Goals disguise England's striking flaws

It looks good in print. Rooney 2 (77, 86), but this is as misleading as the overall scoreline. The Manchester United striker took his goals well, but they were unusual goals for him, poacher's goals – a free header and a tap-in against tiring opposition – rather than something a bit special. The goals aside (a big caveat, admittedly) Rooney did not play well.

That he was voted Nationwide's man of the match suggests whoever chose it was either watching on Teletext, or is as representative of the financial community's judgement as all those bankers who sanctioned toxic loans. Rooney is one of England's most talented players, possibly the most talented. Successive England managers have, however, had problems determining how to best utilise his qualities. So, by his own admission, has Sir Alex Ferguson. Rooney's best position would appear to be in the hole behind the front man, where he is coming on to the ball and has space to dictate play.

For reasons of team balance he is frequently deployed on the left, for club and country. So it was yesterday in the first half, sort of. Neither a winger nor an inside-forward, Rooney was too deep to link with Emile Heskey, whose own mobility left much to be desired, but not wide enough to stretch the Kazakhs. With Rooney's passing radar on the blink England's attack simply failed to function.

Part of the problem was that both Heskey and Rooney are more provider than goalscorer. Heskey has five goals in 49 internationals while even after yesterday's brace Rooney has 17 in 47, a ratio well short of Michael Owen and Peter Crouch who average a goal every other game. Crouch watched from the bench yesterday, Owen on television in his north Wales home.

Owen has even maintained his scoring ratio while searching for fitness amid the car wreck that is Newcastle United's season. None of this cuts any ice with Capello, who has watched Owen several times and appears unconvinced of his sharpness.

He will be back, surely. That will be a poser for Capello, for Owen has usually looked happier working off a target man, such as Heskey or Crouch, than Rooney, but it will at least give the team a finisher. The flaw in pairing two creators, like Heskey and Rooney, is that someone has to get the goals, and neither looked like doing so until Kazakhstan tired. If the strikers are not scoring then the midfield need to. With Kazakhstan suffocating the area in front of the box there was rarely room for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to break into.

Their inclusion also cramped the space Rooney might use. Theo Walcott, meanwhile, was playing too wide to regularly threaten the goal, a position he had to adopt because Capello had selected a narrow midfield, an error compounded by choosing Wes Brown at right-back ahead of the more adventurous Glen Johnson.

Only once in the opening half did Heskey set up a chance. Receiving a pass from Gareth Barry on the edge of the box he laid it off for Lampard to take a shot which was deflected for a corner. Rooney contributed even less, his rising frustration leading him into dangerous territory, raising his arms to opponents several times.

At the break Capello rearranged the team, enabling Rooney and Heskey to become an authentic partnership. But it was in name only. Rooney was more involved centrally, laying on a good chance for Gerrard, and his presence there encouraged Heskey to work the spaces, but they rarely operated in tandem.

This was highlighted after Rooney departed. Heskey immediately provided a clever lay-off which Jermain Defoe ran on to and scored. That duo could be a partnership, based on the same complementary qualities as Heskey and Michael Owen, or Crouch and Defoe at Portsmouth.

"Like peaches and cream," said their club manager, Harry Redknapp. Heskey and Rooney, however, are like "strawberries and vinegar".

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss