his world of speed and trickery.
Switzerland vs England
On Monday we play the first game of our European qualifying group. Switzerland are a totally different proposition to Norway. They are ranked 9th by FIFA, a solid Premier League team. If Norway is Gillingham, then Switzerland is Newcastle and Newcastle away is never an easy fixture. What will Roy do? The limitations of a rigid 4-4-2 were exposed by Norway. There are three possibilities. He could stubbornly stick to his beloved rigid 4-4-2. He could see the light and play 4-4-2 but as a diamond with Sterling up top. He could go defensive and play 4-5-1, in the knowledge that a draw would be a great start to the campaign. The problem with 4-5-1 is that only one striker is needed. In my opinion, Rooney lacks the pace, mobility and current form to play as lone striker. I can't see Roy dropping his newly appointed captain.
I think we'll play the rigid 4-4-2. Rooney will be asked to drop back and help the midfield (this has not gone well in the past) and Sterling will be wasted on the wing helping out Leighton Baines. We'll hope to soak up pressure and play counter-attacking football. Roy's Fulham teams always played this style away from Craven Cottage- just checked all his teams have played this way. Hodgson's teams very rarely win away from home.
Switzerland will score first. They have talented players such as Shaqiri and our defence is young, raw and error prone. Roy will be backed into a corner. He'll be forced to do the right thing; move Sterling into central midfield. Switzerland will try to defend their lead. Sterling will unpick their defence and Rooney will score the equalizing tap in. Hodgson will be feted for his tactical nous and Rooney for coming to the rescue yet again.
England vs Norway- Player Ratings
Joe Hart - 9. Didn't have anything to do in the first-half. Two excellent saves in the second-half
John Stones- 7. Good right-back performance considering he's a centre-half
Phil Jones- 6. Ok but young and will make make mistakes,
Gary Cahill- 6. Ok. Older but still makes mistakes.
Leighton Baines- 7. Beginning to look more comfortable in an England shirt.
Jack Wilshere- 7. Good in the first-half. Overrun in the second-half (not his fault).
Jordan Henderson-7. Good in the first-half. Overrun in the second-half (not his fault).
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain-7. Reasonable.
Raheem Sterling- 9.5. Clear man of the match. Unplayable at times. A class apart.
Daniel Sturridge- 8. Constant danger. Just overplays at times.
Wayne Rooney - 6. Scored the penalty. Full-stop.
Only subs to make an impression. Welbeck- good - much more mobile than Rooney. Milner- laughable.
Image Credit » https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/14371018201/in/photolist