Watching England can be like watching Newcastle United at times.
Despite the fact that, for the most part, I couldn’t care less whether the national team win or lose, both teams are frustratingly short of quality whenever they come up against anyone actually half decent.
I have written previously about an English style of football that I believe can be exciting and dangerous, and although England were given a lesson by Spain last week, I still don’t think the ‘spanish’ way is the right way.
It’s just that neither England, nor Newcastle, are very good at playing the right way.
Spain were able to pass England silly the other night and their control over possession ultimately showed in the final score, but there were signs that England were capable of causing significant damage if only their composure in the final third had been better.
Whilst England still seem determined to play with a lone striker, which has been the European way for some years now, what they do possess is pace out wide.
Quick wingers create panic in even the best teams, and if they were willing to simply kick the ball towards the byline, run after it and stick a cross in (the way wingers used to), they could put teams to the sword.
Clearly Newcastle United are short of genuine pace, apart from Aarons who is inexperienced, and seemingly injury prone. Unfortunately, Obertan has the pace but so far hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he has any ability/confidence to go with it.
Partnerships are vital all over the pitch for a 4-4-2 to work; the two strikers must complement and provide for each other, wingers and full backs need to overlap and cover the other in equal measures, centre-backs too depend on their partner to mop up mistakes.
We can see that Mitrovic and Perez are already enjoying playing together, Janmaat and Sissoko (although I’m convinced the latter should be playing more centrally) have been effective down the right at times, and there does seem to be a little more resilience at the back since the inclusion of Mbemba.
The biggest problem that Newcastle United have, is that we are lacking a quality midfield partnership to play two in the middle without compromising defensive stability and control of possession. These two need to be married to each other; there needs to be an instinctive knowledge of where the other is at all times.
For a 4-4-2 to be successful, a perfect blend of creativity and muscle is essential from the centre midfielders. The two pairings I have witnessed in my time are Keane/Scholes and Petit/Vieira and it is no coincidence that their respective teams dominated England and put up a decent fight in Europe too.
While we are obviously lacking a few ‘round pegs’, and there is an argument the formation should suit the current squad, I think it is important with another transfer window around the corner that there is a definite system in place.
We aren’t likely to unearth or attract the new Paul Scholes, but I would hope that we have a shopping list of players in our price range to fill those holes.
There are plenty of teams in the league that prove you don’t need superstars all over the pitch to play effective, attractive football; hopefully that is the plan for us too.
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