England’s progress hasn’t healed one glaring problem.
So England march on. Or limp on at the very least. The win over Slovenia was a vast improvement on what went before, but that’s like having to compare gruel with the option of starvation.
England problems in general haven’t gone away and one problem in particular looms larger than most. David James was adequate on the rare occasions he was called upon against Algeria, but with more to do against Slovenia, it became clear that the old problems remain. He didn’t command his penalty area in the way he should and constantly seems poised to make the wrong call on collecting crosses.
We can safely say that barring the highly unlikely combination of an goalkeeping injury crisis and a prolong stay in the World Cup, Robert Green won’t see any more game time. That leaves James as the number one and that is a concern, particularly with Germany on the horizon.
James is undoubtedly agile, but his decision-making, ball-handling and flapping at crosses are a major liability. Aside from the historical baggage of a rematch with the old foe, England will face a very slick German side. Joachim Low has his team playing well and the style is notable for it’s variety. The Germans use the wings well, link up excellently in the centre of the pitch and combine a lovely fluent, passing game with a serious aerial threat, especially with Miroslav Klose returning. James will face a comprehensive test of his abilities and whilst he should cope with the long-range shooting of Ozil, Khedira and Podolski, it’s when the Germans revert to through balls and crosses that the England keeper may struggle. James is no stranger to conceding penalties in one on on situations and we can expect him to be involved in several during the match. Discussing his problems under the high ball any further seems like a waste of time.
So what’s to be done? Joe Hart seems to be a better all round prospect than James, but if Capello wasn’t willing to give him a chance against Algeria or Slovenia, it would seem immensely harsh to throw him into the pressure cooker of a clash with the Mannschaft. James will keep his place and that should make it a very uncomfortable afternoon for England supporters. That considering the history of these two teams, it would hardly be a surprise if James got his chance to shine in the one part of the game that suits him perfectly – the penalty shootout.