Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sven needs to improve if England think they have any chance of winning the World Cup. [England article]

I had said before the game - maybe not on here - that Paraguay could give England a game. I've noticed even in the five world cups I've watched that, as a whole, the standard of teams in the competition has risen. In Italia 90, the US could be run over, as could teams such as South Korea and Japan. As Iran, Angola and Trinindad & Tobago showed, very few teams in this world cup will be a complete walkover. Moreover, none of the teams, as Ecuador also showed, who've qualified from the difficult South American group are there to just make up the numbers.

Still, my predictions of a reasonably close game seemed ruined - thankfully - when Becks flighted in another world class free kick in the fourth minute. The standard of his dead ball kicks has been incredible recently, and the Parguayan defence did exactly what Jamaica and Hungary did - a mass panic resulting in a goal.

After such a great start, and the woeful Parguayan defence, England should have run in two or three up at half-time. The reason they didn't was a basic lack of sharpness in front of goal. Owen's first touch still often leaves much to be desired, as does his crossing. Due to Sven's inability to pick between the Lampard and Gerrard, and play an anchoring midfielder, Gerrard continues to play about thirty yards behind where he wants to be on the pitch. Lampard has some half decent attempts, but he needs to score regularly to justify his nullification of Stevie.

After a wasteful first half England were absolutely dire in the second. Paraguay could have scored and any team even slightly better than them would have. England were extremely lucky to win, and while its a relief that England got through the first game with a win, if England play that way again they won't make it past the quarter-finals.

The shambles came down to a few factors.

Firstly the heat. I did wonder when Becks ran out why exactly he had a long-sleeve shirt on, and by even the mid way point of the first half, it was clear that some England players were simply just not able to deal with the temperature. This might be less of a problem later in the competition, as the games will be being played later in the day, but they have to get used to it. I know they're British, but blaming the weather for poor performances is simply not good enough.

This situation was not aided by a ridculously fussy referee. Why aren't players allowed to take on fluids during stoppages? It's ludicrous. He was woefully inconsistent elsewhere. The Paraguayan defence used every backing in and manhandling trick possible to contain Crouch, and instead of getting the protection he needed, the ref gave almost every decision in Paraguay's favour. Perhaps he just couldn't believe that someone of Crouch's size was being fouled. The coup de grace for me was when Two Paraguayan players jumped for the ball simultaneously, and in the process sandwiched Joe Cole between them. Of course, the free kick went Paraguay's way.

But referees can only be blamed so far. And the overriding reason for the shambles was the overriding reason England are unlikely to win the World Cup.

Sven is a tactical moron.

The game reminded me a lot of the Portugal game in 2004. Then, as on Saturday, England took the lead early on and then...did nothing. Oh, except start playing so deep that almost all eleven players were in their own box. Sven's substitutions in 2004 were a joke - I remember when he put on bloody Phil Neville I almost wept - and on Saturday his substitution disrupted the team and caused chaos.

Firstly the luncay of taking our Theo becomes clear when he decides to take off Owen at around the 60th minute and put on a winger. If Sven took Theo to the world cup, and Rooney isn't fit, you put Theo on when you take Owen off in a situation such as he was in on Saturday. If you don't put him on, there is no point in Theo being there. It suddenly becomes clear that excluding Defoe was a ridiculous decision. Theo will become a great player, but you need experience in those situations.

But no. No walcott, no Defoe = Downing for Owen, and the first disruption of the match - moving Joe Cole, who had been excellent to that point - from the wing to play as a support striker. This promplty destroyed the utility of Joe who quickly drifted out of the game. Secondly, Crouch had no one to play to. With aching predictability, England fell back into the awful, awful long-ball game with Crouch repeatedly flicking the ball on to the Paraguayan defence. It wasn't Crouch's fault - he needs an Owen, Defoe, Walcott, or even a Bent to lay the ball off to. But no. So our possession decreased and we soon found ourselves under the cosh.

So next move by Sven. I bet you couldn't have guessed it. A certain Mr Owen 'I can play anywhere because I'm equally rubbish everywhere, but I will still come on as a substitute in every match' Hargreaves comes on. Why? So now, we have moved to 4-5-1, or 4-4-1 and Hargreaves in a mysterious 'where the hell am I playing role' which quickly led to an almost tactical meltdown, with Paraguay clearly sensing blood. Sven seemed to want to sure up midfield, but this was just inviting pressure on to us. And the constant tactical changes just left the players bewildered.

Attackers needed to come on to replace tired legs up front. If suring the midfield was required, why bring on Hargreaves above Carrick? Why not put Lennon on and push Becks into the middle? Lennon would certainly offered more than Downing who seemed to be happy to run down the line, lose the ball, and then repeat each time he had the ball. Why not take Lampard or Gerrard off and just put Carrick on? Keep the changes simple unless we really need goals.

Most of all, where was Sven? Every other coach in the World Cup is pacing up and down the technical area screaming instructions. Sven just sits there, hunched over, letting McClaren do his job for him.

His performance as manager almost cost England the game; a game that, considering how it opened, we should have bossed.

All I can say is that I hope he learns from this. English players are not good at defending one goal leads. Make like for like substitutions - just get fresh legs on. There's no need for constant tactical adjustment that confuse the players, and leads to England playing even deeper than before.

Sven needs to improve if England have any chance of getting anywhere in this tournament. We have players who are getting results despite not because of the manager at the moment.

And, as i stated eariler, Trinidad have shown they could give us a game. We should win, but as I always say about England, if we put our minds to it we can lose to anyone in the world. England may end up having to rely on defeating a very weak Swedish side to finish top of the group. it's imperative to win the group, as we should be able to defeat Poland or Ecuador: a game with Germany is one I don't think I could watch.



Anonymous said...

"Firstly the luncay of taking our Theo becomes clear when he decides to take off Owen at around the 60th minute and put on a winger. If Sven took Theo to the world cup, and Rooney isn't fit, you put Theo on when you take Owen off in a situation such as he was in on Saturday. If you don't put him on, there is no point in Theo being there. It suddenly becomes clear that excluding Defoe was a ridiculous decision."

Why don't you try to think for yourself instead of regurgitating another moronic viewpoint of Alan Hansen?

Sven wanted to go 4-5-1 in order to solidify the midfield and protect our lead.

Walcott isn't a midfielder.

The lone striker HAS to be Crouch because he is a target man of 6'7" and he's well equipped to win long, high balls.

Walcott isn't.

If Sven wanted to go 4-4-2 and play two strikers again, what would he have done?

He would have brought Walcott on.

But being of the Italian mindset, he chose to swamp the midfield and sit back.

You've been blinded by the Anti-Walcott sections of the media.

Open your eyes and think for yourself instead.

Anonymous said...

Has nobody noticed thata major problem is (NOTW quote) "Beckhams pinpoint accurate passing" resulted in 41 passes (surely he should have more of the ball than that?) of which 22 were accurate...

Anonymous said...

I thought Walcott can play as a winger or as a striker. He could have come on the left instead of Downing. England looked stilted, though.
I checked out the Holland match last night. Must say that van Persie didn't impress me. Nice pass to Robben, but otherwise was quiet. He didn't contribute much in that wide-striker role, and almost disappeared when placed as the central striker.
I don't get to watch many Arsenal matches in Australia, so I don't know - is that van Persie's club role as well?
I think that if he has a quiet world Cup, Wenger may decide to replace him with a Zigic (massive, that dude) or a Kuyt.
To be fair, Robben aside, Holland was rather bland. Robben was great, seemed to glide on the pitch much like Henry does.

Anonymous said...

RVP's role for Arsenal is as a second forward, not a right winger. He is predominately left footed so predictably playing as a right winger means that every time he gets the ball he has to come inside and slow the game up.

Watching England on Saturday and Holland yesterday reminds me what a good tactitian Wenger is.

gazzap said...

I cant beleive how England are full of top players at top teams but as a team together would seriously struggle to finish in the top 4 of the premiership.

the so called minnows of world football are often made up of championship players or even lower division than that, BUT they play as a team. Some of the top teams like Holland and England are just a collection of 11 stars that dont play as a team. a bit like Real Madrid but without the understanding that comes with playing 60 games a season. so teams like trinidad are giving teams like us and sweden a game when in reality their ability/talent should not be able to.

I was disappointed that Walcott did not come on. I think it would have worked. Crouch cannot hold the ball up unless he has someone to work with up front. Hargreaves is crap but England were worse than that and he actually looked half decent suddenly!

England do not have the technical ability to knock the ball about and keep possession to see the game out. they are a team focussed entirely on getting forward and scoring goals. when they try and play a 4-5-1 containing game it all goes tits up. we should concentrate at what we are good at instead of doing what other teams can do.

Goonerboy said...

Anon. 12.35 I am not 'regurgitating' anyone else's viewpoints. Don't call me anti-Walcott, because I've constantly written on here that I support the lad. i just think taking a player who has not even started a premiership game is lunacy.

Sven does not understand how to get the best from the England players. Constant tactical changes, and attempting to defend slender leads don't work.

Remember Brazil in 2002, Portugal in 2004, and even Argentina in 2002. We were lucky to win that last game. If we take the lead we should always push on for a second - defending a 1 goal lead is something we're not clearly not capable of comfortably doing. Gazzap's last paragraph is spot on. How Sven cant have realised this is beyond me. And if Walcott doesn't come on in that situation, when does he come on? When will he play?

If England want to go far in this tournament, it might be best if we go 1-0 down, not up, initially. That means there'll be a higher chance that Sven will keep an attacking formation for the entire 90 minutes and we'll play the high-tempo football that could get us somewhere. Not this ridiculous 4-5-1 with Hargreaves which is embarassing/terrifying to watch.

Anonymous said...

On van Persie: I've been criticising his one-dimensionality for a couple of months, along the lines that he's a limited, selfish striker without the pace, creativity, and work rate to be useful on the wing when he's not scoring goals. Seeing him yesterday, though, I thought he looked much improved. Still no pace, but he worked hard and was surprisingly unselfish and focused. The ball for Robben was superb and his free kick one of the best I've ever seen - wasn't his fault Kuyt somehow managed to miss it.

I'd be most worried about the fullbacks if I were an England supporter as that's normally one of your strengths. The other problems are entirely predicable. Since there's a serious dearth of striking talent in England at present, the situation cries out for 4-5-1, as the five-man midfield allows Gerrard, Lampard and Cole to get forward. I can understand the football tourists bleating on about Hargreaves, but for a supposedly serious blogger - haven't you ever watched him for Bayern? - to jump on the bandwagon is depressing to read. I wouldn't mind Carrick starting in that role either as he can at least pass the ball - the running about like headles chickens trying to regain possession being another perennial England fault.

There have been some terrific games so far but England-Paraguay wasn't one of them. Is no one else interested in talking about, say, Ivory-Coast v. Argentina or Holland v. Serbia, both for the quality of the football and the performance of Arsenal players - present and possibly futute. I'm going to watch our new Dumpling (hopefully) score a hat trick against the US today. Anyone else interested in discussing that game?

Ash said...

Sven always said that he considers Joe Cole as a striker. Ive seen many teams now and I really dont think England are serious contenders. England look like a set-piece team to me. Lampard is not much of a threat and Gerrard is wasted. Lets just hope that Rooney can do something

Goonerboy said...

Anon 12.02: it doesn't necessarily matter how Hargreaves plays for Bayern - he doesn't fit in/work in the English side. Carrick would have been a far better option. I've yet to see anything from Hargreaves to suggest why he's in the squad aside from his supposed versatility.

Anon 12.05 - you might be right about England being a set-piece team.

I was going to write about the other games but the post was quite long already.

Tim Cahill, you rock said...

Had a thought after watching the czech game - is Arsene changing to a 4-2-3-1 a la Czech republic? Rosicky was brilliant in that game and Fabregas and Hleb would slot in nicely as supporting attacking midfielders. Those two compare favourably to Nedved and Poborsky, in terms of work-rate, creativity and technique. Having three attacking midfielders would also be an effective replacement for the "Bergkamp role". It would certainly more humane than lumbering every half-striker with that label (e.g. Bentley, Reyes, van Persie).
The width in the Czech team was provided mainly by the full-backs, with the attacking midfield more central. This would suit the attacking instincts of Cole and Eboue perfectly, and allow Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas to stay in their preferred central roles.
We would still need two defensive midfielders (Gilberto and Lauren?) to give us the necessary physical presence, though.
The Czechs also play with a huge dude up front in Jan Koller. It may explain Arsenal's sudden interest in tall, physical strikers like Zigic and Adebayor, considering we don't normally cross for headers.

Anonymous said...

people when will you realise that it not that sven is a tactical cunt( which he is)it is that england is hugely overated. the problem with english football is that it does not produce players like riquelme,makelele or cesc. defensive/attacking player that can actually hold up the ball and dictate play at varried speed. Gerrard,Lampard are (one dimensional) footballer who can run all day and shoot from distance but the problem is that how most of the other players on the team are. so if you can stiffle their uptempo,physical game then england does not have an answers. ask yourself why do most of the big prem clubs have/had foreign defensive/central midfielder? xabi alonso,makelele,sissoko,viera,keane,cesc,gilberto,

Anonymous said...

Agree with the comment above, which reinforces the argument in favour of Hargreaves in the holding role. It's ludicrous to assert that his performance for Bayern is irrelevant because he doesn't fit into the England team. Of course he doesn't fit in - that's precisely the point. How could he possibly fit in when he's never been given a chance to make the position his own? Using him as a sub for ten minutes or so in a variety of roles is hardly conducive to his developing an understanding with his team-mates and, by extension, to England's performance as a whole. On the rare occasions when Sven has had to experiment with five in midfield, he has done it without any conviction, just shuffling the pack of big-name midfielders and forcing Beckham or Gerrard into a role they don't know and aren't suited to - with predictably feeble results.
Without Rooney, who can win games singlehandedly, the England side looks clueless. No striker of any calibre, no ability to retain possession, no capacity to adapt their tactics - no tactics full stop.

From what people have seen so far, who has impressed you the most? For me Argentina and Spain are way out in front, with Italy, Holland and the Czechs also looking quite good. I'm sure Brazil will improve but France - poor Paddy, poor Thierry - look pathologically defensive and doomed.