Defoe’s inclusion in yesterday’s game proved to be decisive as he scored the only goal and England’s general improvement suggests the idea that Heskey brings the best out of Rooney (and England) is not true.
It’s easy to simplify the entire win as a reason to champion Heskey’s exclusion from further England matches but this would also be an unfair assessment. England’s improvement came from a number of sources: there was a unified improvement in positional sense from the midfield and attackers, which resulted in higher pressing, better involvement of key players and increased service to the furthest forward player – in this case, Defoe.
I’ve mentioned previously that Milner’s better positioning (he stayed wide) meant the midfielders always had an outlet and his early delivery directly helped Defoe. Rooney playing behind Defoe (instead of as the last man when Heskey is playing) saw him receive the ball in more threatening positions although his general output was still below par. The reason why Defoe has successfully proven England shouldn’t rely on playing Heskey is more to do with the style change that he facilitates; England cannot afford to play long ball after long ball when a small forward is playing so Rooney, Gerrard and Milner were required to be involved if a breakthrough was to be gained. The problem with Heskey isn’t even his fault a lot of the time because the team become determined to bypass midfield and include the big frontman as often as possible. When England play Heskey he becomes the fulcrum of attack, which is ridiculous.
A number of reasons all linked in to the Heskey myth losing its strength but the increased delivery into the box was a major determinant in England’s heightened threat – and there’s no reason this can’t continue if a ‘big’ forward is deployed. The problem is more stemmed in our utilisation of these types of players rather than any startlingly poor output from individuals (who actually left the Algeria game with any positives?). But despite all of this, it remained only a 1-0 victory against a poor Slovenia team and a marked improvement is needed if we are to overcome Germany’s attacking options.
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