Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The ugly, the ugly and the ugliest: England in the group stages

I had an odd feeling last nightwhen Gerrard scored for England. I didn't really feel like celebrating. I wanted Sweden to score because England did not deserve to win. I wanted England to lose for England's own good - to try and make Sven or someone on the England coaching staff who has the balls to stand up to Sven's madness realise: we are a joke. There are millions of people in England for whom England in the world cup is one of the greatest pleasures in our short lives, and we have a mercenary for a coach who knows less about football than his Swedish counterpart who earns in a year what Sven earns in a week. [approx -according to ITV] English football fans deserve better. We deserve a Wenger, or even a Jol: people who can turn teams round, and actually know and care about football as much as English football fans do.

We have eleven supremely talented players who looked like a bunch of schoolboys last night. And its all due to Sven's inability to adequately tactically organise his players and, it seems, a basic lack of coaching ability. Simply put, there are two - in absolute terms - types of managers: those who maximise their players abilities, and those who minimise or bring the worst out of them. No guesses for where I think Sven lies. He doesn' know how to pick a squad, and he doesn't know how to organise his players in a manner by which to get the best from them. In fact, he organises the players in a manner which actually seems to create a whole which is significantly less talented than the sum of its parts.

What kind of team concedes a goal almost direct from a throw-in, which goes through the path of four defending players? For a moment I wondered whether it was a goal, because if the ball was thrown directly in its a goal kick [?]. The knives have come out for Sol, but what about Terry letting the ball go over his head? Ash rooted to the goal-line? Robinson so confused that he didn't know whether to come for the ball or wait and try and make a save? Considering the general mayhem Sweden caused in our penalty box at any set-piece, the question was begged: did England actually practice defending set-pieces? It didn't look like it. The Swedes deployed their players in a manner which maximised confusion: some close enough to Robinson to effectively block him from coming from his line, others circling round the box to take advantage of our non-existant marking. It's a times like this I wonder whether Sven actually coaches the players, or whether he lets them have a kick about and hope for the best. Also, whilst I really like Robinson and wish that we'd signed him, it makes me wish he had a little more authority. Would Jens have let himself be pushed around like that last night? I think not. People deride him for making a fuss when players try and crowd him out but it works.

Sweden should have beaten us. ITV focused in on Rooney throwing his boots against the dug out after he came off - but i would have too. Actually I would have thrown them at Sven and screamed - 'WHY ARE WE PLAYING 4-5-1 AGAIN!!!!' Does it ever work? Has it ever worked? No. England have consistently shown they are not comfortable in defending 1 goal leads by reverting to defensive formations. Why has he taken Walcott to the world cup if not to put him on when Rooney came off? As a Jim'll fix it -esque treat? 'Here's what the world cup is like Theo, go ask for Becks autograph, and then I'll give you some pocket money'. Do top-level premiership managers constantly play around with formations during matches. No. But Sven would not be allowed to manage a top premiership team.

Defoe should have gone; Jenas should be at home. Why take Carrick, Jenas and Hargreaves, and then lumber yourself with only four strikers - one of whom you seemingly have no intention of playing? The Times can run its 'release the G-Force' campaign all it wants [I was a bit dissapointed that they'd resorted to this tabloid level of journalism] but he doesn't play as a support striker for Liverpool. He plays nominally on the right - but actually in a free-role - behind two forwards. Not one. But I guarantee Sven will play 4-1-4-1 in the next game, with Lampard, Gerrard, and Hargreaves all playing and Rooney - farcically - up front on his own. It won't work, but we'll scrape - and I mean scrape - past Ecuador.

A word on a few of the players. Rooney is not the messiah. He is the single most talented English player I've ever seen [in my 16 years watching football] but even he cannot carry us to the final on his own, given his fitness, and Sven's undoubted decision to play him up front on his own. He needs a nippy striker beside him to feed to, and to make space for him. This won't happen and Wayne will just get more frustrated.

Hargreaves was excellent last night, and made me realise I've been a little harsh on him. He is a good player, and, deployed in a consistent position where he actually likes playing - midfield anchor - he could grow into a really great player. He tackled himself into the ground last night, and his distribution was by no means awful. Indeed I think he could grow into a lynchpin who might just about hold the team together. I realise that my beef with Hargreaves was with Sven's deployment of him in a different position in every game, which any player would struggle with.

Lampard was awful and should have come off for Gerrard. He needs a goal or he should be dropped, with Gerrard and Hargreaves playing in the middle together. Won't happen obviously.

Joe Cole - and Ashley - were both excellent. Joe would be brilliant as a Gooner. He rose to the occasion yesterday and scored a fabulous goal - although questions could be asked of the keeper. Watching the two of them overlap, and penetrate the left hand side was a joy and we should have made more of it.

Becks was awful. The problem with Becks is that he can't actually beat players any more. He can put the ball on a penny-piece from free-kicks - although even these were poor yesterday - and puts in great crosses, but he offers little threat from the right unless he's afforded space. If he hadn't been forced to take off Owen and Ferdinand, Becks would have had to come off for Lennon. Unfortunately, as Sven is actually in love with Becks, this wouldn't have occurred.

England looked disorganised and pitiful last night, and needed a wonder goal to have an advantage that they almost squandered. Stevie G's late goal was great to see, but a decent keeper would have stopped it. [The rumours of us being linked with Isaksson better be only rumours.] Out of all the games I've watched in the world cup, England's have been among the worst. We play bad, boring football, except when Ash and Joe get the ball. Hopefully Rooney can spice things up.

Pre-tournament I would've said semis or final with a bit of luck. Now I think quarters, semis with a bit of luck. Our 1/4 final will be against Portugal, Holland or Argentina. Holland and Argentina will beat us; we might beat Portugal, but, given Scolari's and Sven's tactics it'll be an awful, awful game.

Elsewhere in the world cup, my dislike for Italy was confirmed in their appalling game against the US. While I only caught the second half, and the US have to take a large share of the blame for the thuggery, the replay of De Rossi's elbow was one of the worst I've seen. He shouldn't be allowed to play in this world cup. Totti was already fouling before he came off, and that horrible, horrible player who was sent off for Juve against us was playing. Italy play football which is devoid of joy, and has an almost nefarious cynicism to it. I hope they go out.

Ghana's victory over the Czech's was not as big a surprise as many have made out. Ghana were a bit robbed in their game against Italy, while, without Koller, the Czechs had no threat up front. Nedved and Rosicky were excellent but had no outlet. Ghana, especially after the Czech's went down to ten were all over the Czech defence, but it still took about twenty shots on goal before they finally won. Does anyone know why one of the Ghana players took an Israeli flag out of his pocket when they scored? He might be Jewish? It was a little bizarre.

Spain proved that they'll be right there at the end of the competition with a battling victory over Tunisia. In a way it showed more about Spain's ability that they fought back, made sensible subsitutions and won, than that they merely won comfortably. Fabregas was utterly outstanding - I wish he'd have a few more of those long-range efforts when with us, and that we could somehow naturalise him. My fear with Fabregas is that he's so good its going to be a struggle to keep him at the club. Torres showed enough to confirm that he should be the new great striker in Europe - his price tag may now be beyond our reach though.

I could go on, but the post is already fairly lengthy. [!] Take care.



Anonymous said...

The Ghana player with the flag plays his club football in Israel.

Goonerboy said...

ah. Thanks for clearing that up. Nice touch.

Anonymous said...

Cesc ain't going nowhere…

Anonymous said...

Much as we've all been ragging on sven i think at some point it has to come down to the players. in the first 2 games especially it looked like half of them didn't give a shit and played at about 50% of the quality they display week in week out in the prem. its not even the tactics its simply passing, dribling, tackling and holding on to the ball which so many of them sudeenly seem incapable of doing!

Anonymous said...

The Times has been like a taloid for aeons. I used to buy it on Mondays for the football supplement but now even that's like the Sun with unreadable articles by footballers' wives, and almost no European coverage except on the rare occasions the Italian journalist Gabriele Marcotti writes something. Last year they even stopped giving you the results and league tables for countries other than England, having replaced that section with a dismal page on the match of the day in, say, 1950. Little England run riot so I stick to the Guardian.

Is anyone else doing the Guardian fantasy comp? You should, it's a daily reminder of Wenger's genius. Goals from Thierry, van Persie, Rosicky. For assists from midfield, Cesc is as good as Riquelme. Even Senderos has been keeping clean sheets.

Anonymous said...

England cannot win the WC cos they don't have a ball winner. Barca have Edmilson, Motta, van Bommel, Brazil have Emerson, Gilberto, Chelsea have Makelele, Bayern have Demechelis and Hargreaves, Juve have Emerson, PSV have Cocu, Liverpool have Sissoko, Spain have Senna, A.C Milan have Gattuso, we have Gilberto. Every succesful team in football history has had this type of player. England are a little like Real Madrid, a team of talented, but seperate entities concerned only with fillating their egos.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (from 6:55pm), I agree that you need the player - but you say that Bayern has Hargreaves and that England doesn't have a ball winner...

I found the England-Sweden game as a game of two halves. In the first half Sweden had too much respect, and in the second they started playing like they should've since the start of the tournament.

I was also hoping Sweden would win, since I think we (Sweden) will have a tougher time against the germans than we would've against Ecuador...

Good luck, and hopefully Freddie will pass Ashley Cole in the final a few time ;)

Anonymous said...

I think you're being a bit harsh on Eriksson. He does an okay job with the talent available. Hiddink or Scolari might shake things up a bit, but most managers would do as Sven does - play his best players in a formation they are familiar with. The problem is that there's a clear gap between England's best players and the rest, so he can't change tactics without compromising the squad. It makes no sense to drop world-class talents like Lampard or Gerrard for a middling player like Carrick or Parker.
Just compare the talent in England's squad with that of the genuine contenders. Argentine and Brazil can afford to leave Messi, Tevez and Robinho on the bench...
The only English players who can make a similar impact are Gerrard and Rooney.
Quarter-finals in the previous two tournments are what you would expect of England's squad.

Anonymous said...

The title for this article was should have been: "the ugly, the ugliest and need a paper bag."

gazzap said...

anon at 3:09, you are wrong. Sven should be dropping Lampard for Parker (if he was in the squad). Its not about who is the better footballer, its about getting the team to function as a team, with balance. Gerrard could be a lot better if given a free role with 2 strikers in front and a ball winner behind. Sven is blind.

DB10 said...

In the end other squads have depth, but if we dropped Lampard for a player who performs a particular function (i.e. ball winning), then we would have depth as well as Lampard would be sitting on the bench.

I have to say I thought Hargreaves
was excellent the other night - J.Cole rightfully got englands man of the match award, but Hargreaves must have run him close.

Anonymous said...

Oh this interminable England discussion - what about those of us who don't give a toss?

I haven't seen the fixtures list yet but I gather we've got a very tough run-in plus an away game following every champions league tie. Bloody typical. A hard start would have suited us better as we'll be relatively fit and ready given the qualifying champions league round.

Anyone (i.e. those not so fixated on England's deficiencies you're still interested in news about Arsenal) know the latest gossip on Saviola? I didn't credit this at first but it does now seem to be gathering pace.

Anonymous said...

Nice that the Fifa investigation of Arsenal's relationship with Beveren has - unsurprisingly - found us totally innocent.

Disappointing that you haven't commented on this - one of the few Arsenal sites not to do so immediately. Disappointing but perhaps not surprising, seeing as during the witch-hunt you yourself cast aspersions on Arsenal's integrity by describing our dealings as 'shady' - though shady in precisely what way was never explained.

No, unconditional loyalty to Arsenal isn't required of its supporters' sites. But the capacity to think independently is. I was depressed at the time by the mental laziness of your uncritical regurgitaton of the tabloid insinuations that Arsenal, in particular Dein, had been acting unethically, without a shred of evidence being produced. I'm even more depressed now at your lack of interest in the fact we've been cleared. How about an apology to Arsenal, Dein and those Arsenal fans who questioned your stance?