You may know it all about Fabregas, Lallana and the like, but other signings may have slipped under the radar. WhoScored run their eyes over those recruited from abroad...
Asks the morning mailbox, before hastily returning to the debate over who should replace Steven Gerrard. Plus, thoughts on Ed Woodward's spending plans and more...
You know that thing Frank Lampard does where he receives the ball with his back to the opposition goal and proceeds to turn in a circle with it, as balletic as a flying brick, in an ever widening arc, slowing the play down and drawing opposition players towards him, so that he then has to release the pass hurriedly and inaccurately, causing England to lose possession in the middle of the field? Well, that thing makes me literally scream.
We've all seen him do that far too much for England. Forget Super Goals, Super Frank, he's being losing possession for England since 1999. When is enough, enough? He's been central to most of England's failures and yet still gets a gig as though none of this has happened. I'd actually rather see someone much worse have a go, if only to watch someone new lose possession. Frankly, I'd rather play a shopping trolley full of sand bags than see Lampard do that anymore.
I know why he's been picked, why he's still picked. I know about the club legend and the erudite, privately educated scholar, but for England all we get is this lumbering container ship who can't keep the ball.
It was at this point that, not for the first time, the notion that we should just get rid of all the players who have failed us in the past and replace them with players who haven't - as much as punishment for persistent awfulness as for any other reason - took hold of me. We've never been any good by not doing this, so why not try it? Better to fail with new players than old. The old ones are burdened by being old failures so let's get rid. Let's have a bonfire of the old player vanities.
However, now it's all over, I know it is almost certainly a rash, silly, unjustified notion born out of too much emotion and not enough consideration. The fact we've never tried it is no justification for actually doing it. As was pointed out to me (by the boss) we have never played in leotards, but that's no reason why we should start now...though I'm not so sure about that. I'm wearing one as I write and I feel awesome.
All successful sides are a blend of experience and youth, and if you kept throwing out failed players, England would soon be down to 16-year-old kids. Also, Lampard probably has played well for England sometimes. Even if I can't recall when, it doesn't make that not true. He probably did a lot of things right against Ecuador but I'm so blinded by his ability to lose possession that I can't register them. We're all like that. We start to see only what we want to see.
So I know it's a facile notion to rip it up and start again, but then, I keep feeling that England can't be any worse for excluding Wayne Rooney if he turns in one of his usual statistically decent, but in reality, rather dull performances. However, to counter that, most sides are hoping that their best players turn up and play well and it's not just England who have under-performing overpaid potato men in their squad, albeit not usually ones with moleskin on their head.
We all live in hope that The Great Rooney makes an appearance, but with ever-dwindling belief that he will. This is not a uniquely English experience though. We all know The Great Rooney could makes us a really good side.
So yes, I know a applying a scorched earth policy to England players is stupid, not least because what do you do if you try that and they still fail? But as I sit here watching Lampard doing his impression of a tractor in a pond of mercury, it still feels irresistible.
The only conclusion I can derive is that England make us lose our minds, which is possibly why I'm sitting here in a leotard.
Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com
Ah, Lampard - a player who does one thing very well (albeit too often and selfishly). Worse than the slowmo turns is the hurried sideways pass when an opponent draws near, regardless of whether his teammate is in a bad position, and then his immediate turning away and moving forward - putting his back to the ball. Funnily, a certain temporary manager identified that and worked on it - so actually improving Lamps no end. It didn't last with the return of the Specious One.- paulonbooks