Jagielka is as dependable as they come for Everton, but on the vast Wembley pitch his poor positional sense and lack of leadership was ruthlessly exposed by technically superior opponents while Chelsea's Cahill watched on in frustration.
After 40 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Ukraine last night, Yevhen Konoplyanka curled a stunning 25 yard effort past Joe Hart, after stepping inside Steven Gerrard in frighteningly similar fashion to the way Samir Nasri managed to break down England’s defensive wall in the Euro 2012 group opener. Last night however, the defensive wall was long gone and you can probably tell from the title where I lay the blame. The goal had been coming, Ukraine were playing well, but you expect an England defence to be resolute and on this particular night that was nowhere to be found. For the goal, the defence were back on the 18 yard line and there were 5 men between Konoplyanka and the back of the net, but with no pressure on the ball and no directions barked to Gerrard it was easy to get off an effort, and there was always a very real chance it would be a spectacular one when you come up against players of his quality. It wasn’t just Gerrard’s fault, or just Jagielka’s fault, but everyone who was in between Konoplyanka and the goal could have done either more pressing or more communication.
On a night where we needed a leader to step into the position vacated by Terry’s injury, up stepped Jagielka to give one of his worst performances in an England shirt. A man who has 14 caps and so much Premier League experience, often plays well for Everton, got torn apart by Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko, rushing out from his defensive line to chase balls and close down players that he had no need to. Many of these times times it was noticeable that the more experienced head of Terry would have sat back and watched a play develop, communicated with the midfielders and stepped in if or when necessary. To top off a dismal night, his passing was sloppy and rarely useful, wasting possession far too often, another trait we rarely see at Everton.
On a night where we needed a leader to step into the position vacated by Terry’s injury, up stepped Jagielka to give one of his worst performances in an England shirt
For me, Cahill is the better of the two backup centre-backs we have in that England squad, and having played a big part in Chelsea’s Champions League winning campaign last season has really helped him step up to the next level. Playing in the same team as Terry, he will have learned a trick or two about when it is wise to close the ball down and when you’re better off delegating that to a teammate in a better position, even if it means giving someone in the team a kick up the arse. Cahill is better with both his distribution and also in positional play, two of Jagielka’s biggest problems last night. The real issue though, is that Ferdinand is miles ahead of Lescott, Cahill and Jagielka but is constantly overlooked. We all know what went on, but Rio still wants to play for England and our national side is far better with him in it than watching from home. Whatever the reason for his exclusion, is it good enough to sacrifice having our strongest starting eleven?
The lack of discipline last night was also evident, with England picking up 6 yellow cards, a startling lack of organisation and some questionable refereeing decisions contributing to the tally. Organisation that you get game in game out with Terry in the side, but we can’t rely on him forever so we all need to pray that Cahill is learning from his Chelsea teammate and also that Terry is passing on his best knowledge to his eventual replacement for club and country. Despite picking up more injuries and losing a bit of pace in the last few years, Terry is still the best English defender out there and if he and Cahill can have a successful campaign at the heart of Chelsea’s defence then there’s no reason they can’t see us through both a successful qualifying campaign but also a successful Brazil 2014 itself.
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