Friday, June 18, 2004
  Matters arising from last night
1. England looked far more effective when Scholes was replaced by Hargreaves. This for a number of reasons. (1) As Philip says, Scholes was always drifiting off the left flank, leaving the excellent Cole exposed time and again. (2) Hargreaves is a better all-round midfielder than Scholes; his tackling, tenacity, work-rate and passing are much more reliable. I've never regarded Scholes as a midfielder proper any way; his tackling is a liability, and he is basically a deep-lying striker. (3) Gerrard is much more effective down the left than Scholes (partly because, see 1 above) he has the discipline to stick to the role.

2. However, Scholes', Owen's and, to some extent though much less so, Beckham's current level of under-performance could be regarded as a bonus for England. It means that they still have something to give. (Must say I was shocked this morning to see Becks only get 5 out of 10 from the Times since, in addition to being involved in two of the three goals, he - as ever - hardly eve, if at all, gave the ball away. It was an understated performance, but disciplined and effective).

3. Vassell continues to be a threat. His presence alone terrifies opposition defenders.

4. James is our weakest link. He never commands the area, he doesn't seem to organize the defence and if someone threw him his car keys, he'd probably punch them.

5. Re: France, I consider my two-strikers point to be vindicated. The Trezequet-Henry partnership clearly is not working. Trezeguet's goal shouldn't distract from a performance of staggering anonymity (we may be concerned about Owen, but he's been more effective than either Trezeguet or Henry). France need to drop Trezeguet and put Zidane into a roving central role. They could use Wiltord AND Pires (who has been strangely peripheral).

6. Zizou's work-rate, never mind anything else, was astonishing. Pity that Vieira was the only other French midfielder to offer him any sort of support.

7. The defence is a mess. Desailly will be put out to pasture, but why is Santini persisting with Thuram at centre-half? Gallas is clearly the better bet in that position, and the French miss Thuram's running power down the right flank.

8. ALL FOUR of the goals France have scored have been gifted by the opposition. The Zidane free-kick was atrociously defended, while the Trezeguet goal (a) shouldn't have been allowed and (b) like the second goal against England arose from a dreadful and unnecessary back-pass.

9. England fans: imagine how we'd feel if England were France....

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