1. Two new defencive partnerships looked shaky.
John Terry was partnered by Phil Jagielka in the first half and Matthew Upson in the second, and while Jagielka is the form defender in the Premier League and Upson is a solid and experienced pro, the centre of the English defence looked shaky on a few occasions. I think there was a clear lack of understanding between the players in what were two rather new partnerships and this was particularly evident in the shambolic marking that led to Spain’s second goal. I feel that Capello would have been better off either playing the ‘first choice’ pairing of Terry and Ferdinand who have more experience together, or, even better and in-keeping with his form-based selection policy, Jagielka and Lescott, who have been outstanding recently. This would have given England a more solid and reassuring base and may have prevented the two goals which were both down to poor defending to some extent.
2. Spanish midfield is incredible.
Considering that they were missing Cesc Fabregas who is one of the best midfielders in the world, Spain’s midield personnel is truly mind-blowing. I’ve been an enormous fan of Iniesta for years since I signed him as a teenager in one of the Football Manager titles and combined with Xavi and Senna, the Spaniards are in a league of their own. I thought Alonso looked a little out of his depth in a way, though he specialises in accurate long passing, the forte of this Spanish side is to pass the ball short, one touch, and with devastating precision and speed so that the opposition midfield can but stand and stare as the ball is worked through them. With willing runners like Villa and Torres to complete this attacking force and Senna as a tireless holding man, it is easy to see why this Spain side are so good. When you consider that they also have world class wingers like Joaquin and Vicente among others to call upon should they need a new angle, they look a good bet for the world cup in 2010. And let’s face it, if Mikel Arteta can’t get in the squad, it has to be formidable indeed.
3. Beckham showed he was worthy.
Though he will never be held in the same esteem as Bobby Moore, whose caps record he equalled today, Beckham proved in his second half appearance that he does still earn a place in the squad on merit, not just sympathy. His long ball passing was excellent and opened up the Spaniards on a couple of occasions, which was something we failed to do for much of the game. He also showed in one moment of brilliance when he showed quick feet through the middle of the park before releasing Carlton Cole with a slide rule ball that his creativity and vision is still world class. I think Beckham has a few years left in him yet and he is a very effective weapon with such deadly accuracy, and one that we should continue to utilise.
4. Heskey and Beckham should have played together.
As I mentioned in 3., Beckham gave England a new dimension in the second half, delivering lots of testing balls into the Spanish box. However, withe the withdrawal of Heskey at half time, we were left with no one to really get on the end of them. Yes, we had the inexplicably lanky Crouch on the pitch, but he is far too weak to effectively challenge world class defenders in the air. Even though he has a huge height advantage, he is far too easily out-muscled and so doesn;t pose nearly as much of a threat as the workmanlike Heskey. I reckon it was a serious misjudgement on Capello’s part to allow these two players to cross paths on their way off and on the pitch, as combined they would surely have given the Spanish defence a lot to think about.
5. Young & Milner: Where were they?
I thought two of England’s best performers were Wright-Phillips and Beckham, and indeed our biggest threat looked to be when we worked round Spain’s solid central midfield. It would have been good then, to see Ashley Young and James Milner given the chance to have a go at the Spanish full backs. Both players have been in top form for Villa this season and will have been brimming with confidence, which is what we lacked at times – the confidence to really have a go at our illustrious opponents. Wright-Phillips looked good at times but tired as the game went on, but in the first half Stuart Downing was conspicuous only by his absence, which begs the question as to why he was starting. It’s not like he has been setting Middlesbrough alight, and Young and Milner, though neither are as naturally left-footed, can both operate effectively on the left hand side. I think Capello’s selection was good on the whole, but he should have given at least one of these two a chance to impress.