Defending Cleverley And More Mails...

One Man United fan says that England fans always pick on their players. Diddums. Others defend Cleverley in particular as the England fall-out continues...

Last Updated: 20/11/13 at 15:38

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United Players Always To Blame?
I see the blame England's woes on a United player theme is still going fast and strong.

Now before you accuse me of being a paranoid United fan lets look at a bit of evidence, shall we?

David Beckham - Death Threats, burning effigies and general nastiness.
Phil Neville - the butt of everybody's ire on and off for his entire England career.
Wayne Rooney - He's the saviour, no he's not he's a fat useless lump.
Tom Cleverley - the lad is getting absolutely slaughtered by fans across the board, he is in the team to do a job, keep the ball moving, perhaps he should fire 50 yard passes into touch like Stevie Me to be lauded as World-Class.
Chris Smalling - Not good enough, can't head, can't defend etc

I'm just glad Emile Heskey never played for United, you lot would have broken the internet.

We gave England the best midfielder of his generation and we stuck him on the wing so Frank f*cking Lampard could get a game.
Paul Murphy, Manchester (which incidentally is RED)

England: 15 Years Behind

Hi, I'm sure you'll have plenty of emails about the match last night so I'm not going to bang on about young Andros cutting in to his left foot yet again.

I was at the game last night and, although England played some good football, all within the first 20 mins I might add, it seemed for most of the match that Germany were playing a completely different game such was the speed, skill and time all of their players seem to have on the ball.

It struck me that England look at least a generation behind their time on an International level. They're now starting to play the sort of football that Germany were playing 15 years ago and they still have a way to go to fully get to those heady heights. In another 5-10 years England may well be a well-oiled, silky passing football machine but what will the likes of Germany, Spain et al be doing by this time?

A case in point are the youngsters coming through, Barkley, Morrison, Shaw, etc - read Ozil, Muller, Lahm - Germany have been through this phase of the game already.

It's not a sensationalist thought by any means but are England destined, by the very nature of the game, to only ever be an extremely average group of professionals?

Anyway, I need to get back to work, this may not get published but I've never felt compelled to write in before - maybe that will work in my favour!
Andrew (No Brackets) Steer

Not In The Same League

Reading this morning's inbox, you would almost think that England fans thought England should not have lost to Germany. Are you kidding me? Germany are in a different league. England have no claim to be in the same league as multiple WC winners and finalists (not only back in the 60s and 70s, but very recently too!) like Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina. Spain, the current world champion and double European champions are also light years ahead of England. Maybe England are quite close to the Netherlands, but even that's wishful thinking in my opinion.

I think England are now the equivalents of teams like Colombia, Sweden and Croatia, consistent performers yes, but nowhere near the real deal. Even France has more claim to be considered as one of the best international sides in the world, given their very recent WC and Euro triumphs (and I think they have a much better team on paper too. Pogba, Cabaye and Matuidi in MF. Woof.).

The current squad, like most English teams since the 70s, are just not good enough. And you can't just expect them to suddenly start matching the likes of Germany and Spain. Kyle Walker is not going to suddenly develop a brain in time for the WC. What England needs to do is acknowledge how cr*p they are, given the resources they have at their disposal and the quality of the domestic leagues. Then, start building for the future. Short-term setbacks like last night don't matter if you are progressing towards the target of a WC final within 10 years. Patience, meticulousness and organisation will pay off (look at British Cycling). Moaning that a one-time world champion (there are grandads who weren't even born then!) should do better against triple world champions and regular finalists won't lead to anything.
Jay (Need to get the clubs to adopt a unified philosophy geared towards bettering the England team. I know, easier said than done...), MUFC

Some England Conclusions

1. The time for experimentation is now at an end. Michael Ballack raised an important point I thought, in that we have only a few friendly games before a World Cup and Hodgson appears not to know his best side in a number of areas. These games have shown us that Lallana is probably worth his place on the plane to Brazil, but we really need to start getting an idea of our best team.

2. Lee Dixon also raised a good point I thought. Hodgson needs to choose a system and stick with it. The idea at the moment, because we have two 'form' strikers in Rooney and Sturridge, is to play two up front and shoehorn everyone else in around them. Hmmm.

3. There appears to have been a change in approach from grinding out hard-fought draws to playing expansive, attacking football in recent games. This worked against a weakened Montenegro side and a Poland side with nothing to play for. It's worth noting though that Poland ripped us open a few times, and there are a number of reasons why the two above sides are not going to the World Cup.

4. These two friendlies have shown us that playing with this formation, England are likely to struggle against sides that move the ball around quickly. We have been shown to be shorthanded defensively on a number of occasions.

5. A right side of Townsend, Walker and Smalling is almost asking to be taken to pieces. If I was an opposition manager I would just direct all my attacks down the left. Positionally (from a defensive standpoint), they are all poor, in my opinion, and it affects the rest of the team in terms of the shape.

6. The absence of a destructive midfielder is curious. If we are now playing attacking football with a midfield four, this leaves us woefully open. It is of course possible to play without a destructive midfielder, but this often relies upon having plenty of possession and controlling the game. England tend to do neither. Add in potentially two attacking full backs and it's a recipe for disaster. Perhaps more worryingly, Gareth Barry is still our best option in this role.

7. England quite realistically face the prospect of going into a World Cup group where they will be favourites for perhaps one, maybe even none of their group games. Playing this system, I would expect to see them picked apart at will.

8. This is a new England side. All the doom-mongers shouting for change after South Africa have their wish, let's remember that. Only Gerrard, Rooney, Cole and Johnson can realistically claim to have survived the intervening four years, and all are the best we have in their positions (arguably). No more calling for change. You already have it.

9. We have two brilliant left-backs. Why are we playing the third-choice one, even in friendlies? His time will come, but it's not now.

10. Townsend is a real conundrum. He offers almost nothing defensively, which will contribute to England being under the cosh for long periods during the World Cup, but he's one of the few players we have that can make something out of nothing (assuming he keeps his form up). Hoping someone makes something out of nothing has generally been England's approach at major tournaments for the last few years. A moment of Rooney/Gerrard magic, a Beckham set-piece - we rarely score well crafted goals following sustained pressure. Townsend is arguably this side's Roy of the Rovers.

11. What a damning indictment of where Brazil are at, given that this England side have competed with them as equals twice in recent months, only to be soundly beaten by Chile and Germany's B+ team. Brazil were pedestrian in comparison to both teams, but it's also worth noting England looked more solid using the 4-3-5/4-5-1 system in those games.

12. Assuming Tom Cleverley is not in the starting eleven of any potential England system, he shouldn't go to Brazil. Players coming off the bench in these tournaments need to be game changers (GKs and defenders apart). Cleverley, for me, doesn't have the ability to change a game in an attacking sense or a defensive sense. The likes of Lallana and Barkley make more sense attacking wise, as do Henderson and Milner defensively.

13. Let's hope for good health for our key men over the rest of the season. Let's also hope they're not knackered come May.
Andy, London

Change Of Approach Needed

Admittedly, the England team has issues. However they are not like Spain wherein the first XI almost invariably consist of Barca players with a smattering of Real prospects or for that matter the German team which predominantly consists of players from Bayern.

What's therefore difficult to fathom is why the England coaches keep waiting till the last minute of every major tournament before finalising their first 15, or 23 for that matter. You cannot build a unit unless the same players are aware of their roles and knows how to interact with certain players within a game. Smalling and Jones in CD means nothing to me and neither does playing the likes of Henderson. A complete waste of time. Bed in the players who you think you're going to pick (surely the managers watch enough games during the club season to know who is capable of what) and make them simulate the exact style of play they plan to implement in Brazil. The ones who are missing are unavoidable, but any more experimentations become quite meaningless.

Another issue is Gerrard and Rooney are playing deeper roles than would benefit the team. With all due respect to Wilshere, whose time will come, and the rest, I see only Gerrard and Rooney creating/scoring at will. These two, along with Townsend and Welbeck (or Sturridge) need to be in attack mode and for me, should track back as less as possible and the reason is simple. You cannot stop the likes of Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi irrespective of how many defenders/CMs you have. They will score. Idea is to have your players in positions where they can be a force as well.
Saby (Lennon on the left should still be the best bet) MUFC

Unbiased And Honest Review

After watching the England game last night my mind moved on to what people would say about their performance, I popped onto Facebook lo and behold the same old rubbish filled my news feed 'Weakened team hammered us','Ah England are useless' blah blah blah and so on, so I thought I would add my two pence on a team I don't even support.

Hart: Good overall but what in the hell was he doing coming that far out for a ball Smalling was dealing with easily? 6

Walker: One of his better games, his defending is at times non-existent but actually did alright in that aspect last night...although his passing leaves much to be desired (apart from from the German players who loved it when he got the ball). 6

Smalling: Actually did okay last night, yes he lost his man twice from corners and one resulted in a goal but apart from that wasn't half-bad (and considering some of his performances at CB that's a HUGE improvement!). 6

Jegielka: Probably England's best CB at present, yes he's not as good as your John Terrys and your Rios but he's not half bad you know. I constantly heat the phrase 'OMG BUT HE ONLY PLAYS FOR EVERTON THOUGH!' which is absurd, He is easily international quality (what ever the hell International quality is meant to mean..Andorra are an International team, does that mean he's as good as them or something? stupidest saying ever!). 7

Cole: for 35 mins was back to his best, making runs, putting balls in and defending brilliantly, then he suddenly turned into Glen Johnson! People were exploiting the massive amount of space he left behind him and was most culpable for the goal and exerted pressure heaped upon England at the end of the half! Second half he started brightly again then faded completely out of the game and deservedly replaced. Cole was for a long time the best LB in the world but his star is fading and fast! That's not to say he isn't England's best LB currently because he is, but it can't be long before his place in the squad never mind the team is in doubt. 5

Lallana: What he did, he did quite well but in all honesty I can barely remember him doing anything all game. He seemed to make clever runs that no one saw and used but he was out of the game for so much of it that I don't blame the others for missing them. I have no doubt he's a very good player but he needs to get involved more if he is to make an impact for England. 5

Cleverley: This could of been an absolute slating but in all honesty I think by the end of the game he had done himself justice. He started the game very poorly giving away the ball far to often for the first 30 mins but I then realised the reason this is happening is because he's trying so hard to prove himself will killer balls (one of which came off and was an absolute peach!). He then settled into the game and I though him and Gerrard actually did very well containing Germany's dynamic front three. 6

Gerrard: This was one of his quieter games, he tracked back well and did his job but he didn't offer anything going forward (except one piledriver of an effort). 6

Townsend: Probably England's best player but he certainly has his faults! Townsend is not the saviour of English football, he is a good winger moulded in the same stuff as Nani was. He is attacking and forward thinking but his end product is absolute tosh! what good is it beating your man if all you're going to do is hit it back at him or into an area that offers no threat! Someone please tell me why a left footed winger who can't do anything but shoot with his right (sometimes) playing on the right? we are giving his good reason to shoot all the time, play him on the left and let's see if he can cross! this playing wingers on the opposite flanks thing does work sometimes, but I'd like to see if Townsend can actually cross by playing him down the left. 7

Rooney: He did nothing worthwhile all game, while Lallana drifted out of the game too much Rooney tried to be involved too much! yes he is meant to drop a bit to get the ball but most of his time was spent out of the box chasing shadows, get in the box and do your main job and score FFS, back in his younger years he was an explosive forward no he thinks he's bloody Pirlo! 5

Sturridge: The less said about Sturridge the better! when he plays well he is a great player, when he plays bad he is truly woeful! Last night he didn't play well. 4


Gibbs: Didn't do anything wrong and is an option. 6

Henderson: Did well when he came on, kept the ball okay and played a few good passes, again he is an option. 6

Wilshere: Truly awful, was miles off the pace and lost the ball nearly every time he got it! how are people saying he is the next big thing still? unless he has a Ramsey style turn around he is going to fade out of the picture completely! his passing was especially bad last night! Wilshere came onto the scene and was simply brilliant! some of his early Arsenal games are a joy to behold (that Barcelona game especially) but since his injury problems he has come back and been so far off the pace it's unreal! He is also a petulant kid who gets himself into stupid situations and will get more and more Red cards unless he can curb his pathetic aggressive behaviour. 2

Barkley: Lost the ball too often but did alright otherwise, if he had more confidence in himself to shoot on sight might have come away with a goal. 6

Lambert: Didn't get involved as much as he would have liked but had a few nice headers to set off an attack. 6

This probably won't get into the Mailbox but I felt the need to offer an unbiased view on last night as England fans are so quick to jump on the 'AGH WE ARE AWFUL!' bandwagon where as the truth is last night the better team overall lost.
JB West Midlands

What Cleverley Does

What's Cleverley good at? Passing. He recycles possession quickly, accurately, and consistently, with c. 90% completion rates. Last season, Cleverley averaged 90% pass completion, when United had the highest possession and pass completion statistics in the league. He hasn't the drive and physicality of Gerrard, or the goal-scoring of Lampard, and he isn't as good as Carrick (yet), but he's an efficient, if not terribly creative, possession midfielder. The problem is that he plays in teams who are increasingly reactive rather than pro-active, who prioritise long passes, and who mediocre players.

He isn't as gifted as Januzaj, Powell or Lingard at Old Trafford, and all three of them will reach heights he never can. He isn't a long-term answer to United's midfield, in as much as the solution is one player (that was Pogba). But Cleverley would work, very well, in a three-man midfield, with a mobile front three ahead, and progressive full-backs. Like Welbeck, he's one of the first Meulensteen footballers at United, produced to play in a certain way, with a certain quality of player around them, and in a team with high levels of technical ability. He's always looked at his best playing with Carrick, Nani, Berbatov, Welbeck and Kagawa. Neither Cleverley nor Welbeck have the highest natural talent, but they'd both be far more effective playing with better players than Andros Townsend, Adam Lallana, Marouane Fellaini, Valencia, Ashley Young. They were developed when it was thought that the Ronaldo/Rooney/Tevez side would continue, and be one of the best in Europe, and were developed to slip a side playing in this style, with this quality of player.

The basic problem Cleverley has is that he either hasn't the ability, or hasn't the confidence, to make key passes, and this becomes problematic in a team generally short of individual ability.
Chris MUFC

...I should preface this contribution by saying that I could only watch the first half last night and so what I saw was actually quite positive as I thought we dominated territory and just lacked a bit of creativity in the final third. It doesn't surprise me that Cleverley has come in for criticism once more though. There seems to be a breed of football fan that thinks nothing is worth doing with the ball unless it is scoring or assisting. The same football fans who think last-ditch, desperate tackles from the likes of John Terry are superior to the interceptions of players who can actually read the game and position themselves well. The very same football fans who took years to notice the importance of players like Carrick and Xavi to their respective sides. I'm not for one minute implying that Cleverley is anywhere near those two, but my point is that football is about more than highlights.
Tom (Not Cleverley!), Manchester

...Gotta disagree about the slating of Tom Cleverly- I actually thought he was industrious and when he got the ball he used it well. He keeps possession, which is a useful thing. No-one is expecting him to run past defenders or make lungbusting dashes with the ball which ultimately end in goal-kicks - we have Rooney and Townsend for that.

Yet again we are falling into our usual England trick - players are either the second coming (Rooney, Walcott, Barkley now Townsend) or they are disgraces and should never be allowed to wear the shirt (Milner, Cleverly, etc). It's nothing new, you can pretty much cut and paste the news headlines from qualifying to qualifying.

Which leads me onto my second point - and I've been hearing this said by a lot of Spurs fans this year - Andros Townsend is not actually helping the team very much. Yes he is fast and direct, meaning our transition from defence to attack is rapid, but how many assists has he got? How many times does he look to pick out a player? He keeps cutting in and taking a pot shot. Great when it works, but if I'm sitting at home telling him to pass it, how must Rooney/Sturridge or for Spurs, Soldado, feel every time he shanks it over the bar?

And why are we playing with inverted wingers in the first place? Get to the by-line and stick it in the box! Stop narrowing the field of play.
Daniel Brierley

Low For Arsenal Please

After watching the England Germany game last night a thought suddenly struck me. How great would it be to see Joachim Loew managing in the Premier League? With still a degree of uncertainty over Arsene Wenger's contract situation and whether he will or won't sign, I would think that Loew would be a perfect replacement. Don't get me wrong I would love for Arsene to stay for many more years but I think that if he wins the championship this year I believe he will leave while on top. This would leave Loew as his ideal replacement. I understand that Loew has a contract running until 2016 but if the Germans fail to deliver the World Cup that has just about eluded them for the last four tournaments then maybe Loew might think he has taken the team as far as he possibly can. Then he could bring his dashing black hair and designer scarfs with him to Arsenal. He seems to be a very calm, intelligent man and his German side have played some spectacular football while he has been in charge. He could aslo possibly tempt a couple of the younger up and coming German starts to join him in North London to add to our already strong core of them at the club. The transition of losing Wenger will be extremely difficult when it eventually happens but I think that if Loew came in then as a young manager with a brilliant record for Germany it could make the transition a lot easier.
Peter (He also has a dreamy sense of style), AFC

Blooming Chiles

Beaten by Germany, again, but let's try to be pragmatic, it was a friendly, with two fairly experimental teams facing each other, and Germany are a nation with a far superior pool of players to choose from and they came out on top. Cest la vie. But, one thing last night troubled me, it is undoubtedly the biggest cause for concern in the run-up to next summer's World Cup, and for me that was the post-match analysis with three ex-footballers and a chubby bloke from the Midlands.

That Adrian Chiles' opening gambit when referring to an ex-German footballing great as 'Herr Ballack' took me back to Uncle Albert circa 1986 wasn't bad enough, he then proceeded to muddle his way through a conversation loosely based around football, but primarily focused on England Vs Germany 'Bantz', and he still managed to come off second best to a guy speaking his second language. ITV's coverage has long been painful to endure, and when Ian Wright isn't making the least sense you know something is amiss. The analysis is awful and the punditry is worse, the only one of the four panelists who I enjoyed listening to last night was Michael Ballack. I'm just amazed Adrian didn't sign off last night with a 'Joachim Low bombed my granny's fish shop' quip.

That said, as much as Adrian Chiles fronting ITV's football schedule boggles my mind, and must have been dreamt up in the same realm where Gillian McKeith presents Man Vs Food, he has only taken a job he has been offered. Similarly to when Joe Kinear became Director of Football at NUFC, I was flabbergasted, but the bloke was never going to turn that job down. The thought that Adrian Chiles, who would look more at home as a shift manager at a Toby Carvery in Stoke On Trent than on a panel of ex-international footballers, has been chosen to be the annoying face of half of my World Cup viewing next summer is one that makes me genuinely depressed.
Gaz W

That Boy Ronaldo

We sold him for £80m. When, ever, is £80m a bargain?
Sean Peter-Budge

Ronaldo v Zlatan

I did some maths on this.

Over 180 minutes, Ronaldo is twice as good as Zlatan.

Over 90 minutes, Ronaldo was infinitely better than Zlatan, and 50% better than Zlatan. On average, it turns out that Ronaldo is actually infinitely better than Zlatan. The numbers are unarguable. And they don't lie. That's exactly how these things work.
P Patel

Loving The International Break

While I'd dearly love to support a team that's as good as Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal or Chelsea - I don't. Heck, I'd even settle for Crystal Palace quality. As it is, I support my local team St. Patrick's Athletic.

Now, I'm not complaining as they've given me a lot of great memories over the years, but in reality the quality is not as good a Premier League match. Our top-of-the-table clash will not match the quality on show between a Premier League's already relegated bottom two showdown.

However, thanks to some very good European nights for St. Pats over the years, I've had the pleasure of witnessing Josip Simunic, Andriy Voronin and a very old Thomas Helveg play against us in our own Stadium of Light. None of them really in their prime, but a step up none the less.

This is where International football comes in for me. Thanks to being only a few minutes down the road from the Aviva, I've had the pleasure of watching some memorable names play against Ireland over the years. Lionel Messi, the real Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Kaka, Robin Van Persie, Luis Suarez to name but a few in the last ten years.

Add to that our own quality players like Roy Keane, his namesake Robbie, Damien Duff and Shay Given and it's easy to see why our national stadium can attract attendances over 20 times larger than an average St. Pat's home game. For countries like Ireland, Poland, Sweden and Romania etc., who don't have particularly strong domestic leagues, this is our only real chance of seeing regular top-class talent on our own doorstep.

So yes, I can see the frustrations amongst the Chelsea supporters when international break comes around as this becomes a disruption to witnessing one of the best club teams in the world. But for any other country outside of the top three or four leagues in the world, this is our only chance to witness players like Cristiano Ronaldo play live. The Swedes may not think so right now, but they did witness something very special indeed last night. The sort of thing almost every country could only witness through an international break.
Austino (The Real Ronaldo will eventually be Cristiano) Reyes

Name Merging: The Last Word

Further to Eoin (can't seem to think of many past the 90's) Ireland's email. I couldn't think of any particularly amusing partnership names but for some reason Julian Dicks and Nigel Winterburn, who were both defenders popped into my head. Dicks and Winterburn. In the spirit of all that's childish in life I think you know where I'm going with this.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC

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