What’s The Matter With … England in their draw with Montenegro?
One of the big statistics to emerge from England’s draw with Montenegro was that they completed 105 fewer passes in the second half and maintaining possession is one of the fundamental areas of international football.
After all, if England are unable to string passes together against Montenegro, what chance do they really have against the stronger nations at a World Cup?
Montenegro’s change in formation was a large determinant in this shift, as they matched up evenly in midfield and prevented Michael Carrick profiting from the type of space he was enjoying in the opening period.
The other problem was that all of England’s midfield three appeared to be starting too deep, which in a way invited more pressure on.
By dropping Wayne Rooney into an advanced midfield role and either moving Danny Welbeck up front or bringing on Daniel Sturridge or Jermain Defoe, this may have swung the game back in England’s favour.
Sturridge and Defoe are more natural runners in behind and this would have stretched the home defence or at least ensured they defended deeper, while the midfield would have needed to be aware of Rooney, as well as pushing for an equaliser.
England were clearly in need of some bench injection after about 20 minutes of the second half, but Roy Hodgson waited for the inevitable equaliser before making a change.
The experience of Frank Lampard or Scott Parker may have helped in retaining possession and the fact neither was turned to does little to indicate that Hodgson has faith in them.
The final problem for England was that their starting line up was remarkably short on regular club starters.
Chris Smalling, Joleon Lescott, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and James Milner have all started less than half of the Premier League games for their respective clubs and although this means they are not overly tired at this stage of the season, they are not match-sharp either.
Maybe this is the first time where it is instantly noticeable that the number of foreigners starting in the Premier League is having a real impact on the national team, especially given that players like Cleverley and Welbeck suddenly look like certain starters under Hodgson.
England do not play another qualifier until hosting Moldova in September and hopefully six months is enough time to repair some of the cracks that opened far too wide against Montenegro.