England’s Nightmare Summer

Where do we start? What’s the best possible way to go about the burning wreckage that is the National Football Team? Everyone will have their own personal opinions on what went wrong in a month to forget that your English (Brexit + Euro embarrassment). But one thing is for sure, just changing the manager will NOT solve it. The problem runs far deeper than that.
As soon as Roy Hodgson resigned, it appeared that all the press immediately switched their attention to who would be his replacement. Almost forgetting about the men who had let him down in France this summer.


Not even a week had passed and pictures of Chris Smalling in Bali were surfacing on the Internet. I know if it was me, and I’d had a stinker of a tournament the last thing I’d want to do is go on holiday – I’d want to get myself on that training pitch as soon as possible. These players will have an opportunity to rebuild their reputations in the seasons to follow, but for Roy this will tarnish a long and relatively successful career in Coaching.

After reading a few segments of James Kerr’s book ‘Legacy’ which discusses life principles that the All Blacks pride themselves on, you begin to understand how far English football has strayed.

One particular example was that after winning a World Cup group game against Wales, two senior members of the team picked up long handled brooms and began sweeping the floor of the changing room. Why? Because no one looks after the All Blacks, the All Blacks look after themselves.

A former player stated ‘it’s a form of personal discipline, not relying on things to be given to you’. The book also goes on to suggest that personal discipline in life will lead to having discipline on the pitch. Helps to create the right environment for a team together instead of a team of individuals, very much like the Welsh camp at these European Championships.

But hang a second, could you really see an England football team of the past 10-15 years sweeping the changing rooms after a game? Could you even see a Premier League team sweep the changing rooms for that matter either?

It’s true, we all know it. Footballers are very lucky humans, everything is given to them on a silver platter. Modern day values simply do not apply to the current elite level footballer. Money makes the world tick, and with the current state of the Premier League and with crazy wages, it doesn’t seem that modern day values will re-appear anytime soon. Shame because it could lead to better performances for the National Team.

The book also focuses on how important it is to have leaders and character in a team, where are the leaders for England? Leaders lead with solid performances game after game, not every now and then (Joe Hart). Think Tony Adams in that Arsenal side, true leader who everyone followed. Personally, in a few years time I hope that Eric Dier can be that man. But at the moment we have no true leaders.


The last time England were successful at a major tournament was 1966, think of the leaders and character in that side (Moore, Charlton x 2, Stiles et al.)


I highlighted it in my last post about The Welsh, and how every player had stood up and taken responsibility at some point during the Championships, supposedly something the late great Gary Speed was responsible for. You need to be united as a team to be successful, a team of individuals will always get found out otherwise just like England were.

On a night which will go down as England’s worst ever competitive result in history. Not only were we beaten 2-1 by Iceland but we were also out done on work rate, desire and sheer commitment.

As an England fan, the very least I expect from players representing my country is desire and work rate. Like most reasonable fans, I can excuse the odd poor touch or sliced shot (Taking liberties Mr. Kane!) But to not give 100% for your nation is inexcusable. You watch some of the athletes representing Team GB in a few weeks time in Rio, they’ll show you commitment.

Tournament Ratings Out of 10:

Hart: (3)

A very generous score, would have been lower but fair play to Joe he’ll always face the media whatever the situation. Two absolute howlers during the tournament from a senior figure of the camp. Expect more pressure from Butland and Forster in the future for the No.1 spot.

Walker: (6)

One of England’s better players of the tournament, provided a good outlet against Russia & Wales but like most didn’t turn up against Iceland.

Smalling: (5)

Although he’s improving, goes to highlight the lack of CB’s available to the national team. Long gone the days of Campbell, Ferdinand et al. I get the feeling with Smalling that he’s one of those players who has always got a mistake in him.

Cahill: (4)

Got found wanting too many times, due to lack of pace. Always been good in the air. One of the older ones in the team now, should have been more of a leader for the team and for Smalling next to him then he was.

Rose: (6)

After looking way off the pace for Sunderland a few seasons ago, he’s managed to turn it around. Excellent for Spurs last season, couple of good performances in the group matches. But once again nothing against Iceland.

Dier: (6) 

Arguably one of England’s players of the tournament (But not sure that’s something you want to be saying too loudly!) Big international stage did not faze him at all, immense against Russia capped with a superb free kick. Did his job against Wales, but froze against Iceland and was replaced at HT. Stick with him, big future ahead – England Captain in the making.


Alli: (4) 

Superb first season for the 20 year old in The Premier League, but 46 games proved too much for the teenager. Himself and his pal Dier will provide England’s midfield for the next 10 years. Like with Dier, stick with Alli he’ll come good.


Wilshere: (5) 

Not the type of player that you can throw on with 20 minutes to go when your losing, he needs to be playing from the start and dictating play IMO. Big season lies ahead for Jack, he needs to decide if he wants to be a Premier League star or a nightclub promoter. Injuries can’t be helped, but he’s type of player who could benefit from some ‘personal discipline’.


Rooney: (5) 

Seemed as if there was no need for all the pre-tournament speculation about Rooney’s position in the team, slipped into the midfield with ease and looked class against Russia. Followed by perhaps his worst performance in an England shirt against Iceland. Will he be on the plane in 2 years time? You’ll have to ask Mystic Meg that one.


Lallana: (5) 

Corrr. Adam sure does like a cheeky ‘Cruyff Turn’ doesn’t he? Shame he can’t play in an attacking three like the late great Cruyff. Played in all 3 group games and never looked comfortable in a wide 4-3-3. Good utility player for England, but we needed a more dynamic direct player in that position.


Sterling: (3) 

Where to start with Raheem. Two years ago at the World Cup, we thought we had a world beater. Since his move to Manchester City he looks bereft of confidence. Subbed 3 times during the competition. Hopefully Pep has the magic cure.


Sturridge: (5) 

Winning goal against Wales and managed not to get injured during the games he played in. (Added bonus) But when playing in an attacking three, he often came far too deep to collect the ball. Needs to be making those attacking runs on goal, not trying to be the supplier.


Kane: (3) 

Arrived in France as a genuine candidate for the Golden Boot after last seasons achievements with Spurs. Never looked fit enough, left his touch and shooting boots in his locker in London. That dismal free kick against Iceland was the cherry on top of a dismal England Championships. Played a lot last season, and in need of a big rest.


Vardy: (6) 

Should have had more game time in general. IMO should have started against Iceland instead of Kane. Got us back into the game against Wales. Has a knack of being in the right place at the right time.


Rashford: (7)

Created more then any other player against Iceland in 4 minutes. Direct running at defenders, changed the game against Wales when he played in a Three up top. Reminds me of a young Michael Owen when charging towards a defence. Big future ahead.


Hodgson: (3) 

Good changes against Wales which worked in the end, but why did it take so long to make the changes? Clearly stayed with the same principals from the Qualifiers where he achieved 10 out of 10 wins. Should have answered to the media after probably England’s worst ever defeat. For €5million a year, England and Hodgson should have done a lot better. The highest paid manager at the Euros.


What Next? 

Of course, the candidates have been shortlisted. In my opinion, would love to see Eddie Howe given a chance. He not only plays the game in the right way but he also had all of his squad playing for one another in a bid to surviving in the Premier League. That’s what we need with England, togetherness. Experience clearly isn’t on Howe’s side compared to the likes of Sam Allardyce or Wenger but that shouldn’t count against him.


‘Together Stronger’ was The Welsh motto during The Euros and it worked, every team member had something to believe in. We need our ‘Together Stronger’ saying, something the whole country can get behind. But more importantly something which binds the players whilst they are in the England set up together.

I tend to believe there is nothing wrong with The FA’s plan in general with the development of the national side, apart from trying to develop more elite level coaches. (Germany & Spain both have 10 times the amount of UEFA coaches as we do as a nation) The Youth teams have all impressed in recent years, which leads me to believe that the culture and the environment itself is the problem with the national side.

Whoever the FA decide to appoint, if they can fix the culture, character & environment of the team, then and only then could England go well at a major tournament.

As always thanks for reading,

Tom

 

Advertisements

Euro 2016 Update – The Final Four

From the ‘Viking Clap’ to Mats Hummels announcing Germany’s defence wouldn’t be terrified of Will Grigg before the group stage encounter – This European Championship Finals has had everything. That’s with bypassing the complete tragedy that is the English National Team.(That mess needs a separate post dedicated to it!)

In my previous Euro post, I predicated that if Belgium played for one another instead of a team of individuals they should make the semi finals. I’m sure most Welsh fans if they were honest would agree with that too. Even if they do seem to have the wood over them at the moment.

What happened next, was something which will live long in the memory for anyone with Welsh blood.


It would be easy to relate the Welsh heroics in the Championships so far to that of Leicester City’s historic PL title winning season. But certain similarities and qualities make it hard to not too.

The majority of Football fans pre tournament would have guessed that England; The perennial underachievers, would have finished top of Group B. Leaving Slovakia / Russia & Wales to fight it out for runner up spot.


Why it hasn’t been just a case of the BALES for WALES

You’d be forgiven if before the Euro’s started you were under the impression that Gareth Bale was the only man who could make the national team tick. It’s true, the Two time Champions League Winner was immense during Wales’s qualification period, and has provided some ‘star man’ moments during the tournament. But there is a lot more to the Welsh team than meets the eye, but I’ll go into that later on during the preview of the Semi Final.

Throughout qualification for Euro 2016, Coleman’s dragons quietly went about their business dismantling the likes of Belgium and Israel. Taking confidence and belief from every game and being urged on by a fully packed Cardiff City Stadium (apparently it was electric isn’t that right Jasper?).
It’s this confidence and belief from qualifying which helped them to top the group (1st time debuting team at Championships to do so, since Sweden in 1992) and also catapult themselves into the Semi’s tomorrow night against Portugal.

The Welsh boys have not feared any team yet throughout the tournament, and they won’t begin to now. Every player in the Welsh squad has bought into the team ethos 100%, you can see every player is playing for the team. On paper Bale & Ramsey might be the big names, but not when it comes to Game Day. Every played has played their part to get Wales to the Semi Final.

Whatever happens tomorrow night in Lyon, the Welsh team should be coming home to a hero’s welcome later this summer. I wonder what impact the last few weeks will have on Football participation levels in Wales? Perhaps it leads to more kids wanting to kick a football rather than catch a rugby ball?

Semi Final No. 1

Portugal Vs Wales (Stade de Lyon)

Portugal will go into tomorrow nights Semi Final as the bookies favourite but not by much IMO. They looked on their way out in the group stages, but managed the mother of all come- backs and equalise 3 times against Hungary with special thanks to National Hero – Cristiano Ronaldo.


The only team to progress to the knockout stage without winning a game – hardly striking fear into the opposition is it. Perhaps Croatia took them for granted in the last 16? Croatia looked very tasty during the Group Stages especially beating Spain, I thought they were going to be a force.

 

As the figures lie at the moment, Portugal have the 2nd best possession statistics during the tournament with 87% of passes completed and 54% of general possession. How will this fare against the 2nd best attacking nation so far of the tournament. Wales have scored 10 goals so far from 59 attempts in their 5 games at Euro 2016.

IMO – Portugal will try and dictate the tempo of the game from the start, Fernando Santos will be hoping his team don’t carry on with being wasteful in front of goal. Now that we are at the business end of the competition.

On the other hand, Wales will be more than content to let Portugal have as much of the ball as they like, as long as the superb Joe Allen (Sorry, Welsh Pirlo!) and Bad Dad Dancing King Joe Ledley (Save the dancing for your postponed Wedding, Joe!) are on hand to sniff out any danger.


The Three centre back system has worked well for Chris Coleman so far, with the colossus that is Ashley Williams yet again stepping up, how is he not at ‘A Top 6 club?’ Mangala who?!
This Welsh team have proven they are a real attacking threat from counter attacks, helped by the use of Neil Taylor & Chris Gunter dominating the flanks. Crossing in particular has been a positive, perfectly illustrated with Sam Vokes’s goal in the 3-1 victory over Belgium in the Quarters.

Tomorrow night might just be decided from a set piece. With Bale getting more serve on a freekick than an Andy Murray slice, he’s always going to be a threat. Also with James Collins coming in for the suspended Ben Davies, it adds extra height alongside Ashley Williams to attack corners with.

One thing for sure Aaron ‘Rambo’ Ramsey will be hugely missed in the No.10 position for Wales, he currently tops the Assist charts at the moment with 4. Andy King will be hoping for more success like he had last season with Leicester.

It takes a full team performance to make it through the Semi’s into a major European Final, part of the reason why it won’t just be Bale Vs Ronaldo. But instead more about who can bring the best out of their team mates. Not a night for an individual.

Verdict: I’m not about to stop the Welsh party bus! In my opinion, Dean Saunders your parking fine is about to get a little bit more expensive!

Semi Final No. 2

Germany Vs France (Stade Velodrome, Marseille)

Arguably a match up which should have been saved for the Final come July 11th. This has the potential to bring football to its very purest form; Attack Vs Defence. Forget the tactics and the individual player instructions for a second. We have the best attacking team of the tournament playing against the best defensive team of the tournament.

Every supporter in the world is entitled to their own preference, some might enjoy a defensively solid performance. Whereas others might gain a thrill from a team hammering an opposition’s goal with waves of attacks. No one opinion is right.

The Stats:

FRA: 11 Goals / 87 attempts / 29 on Target / 31 off Target / 27 Blocked

Vs

GER: 1 Goal conceded / Passes Completion 91% / Possession 63%

If you didn’t believe me beforehand that this will be a game of Attack Vs Defence, perhaps you will do after viewing those statistics.

I have to admit during the Group Stages, I didn’t think Germany were the force they have been in the past. A 0-0 draw with Poland and only a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland didn’t make pretty reading for Joachim Löw, but they got the job done and progressed to the last 16.

A much more clinical performance against Slovakia and once again they look like the unstoppable World Champions from two years ago. The Quarter Final against Italy, should have been over by the 90, but for a moment of madness from Boateng.

But who are kidding, it was never in doubt was it? The Germans just don’t lose penalty shootout. Ever.


In all forms of Sport, coaches plan for their athletes to taper before a competition so that they can hit peak performance level during a competition. It would appear that Löw’s taper has worked perfectly. Germany looking dangerous. Anyone else got a case of Déjà vu?
As for France, without playing sensational football thus far they find themselves through to the Semi’s. When teams try and attack France, it would seem this is when France are at their most dangerous – prime example being the Quarter Final against Iceland which finished up 5-2.

I tipped France before the tournament to challenge for the European crown, because of their attacking style compounded with the sheer ability in midfield. So far it hasn’t been all guns blazing, the first half of the ROI game was dismal for example.

If France can engage Germany during the semi – final, it will benefit France. The more open the game becomes the more it drifts into France ‘s favour in my opinion. If it’s cagey and being decided in moments of 50/50 challenges the pendulum swings back towards Germany.

Key Battle:

Is it any wonder that Germany have almost 1000 more completed passes than the next closest team behind them in the possession stats, when they possess Toni Kroos in the heart of their midfield. The Madrid man has been running the show for Germany so far during this summer’s Championships and will hope for more of the same come Thursday evening.


Clearly either Matuidi or Pogba will be given the job of closing Kroos down, but which one of them? If it was me, Matuidi is the engine room and should be given the opportunity, whilst Pogba focuses on breaking towards the opposition goal. Chances won’t come easily against the World Champions, so Pogba needs to be ready to lead the counter attack.


Verdict: I’m going to stick with my pre-tournament pick of France; SkyBet have Griezmann as odds on to win the Golden Boot and I think he’ll nick the winner against Germany.

Thanks for reading as always folks,

Tom