Team Wazza: ‘A Man For The Ages’

After the battering ‘Roonaldo’ has received from the Press to the supporters who decided it was appropriate to boo last Saturday. I felt the need to put pen to paper on some thoughts I have on the man.

Since Southgate’s entry into the cauldron which is International football, one of the first questions Gareth received during his press conference as Interim Manager; ‘Are you strong enough to drop Rooney?’

Have we all gone mad?

The past two weeks have turned into a witch hunt against our most capped outfield player and record goal scorer. As a nation, we seem so quick to write off players who have represented our country for so many years and make them scapegoats.

Yes, Wayne had a poor game against Iceland during the Euro’s, (probably one of his worst in an England shirt in fact) but is that any reason to hammer him at Wembley against Malta? It wasn’t like Gary Cahill or Joe Hart did any better this summer.

We’ve all had those days where nothing will click or work out, footballers aren’t any different. Money doesn’t come into for me either, we are all prone to ‘poor days at the office’.


A single player can’t win you an international tournament on their own. Fact.

You might suggest that Ronaldo did it this summer with Portugal. But I would argue that certainly wasn’t a one-man team with the re-emergence of Nani and Quaresma.
Perhaps this is what England fans were expecting when ‘Wazza’ showcased his excellent raw ability during Euro 2004.

For someone who has always made himself available for his Country and never shirked a task or challenge since his debut in 2003. England’s talisman for so many years deserves better.

Could you imagine Rooney acting like Messi did earlier this year,  when he threw his toys out of his pram and retired from international football after Argentina were defeated in the Copa América final?

Wayne would have been slaughtered in the press, if he had taken the same approach after the Iceland defeat. But he didn’t, he apologised for the performance and vowed to carry on playing.

It is no secret that Wayne is nearing the end of his illustrious career which has certainly had more highs than lows, such as being voted England’s player of the year FOUR times in his 13 years so far with the national side.

But I won’t deny there have been lows too.

I won’t lie. As a 14-year-old watching England go out on penalties to Portugal during the 2006 World Cup, I was furious when Rooney got himself sent off. So was Sven Goran – Eriksson who last year declared that England could have gone on to win that World Cup in Germany if it wasn’t for the sending off.

He may not be the energetic fearless player who once elegantly picked the ball out from the sky before curling it past David Seaman to announce himself on the world stage. Or the player who made scoring a hat-trick look easy on his Champions League debut. But he is still a player England and the Premier League needs.

With so much media attention surrounding not only Rooney but also the captaincy, it has become a far bigger issue than it needed to be. Gareth showed last night against Slovenia that Wayne is more than capable of coming off the bench when needed. By all accounts Rooney has never been a nuisance for any of his previous managers. I’m sure he will get his head down now to try and regain his starting position with not only England but also Manchester United.

He has been outstanding servant for club and country for well over a decade which supporters and journalists seem quick to forget.

Time to put some of Rooney’s statistics into perspective;

People suggest that Daniel Sturridge is our best striker for England, and to a certain extend I tend to agree.

When Sturridge scored against the mighty Malta last weekend, we celebrated the striker reaching 100 goals for club and country in all competitions at the age of 27.

Rooney will be turning 31 in October and has already amassed over 300 goals for club and country in all competitions.

In a time, where the game has moved on a vast amount from when Rooney made his Everton debut back in 2002. It leads me to think that we won’t see a player with Rooney’s qualities for a long time to come.

Within today’s modern game, where genuine pace and acceleration
are main factors which managers look for. This can sometimes open the door for players to suffer from a lack of physicality or technical skill.

But Wayne in his youth was different, he had it all. Before injuries contributed to his decline of express speed.

The consistent comparisons with Messi and Ronaldo. Why do we feel the need to compare?

2011/12 season Rooney has a superb season scoring 34 goals in all comps. But because Ronaldo scored 60 in all competitions for Real Madrid and Messi 70 goals in all games, Rooney was deemed to have only an average season compared to Messi and Ronaldo.

Messi & Ronaldo are two players that are arguably the best players we will ever see in the game. We shouldn’t be comparing them with other footballers. They should be seen as an anomaly in world football. Let’s just enjoy their undeniable talents while they are still playing.

He has won everything there is to win domestically. (5x Premier Leagues, 1x FA Cup,         4x Community Shields, 2x League Cups & 1x Champions League) His career achievements will go down in history and he deserves his day in the sun.

A selection of quotes about Rooney from greats who know the game;

‘One of English football’s true greats’ ‘Outstanding talent and absolute magic to watch’ Sir Bobby Charlton 

‘Wayne Rooney could have excelled in any era’ Sir Alex Ferguson

‘His achievements are simply incredible’ José Mourinho

‘I would have loved to have Rooney in my team’ Pelé

I hope when he reaches and surpasses Peter Shilton’s record of 125 International appearances, he is widely acknowledged and praised for his all efforts and service he has given to his nation for so many years.

I would suggest that Wayne Rooney is one of the most complete footballers we have ever produced as a nation, let’s appreciate him while we still can.

Rant Over.

Ta for reading folks.



A Case of Crossroads for Chelsea & Conte

It would be premature to suggest that Chelsea under the guidance of Antonio Conte, are a team in crisis after only two and half months in charge at Stamford Bridge. But make no bones about it they are certainly at a crossroads.
Adding to the ever – growing list of high profile managers to ply their trade in this country’s top flight. Chelsea fans would have been delighted to see someone of Conte’s ilk appointed over the summer. Coming with the reputation of a defensive mastermind after delivering a hat-trick of scudettos to the adoring Old Lady.

As a player, Antonio Conte was well regarded especially within Italian football, often receiving praise for his tenacity and tireless work rate from midfield. Traits which are often associated with his sides now in management.

Let’s get one thing straight before this article goes any further, Conte is top level manager. With a win percentage of 67.5% with Juventus over 150 games, you’d be foolish to argue with that. These are just thoughts from his first few games in charge of Chelsea FC.

Following league defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal already this season, the latter coming in a humiliating 3-0 defeat in a London derby. It’s clear that there are several issues early on into Mr. Conte’s Chelsea regime which need sorting out sooner rather than later.

I’ve highlighted the following 4 key aspects as being the problem areas for the Blues;

1.) Tactical Confusion

2.) Replacing the old guard

3.) Over – Coaching

4.) Too much emphasis in Fitness

Tactical Confusion

With the level of analysis in formations and tactics in todays game, pundits and reporters alike will always try to predict what formation a new manager will attempt to implement at a club.

When it became common knowledge that Conte would be taking over as Chelsea manager in the summer this was no different. Due to the overwhelming success the 3-5-2 had provided Conte at Juventus, it was deemed a given that this would be his ‘go to formation’ for Chelsea.

But to think Conte could just ‘adapt a formation’, which had served him well in Serie A to Premier League conditions is questionable.

The Premier League is an end to end roller – coaster ride from start to finish. Serie A on the other hand is a defensive masterpiece. The intensity and efficiency of both Liverpool & Arsenal were the underpinning factors in Conte’s two major defeats so far this season.

4-3-3?    4-1-4-1?   3-5-2?   3-4-3?

Is there any wonder, Conte’s players have looked confused or bewildered at times this season? I imagine adapting to life under new management is difficult at the best of times.

But having to switch between multiple formations from one game to the next, must be like driving through a crossroads with all the traffic lights shining green at the same time! *Information Overload*

Conte needs to decide and stick to one consistent formation, allowing his players some game time to perfect the formation.

It’s no secret that Italian sides love to defend, with Jurgen Klopp once suggesting that facing an Italian side that only need a draw is the ‘greatest challenge in football’

Titles winning sides in Italy are built from the back, whereas title winning sides in England are often built on who can hold their nerve the longest.

The other problem with Conte implementing his 3-5-2 formation to Chelsea is that he is missing his lynchpin. He had an unstoppable Pogba at Juventus.

The aim of a 3-5-2 is that you are inviting pressure from the opposition in the hope your ‘destroyers’ in midfield can break up the play which can then ultimately enable a swift counter – attack resulting in a goal. Your classic Italian 1-0 victory.

At the moment, Chelsea don’t have enough of these ‘destroyer’ type players. Although new boy N’Golo Kanté is arguably the best in the league at it, but he needs a partner in crime. A Robin to his Batman if you please.

It’s also becoming apparent that Conte doesn’t trust Fàbregas or Matić in this crucial role, as excellent as they are as ball playing creative midfielders, they simple aren’t rounded enough central midfielders to offer what Conte needs.

Matić should be that ‘Pogba – esque’ player for Conte, but he doesn’t seem ready to reach the heights which promoted Chelsea to re-sign him several seasons ago now.

I would argue Chelsea missed a trick in not bidding for Victor Wanyama this summer. You might disagree with my choice, but essentially Chelsea need someone who has energy to burn.

IMO, Chelsea should ditch the 3-5-2 and proceed with the formation which has severed them well in the recent 2-0 win at Hull City with the 3-4-3. Arguably this was Chelsea’s most balanced performance under Conte so far.

I feel that either of these Formations would suit Chelsea as long as there is enough ‘Press’ and energy provided within the midfield duo.
It’s a formation Ashley Cole would be dreaming of, bombing down the wing all afternoon. 3-4-3 is ultimately a defensively minded set up with the ability to press with intensity to create counter- attacking threats when possible.

Replacing the Old Guard

With almost 750 competitive games between them; Branislav Ivanović & John Terry are coming to the end of their respected Chelsea careers. If Chelsea are to play a 3 at the back system, the selected players need to be mobile and adaptable. Unfortunately at almost 33 years old, Ivanović is in decline. Often at fault last season and has continued in the same trend this term too.

How do you go about replacing JT? A born leader, you might not agree with his approach at times or the stories surrounding the man. But he’s been a Chelsea great from start to finish. Chelsea need to find their next leader. P.s. It’s not Luiz or Cahill.

Zouma could hold the key to Chelsea’s defensive problems if he can stay injury free.

Over – Coaching

As a manager, I often think the hardest thing is to put your trust in your players. You prepare them all week long with tactics and ideas to hopefully get you the outcome you desire.

But do managers sometimes go to far?

It’s worth remembering that players such as Hazard, Willian or Oscar are mavericks. They are often the ones that provide that ‘moment of magic. It could be a mazy Hazard run cutting in on his right foot. Or it could be a Willian free-kick (They were pretty on point last season, if I remember correctly). There has to be times when Conte goes for the approach of ‘Let them just play’ in training.

By all accounts Antonio Conte is one of the hardest taskmasters around, with drills and tactics consuming a large proportion of training. Yes it’s important for players to be well drilled and disciplined, but Conte needs to find the right balance. Coaching the unpredictable out of players, will only nullify your attack IMO.

Fitness Fitness Fitness

It’s obviously an incredibly important aspect to the game we love, but is it the most important aspect? In my eye; No.

You’ve probably all heard about the fitness regime Conte has developed over the years. No? In case not, here it is;

• Run 100m within 20 seconds, Rest for 20seconds – Repeat for 7 minutes

• Run 75m within 15 seconds, Rest for 15 seconds – Repeat for 7 minutes

• Run 50m within 10 seconds, Rest for 10 seconds – Repeat for 7 minutes

Pretty gruelling stuff – Matt Le Tissier will be having nightmares somewhere over it I’m sure.

With the pace the Premier League is played at in this age, players need to be able to produce short and sharp bursts of speed and then be able to recover quickly. So you can understand Conte’s ideology behind it.

Clearly it’s working already with 5 of Chelsea’s 12 goals coming after the 8th minute so far this season, and the comeback against Leicester City in the league cup. So there’s no questioning Chelsea are physically fit enough to compete, but perhaps this should have been a latter instalment into the Conte regime. With more focus on decision making and keeping it fluid from defensive to attack.

A big few months lie ahead for Conte, and the January Transfer Window could well provide the ammunition for Chelsea to become a title threat once again.

As for now? I’m ready to watch England sneak a 2-0 victory against the Gods of football; Malta.

As always Ta for reading,