He's not sprinting as much as last season, he's not contributing to as many goals, he's not breaking up as many attacks. The stats tell a story of a man doing little...
...lots more in a mailbox that takes in Manuel Pellegrini's woes, Steven Gerrard's future, Carlo Ancelotti, Alan Pardew and Alan Pardew's daughter. A fine read...
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Imagine last night's game in the 1970s (when everything wasn't ruined by these nasty foreigners) and the star opposition player was coming back from a knee operation. And this same player had a justified reputation for being very volatile.
What do you think would have happened? Without a word being spoken he would have been repeatedly clattered so hard in the first five minutes that he either would have been carried off, been so nervous about getting close to the ball or would have been sent off for a (perhaps reasonable) reaction.
But, not last night. Nowadays they're all best friends and probably keener to win the Premier League or Champions League with him next season than to progress a round or two in the World Cup. No way would the national captain have allowed his club team-mate to be battered as a tactic.
Paul Jones (not as though it matters, if he carries on playing like that he'll be subject to a ridiculous offer from Madrid or PSG or City or wherever and he'll be off)
I know there will be a lot of emails vehemently pro or anti-Rooney so I thought I'd go down the middle and blame Alex Ferguson instead.
Last night Rooney did indeed get his goal and get in good goalscoring positions, but deeper on the pitch he managed to slow the ball down and turn the lightning attacks of Manaus into a plod. It's fairly obvious that he's still playing with a striker's mentality of hold the ball up and bring others into play when to fit with his role and the team tactics he needed to keep the ball moving forward at pace.
This is where Sir Alex comes in. There's a lot of similarity between Rooney's early play and Barkley now, and Rooney certainly wants to play as a forward, but I think it's fair to say that at Old Trafford he got trained as a out-and-out striker. He lost the instinct to make the quick play and in the process maybe turned from a potentially world class AM/forward into just a very good striker. Who knows, if he decided that he just wanted to score goals then he could still be one of the best international poachers. Unfortunately for Rooney and England he still wants to charge back and make the difference in midfield too. So really it comes down to a cunning Scotsman planning years ahead to ruin England's World Cup chances. I'm sure the Queen will take note of my assessment and strip Ferguson of his title.
Anyway... Looking ahead I'd be perfectly happy to see Rooney in the squad as long as it was as a striker, and things generally look rosy with the young players, so I'm going to sit back and enjoy a bloody brilliant World Cup. Unless England do actually scrape through the group in which case I'll just get tense again until we lose on penalties.
Geoff the optimistic Evertonian (Stones will be England's rock at the next tournament.... and that pun will be in every newspaper)
In Defence Of Gerrard
Yes, Danny, Preston, you are indeed completely wrong about Gerrard's role for Liverpool. In fact so wrong that you've made yourself look remarkably silly. To correct you (because you're wrong), the pace Liverpool played at was in part was not just because Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling etc could play the ball between them and leave Gerrard out. In fact this might be the most bizarre comment ever made. Liverpool's style was in part driven by Gerrard's role, as he was the one generally who got things started by playing the ball quickly to those players.
As to your point that he can't be any good for Liverpool because he wasn't getting on the end of the chances created by others...erm, Danny, I don't know how to break this to you but Gerrard was the leading assist maker at the club last year, and I believe in the league. So unless you are expecting him to both screen the defence, start attacks from deep and then both make assists and get on the end of assists, then I guess you are never going to be happy?
Even as a Liverpool fan it is obvious that Gerrard had an average game last night, but the reaction from some fans has been frankly pathetic. Mainly those who are just jumping on the club bandwagon and using it to bash their least favourite players.
I think that Lawrence and David from this morning's mailbox are on to something with regards to Gerrard and Lampard's 'motivational' speech. As Mark Butcher (former England batsman) pointed out a couple of days ago, the England backroom staff - in particular the sports psychologists - must be pulling their hair out for delivering a 'win, or else' message to the squad. It is completely counter to the attitude that the backroom staff have been trying to instill and will only serve to damage another generation of young players. I can't for the life of me work out why that was allowed to happen.
On another note, one of the most tactically astute managers in the game, Rafa Benitez, would not trust Gerrard in a central role for the majority of his time at Liverpool, preferring to play him on the right. The higher the level of opposition, the less that Roy of Rovers shtick works. Admittedly he is playing a deeper-lying role nowadays, but it seems a case of trying to shoehorn a player into a position based on reputation alone. Hopefully this will become a thing of the past.....but I doubt it.
In And Around...
Speaking of bad commentary (assuming that thread is still going) did anyone else hear Andy Townsend say Godin's forearm was "in and around Sturridge's throat" for the potential sending off? Almost spat my beer out, I mean fair enough being in-and-around the box, but someone's throat?
Is That You, Andy?
Right, enough of this victimising of the poor phrase: "he hit that too well".
It's neither stupid, nor meaningless, it in fact contains a thread of meta-analysis so rare in the pundit game that we should be celebrating it and asking for more like it.
Now I'm sure most people know this but just to get the facts straight, the phrase refers to a particular approach that a player may take when shooting on goal - essentially to strike it incredibly hard, true, and on target (as opposed to, say, placing it in the corner). The nature of a shot like this is that if it's perfectly executed there's a good chance it will go straight down the gullet of the goalie, giving him a reasonably easy save. However most players don't strike the ball perfectly every time, and so the success of this type of shot is aided by a touch of accidental "English" on it, sending it swerving into one corner of the goal, in spite of the striker essentially aiming for the centre.
On this basis, hitting the shot too well will likely end up in it being saved, and it is in these instances that the phrase gets uttered - ENTIRELY CORRECTLY.
The fact that it took a whole paragraph to explain just goes to show its superiority over the prevalent "say what you see" approach - so I for one won't be celebrating like Oscar (much as I enjoy Rooney getting stick Gerard deserves twice as much) THFC when the likes of Townsend hold back from this subtle observation in favour of "he hit that hard".
Progress? Not for me Gary.
I admire Ian in Northampton optimism about Italy winning their remaining games and England sneaking through with a win over Costa Rica, but he's got one crucial point wrong. If Italy beat Costa Rica tonight (which they of course need to in order to keep England dangling until next Tuesday) they may well be fired up to ensure they finish top and avoid Colombia. However, they would only need a draw against Uruguay to ensure this. They would have nothing to be gained by going all out to beat them.
Uruguay too would only require a draw to progress, so long as England beat Costa Rica (not a given, of course).
Does anyone really believe that if England are doing their part and beating Costa Rica by two goals, that Italy and Uruguay wouldn't see their way to a mutually beneficial draw? Italy would win the group and Uruguay would progress in second place.
On the other hand, Costa Rica may beat Italy and England and that's the end of that.
Same Old Suarez
I didn't watch the football last night (work reasons), but upon reading about it this morning I could help but be a wee bit irked by some of a certain Mr Suarez's comments. Suarez said: "Before the game, too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now."
Well Mr Suarez I'll tell you exactly what I think about you now; the levels of your ignorance, arrogance and stupidity are probably on a par with your abilities as a footballer.
When you won this year's player of the year awards some people in the media suggested (and you probably believed yourself) that this was some sort of redemption for your t**tish behaviour in the last few years. It's not. Nobody has ever questioned your status as a classy footballer of rare talent, the problem is time and time again you have proved yourself to be a less than classy human being. People don't laugh at you because you're not very good at football. Doing well on the football pitch doesn't count as redemption for your failing as a human being.
Let's recap here. When you played for Ajax you were suspended for nine games for biting an opponent. You were also suspended for two games for having an 'altercation' with a team-mate at half-time. During your time a Liverpool you were suspended for eight games and received a £40,000 fine for using racist language towards another player. You were suspended for a further 10 games for once again biting somebody. Now I understand in the heat of the moment, in a high pressure sporting event even the most composed person can lose their cool and act irrationally, but If a reasonable person did one of these things they would probably reflect on what they had done and use it to try and improve their future behaviour. You, Mr Suarez, obviously see your behaviour as perfectly reasonable, otherwise you would not continuously act like such an enormous douche.
Last night you had the opportunity to show some class as a person and show that maybe you have learned something from your past misdemeanours. Instead you chose to throw it in our face and demonstrate that you still don't realise or accept the reasons why some people feel you represent everything that is wrong with modern football.
Alex (Slightly sour grapes) Hughes
All Aboard The Positivity Train
The concise positivity of Ian - and the fact that he like me has had to endure Northampton for any length of time - perked me up a lot. It's so obviously the right approach - why, if you were scrabbling towards your doom off the edge of a cliff, would you ever say, 'hmmmm, not sure that rope will be able to take my weight, might just leave it'.
Here's three results: Italy 2-0 Costa Rica, Italy 2-1 Uruguay, England 2-0 Costa Rica. Don't even try to tell yourself they couldn't happen. Best World Cup ever coming up.
Toby (Chile got through in 98 with 3 draws FFS) Sprigings
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez tells F365: "If this was a movie, people probably couldn't have wished for a better result, at least in Uruguay."
Now what movie could it be?.
Im thinking Se7en...you don't really see much of the wee strange baddie but he fair gives you the heebeejeeebies when he appears and just as you get your hopes up, it takes a dark twist at the end and cue tragedy and deep deep sobbing.
Paul Healy (I'm sure there a Fatal Attraction thing with Suarez and Gerrard in there somewhere too), Glasgow
Good Ol' Harry
I'm sure there are many post mortems in your inbox this morning so I thought I'd share my evening with you. I went to a screening with Harry Redknapp last night and at the beginning he did a Q&A. The usual platitudes, nothing especially exciting (although when he stated Glen Johnson was the best right back in world football the place burst out in laughter). And then we got to the end of the Q&A with a particular gem.
"Harry, what do you think about Brazil"
"That Fred bloke...I tried to sign him for Portsmouth eight years ago!"
I s*** you not.