Defending Hodgson's Squad Selection

Thankfully some people see why chucking in a load of rookies four games before a major tournament might not work. Plus Arsenal's form, impressive pedantry and a hate of statistics...

Last Updated: 08/11/13 at 10:02

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Arsenal Were Better Last Season
Whilst we are pissing on Arsenal's chips, just a little note about the run of fixtures they have had:

Villa home L last season W
Fulham away W last season W
Spurs home W last season W
Sunderland away W last season W
Stoke home W last season W
Swansea away W last season W
West brom away D last season W
Norwich home W last season W
Palace away W newly promoted - equivalent Reading, last season W
Liverpool home W last season D

So far Arsenal have less points from this season than from the equivalent fixtures last season. Beating Liverpool at home is the first time they have improved on a result from last season.

A fixture list where their first 8 matches yielded 8 wins last season must have had Arsene doing cartwheels.

If they go and win at Old Trafford then I'll agree its time to start taking them seriously but a team that can throw away a 5 point gap in February can certainly do that in November!
Aidan MUFC


We Couldn't Agree More
In anticipation of the inevitable shrug of disappointment that is likely to descend on the Mailbox, I thought someone should stand up for Roy's squad choices for the upcoming friendlies.

It's all well and good choosing the untried and the untested in friendlies, giving them a run out, and allowing players to amass one or two caps and call themselves England internationals, but there is a World Cup coming up. The national team gets precious little time together as it is. There is no sense in wasting 2 friendlies against handy opposition by fielding a B team for a run around.

There are players in that squad that I wish weren't, but whether we like it or not, the fact is there are probably realistically only 3/4 places on the plane up for grabs, so Roy has picked 3 or 4 new options, and you never know, one of them might do an Andros Townsend. But if he'd filled his squad with a host of uncapped and inexperienced players, we would probably get pasted in the friendlies, fans and media alike would be professing doom and gloom for Brazil 2014 and calling for Roy's head, and then the usual faces would have still been on that plane, armed with less playing time together.

We're not going to win the World Cup next year, and new players do need to be given a chance in the England setup, but it has to be a gradual process. At least this way I'd like to think Roy is giving us a slightly better chance of not being embarrassed in Brazil.

I'm hoping the reason Roy has picked 3 specialist left backs is because he plans to try out playing Cole and Baines together. I think against decent opposition it would be a good combination. The defensive benefits are apparent, but I don't think there would be any real loss of attacking threat either. Baines' ability to create a chance is well known, and Ashley isn't shy of a maraud forward either.

If that's not what Roy had in mind, then Gibbs should probably bring a book or something, because it could get quite boring.

I hope.
Chris, London (Although I struggle to justify Tom Cleverley in any squad) CAFC


Delph and Naughton(!) Not The Answer
It seems Alex in Leeds would love Roy to pick a team of "possibles" for the England friendlies and let players who know they're going like Cole, Gerrard and Rooney have the weekend off. Nice idea, but totally counterproductive.

Given how little time an international team has to gel at a tournament, it would be ridiculous to throw away an opportunity for the players who are likely to line up in Rio to actually play together for 60-70 minutes. Especially if it's just to see whether Kyle Naughton and Fabien Delph might come out of nowhere and win the World Cup for us. I'll save everyone the bother. They won't. They might be useful backup in an emergency, but that's about it.

Hodgson has had two years to experiment. Now's the time to pull together a plan and work on it.
Tom, Brighton Gooner


Anti-Statistics
It frustrates me immensely that we now seem to be living in an Americanised age of football where statistics such as shots, possession, pass completion and saves are given far more credence than they are worth. American sports provide masses of hugely relevant statistical output, and the trend of analysis by plumbing the depths of statistics in football is overtaking the essence of football. I saw a feature on a stats website the other day highlighting Szczesny's minutes per save rate, and I cannot for the life of me figure out if a higher rate is meant to be better than a lower one. It literally tells you nothing whatsoever about how he is actually performing.

Passing accuracy, possession, shots, saves, tackles etc etc tell you nothing about the context or the quality of the action. A team that has a shoot on sight strategy will have plenty of shots on goal, but will probably not win many games. Teams that pass it around at the back a lot will probably have a high percentage of possession and pass accuracy, but might be completely impotent in front of goal (see Arsenal circa 2006-2012).

My biggest bugbear is chances created or key passes; as far as I can make out to achieve a key pass all you need to do is play a pass that results in a teammate taking a shot. Hell, if Mertesacker and Koscielny wanted to they could just lay it off to each other in the centre circle all season and rack up phenomenal key pass, pass accuracy and shots taken stats, with a number of them no doubt going on target padding a keepers saves stats, with the fact that they would completely fail to test the keeper being lost by stats buffs. Back in the good old days the commentating team would describe a shooting opportunity as a chance or a half-chance and I long for the return of such a simplistically accurate way of describing things.

NFL is a sport I love to watch, and so much of what goes on is measurable by statistics because of the nature of the game. However, if you ask any NFL fan what the most important attribute for a quarterback is, it won't be passing accuracy or arm strength, it will be what is universally called the "intangibles". Football is all about the intangibles. Arsenal were in complete control of the game on Wednesday because of all the things that you can't measure - shape, organisation, strategy, discipline, determination, technical skill etc.

Dortmund might have been shooting, but there was never any clear danger to the Arsenal goal. Szczesny made three saves that I could have made. After Dortmund had battered themselves against the brick wall for an hour, Arsenal upped their intensity on the ball and won comfortably in the end; there was no great panic in the last 15-20 minutes. Blowing my own trumpet somewhat, but I could see it coming as mile away and stuck a wedge on Arsenal at 5/1 on the 55 minute mark.

Believe me, I love stats and I love the 'Numbers and Stats' feature on this site, but far too many people take them far too seriously. There are far too many lazy journalists nowadays who will point to easily accessible stats rather than trying to interpret the strategical and technical variances in the way teams play. Everyone thought Barcelona had completed football with their high possession and pass accuracy statistics, and then along come Bayern and Dortmund with their distance covered and duels won. The truth is that statistics are merely an irrelevant product of much more interesting and complicated intangible elements of the game.

I could literally go on about this for days, and for anyone who hasn't bothered to read the above I will attempt to summarise as best I can: Just watch the game and draw your own conclusions about who was actually in control of the game - statistics tell you nothing.
Paul (a VERY confident Gooner in general, but who can't help but feel we'll be soundly beaten on Sunday) Halt


Impressive Pedantry
Adam Nottingham's email really upset me. Why? Because it has mistakes. Basic mistakes. Mathematical ones.

Berahino earns £850 per week. There are 52 weeks in a year. That makes it £44,200 pounds per year.

Or if you are a pedant (I am not), its actually £44,321.4285714 because there are 52.1428571429 weeks in a year.

So how does Adam get to £46,000. Some sort of Christmas bonus that only he knows about?

I think I realise why I am going to be all alone tonight.
Percy Paul, Delhi (Preening Gooner)


We're All Iceland Fans Now
There reason I love this website and its global community can be summed up quite nicely by the fact that even as a fan of England and Uncle Roy, I couldn't care less who England are playing and when. I want to find a time and channel for the Iceland matches!
Rusty (If Cu*tis Davis plays for England at the World Cup I'll eat my own toes) Gray, West Bromwich Albion


On Strike Partnerships
Norwich City's Elmanwinkle !

Game set and match, I think....
Rob, Bristol Gooner (actually my Bristol City supporting colleague Ryan came up with it - so credit where it's due)

...I wonder what the VAn persie-GIggs-NAni trio name would be....
Jamo,nairobi,kenya

...Following on from your Aguedo & Van Pooney combination, I thought I would waste time today by combining some famous English teams strike partners of the past.

Bineker, Shutton, Fearer, Quillips, Koshack, Dush, Butch, Fowllymore, Corke, Gusselbank.
HbY, THFC, Sawbo. (already calling them Ramsey F.C.)


And A Friday Game
Well after couple days of serious bedridden manflu , whilst dying I decided to make up a team of the best foreigners to play in the England (1) Only one player per team (2) Only one player per country:

Friedel (USA) Villa
Ziege (Ger) Spurs
Hyypia (Fin) Liv
Kompany (Bel) ManC
Petrescu (Rom) Sheff Wed
Ginola (Fra) New
Juninho (Braz) Mibro
Mascerano (Arg) Wham
Ronaldo (Port) ManU
Bergkamp (Holl) Ars
Drogba (Ivo) Chels
Adam Halliday, Villa fan , Herts

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

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