Mediawatch: In which Robbie is Savaged

Date published: Wednesday 22nd June 2016 12:17

The Savage news
Oh Robbie Savage. Robbie, Robbie Savage.

He’s incensed about these England changes as only a Welshman can be. And he’s using his Daily Mirror column to tell you exactly how he feels.

‘Arrogance and audacity are strong words, but how else do you describe making so many changes to a side before you’ve even qualified from the group?’

Firstly, they don’t really seem that strong. Secondly, it’s good to see you’re making headway on that Christmas dictionary. Thirdly, maybe you could ask Croatia coach Ante Čačić, who made five changes ahead of their final group game against Spain and won 2-1 to finish top of the group.

But that is by no means Mediawatch’s favourite line from Savage’s column; we are pulled between two zingers for that accolade.


‘Here is the news, Roy: If you are a snooker player chasing a 147 break, and you miss the final black because you use a lolly stick instead of a cue, you don’t get the prize money.’

So many questions. Why is that ‘news’? How does the final group game of an international tournament possibly compare to the last black of a 147 break? If you really must use such a terrible analogy, then write that Roy has used a lolly stick instead of a cue for the fifth or sixth red, potted it anyway but struggled to get in good position for the next black. And who is the lolly stick anyway? Jordan Henderson?

And then there’s this…

‘Hodgson took five strikers to France, who are probably worth £200 million between them. Are Welshmen supposed to feel sorry for him?’

Erm, what?


Everything must change
Mediawatch laughed out loud at these opening paragraphs from The Sun’s back-page ‘exclusive’ (that’s in almost every other newspaper) from comedy double act Charlie Wyett and Neil Ashton:

‘ROY HODGSON stunned FA chiefs with his mass changes for England’s final group game.

‘Senior FA members felt swapping six players for the goalless draw with Slovakia was totally unnecessary.

‘Yet Hodgson is ready to weigh in again with up to FIVE changes for Monday’s last-16 clash – even though it could end his hopes of leading England to the next World Cup.’

Yes, that’s right – having made a raft of changes in order to rest key players, he is only going to bloody change it back.

Mediawatch now hopes that Hodgson sticks with exactly the same team as the one that faced Slovakia – with Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson in midfield – because, well, obviously, Change Is Bad.

Handily, both Wyett and Ashton pick their own England team for the next fixtures and Wyett makes four changes from the side that faced Slovakia and Ashton makes five. Or should that be FIVE?


Everything really must change
How dare Roy Hodgson ever change his mind about players? Handily, we have Sun man Neil Ashton’s choice of England XI from June 10 – 12 whole days ago – to compare with the XI he has chosen now.

This is what he wrote 12 days ago:

‘With this Christmas tree formation,  England can win the Euros.

‘Roy Hodgson must play three strikers because it is the strongest area of his squad.

‘Rooney, Kane and Daniel Sturridge are all bright enough to rotate – something the front three failed to do against Portugal.

‘Eric Dier will be overworked in front of the back four and Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana provide balance either side of him.’

Odd then that Ashton has changed his mind and now favours a 4-1-2-3 with Marcus Rashford involved as a striker and no place at all for Sterling or Lallana. It’s almost like – and this may blow some journalists’ minds – it’s not half as easy as it looks.


In the union
At least Alan Shearer has been consistent; he said before the tournament that England should mirror the formation that beat Germany in March and he is sticking with that idea now.

But as usual Mediawatch has a gripe with the idea that the strikers are in no way to blame (they are almost never to blame in Shearer’s world) for failing to make an impact at Euro 2016 and it’s all the fault of the system. Here’s what he says in The Sun:

‘Daniel Sturridge is playing in the right side of a three but that doesn’t work because he wants to play as a centre-foward.

‘He does not seem happy and he failed to gather that great ball over the top from Eric Dier, the sort of chance you’ve simply got to take.’

So the serious suggestion is that Sturridge failed to take ‘the sort of chance you’ve simply got to take’ because he was unhappy at playing as a right-sided forward. Even though the ball in question was straight down the middle? For f***’s sake.

So what about the gilt-edged chance that Jamie Vardy failed to take, Alan? Whose fault was that?

‘Jamie Vardy has played well all season off another striker. Okazaki or Ulloa, and running into space.

‘He had one good opportunity when he shot at the keeper but then they shut off the space for him to run in behind, which takes out what he’s best at.’

So the fact that Vardy missed an excellent chance and can be negated so easily is because ‘Roy is trying to fit them into a system which they are not comfortable with’?

‘The positive – and it is one – is that we are creating chances.’

Oh. So we are creating chances despite the system but it’s the system’s fault that the players are not taking them? Everything’s so simple when the striker is never, ever wrong.


A different corner

That possibly should have been the opening line of Neil Ashton’s piece in The Sun as he makes a rather simplistic case for England to score more goals from corners.

‘NOBODY is asking them to bend it like Becks.

‘That is beyond mere mortals. But it would be handy if one of England’s players could put it on the spot every once in a while.

‘Place the ball in the quadrant, pick out a runner from a well-rehearsed training-ground routine and let the inswinger do the rest.

‘Take the keeper out of the first phase with a near post flick-on and set Gary Cahill or Chris Smalling free to power home a header. Simple.

‘That corner routine, one of the oldest tricks in the books, still works week in, week out in the Premier League.

‘It will work out here, too.’

Which is bizarre. Because it clearly isn’t working for England or for any other country at Euro 2016, despite is being so very simple.

As Rory Smith writes in The Times:

‘Before yesterday’s games. Euro 2016 had produced 293 corners. They had led to the distinctly unimpressive tally of six goals, a ratio of one in every 49 taken, or just a shade over 2 per cent. Nowhere near enough, in other words, to justify the noise that accompanies each one.’

Or indeed the noise that follows each failure.

But this is not the Premier League, Rory; Ashton has come up with a simple corner-kick routine that ‘still works week in, week out in the Premier League’.

Back we go to The Times:

‘In this season’s Premier League, a total of 4,107 corners brought a grand total of 141 goals, meaning that just 3.4 per cent of them were converted.’

Oh. So it’s fair to say that England’s record of not scoring from their last 64 corners in tournament football means that they are probably due a goal, but it is entirely unremarkable that they are yet to score. Truly, truly unremarkable.

We will leave the last word (almost) to Ashton:

‘Set-pieces win matches – 20 per cent of goals are scored from them – and that, after all, is why we are all out here.’

Indeed. And as England have now scored 33 per cent of their Euro 2016 goals from a set-piece, they are way ahead of schedule.


In the dark
‘IS ROY HODGSON making this up as he goes along?’ begins Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail. ‘The absence of a clear plan, and a clear idea of his team, would suggest so.’

Let’s fast-forward past the vitriol to the 12th paragraph:

“I know what team I am going to play next week if they are all fit.”



Why can’t England be more like Portu…oh
Not content with Lawton sticking the boot in, Martin Samuel dons his size 10s and joins the Daily Mail party with his own strong words. Yes, stronger than arrogance and audacity.

‘DOES Hodgson think that France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal are also not meeting walls of blanked resistance? Did he not pay attention to France v Romania and Albania. Italy v Sweden, Portugal v everyone? Largely, though, these teams are finding ways to win the group.’

Largely? France, Germany and Italy will top their groups but Spain? No. Portugal? Probably not.

And were you paying attention to Italy v Sweden, Martin? If so, you would have seen that Sweden actually had more possession than Italy. In fact, the Italians have had less possession at this tournament than Ukraine, Russia and Austria. They’re not ‘meeting walls of banked resistance’.

As for Portugal? They have had 49 shots at this tournament and only scored once.

Try again, Martin.


Get me to the church on time
Obviously, there’s no point ‘lacerating’ (the Daily Mail’s word) Roy Hodgson unless you heap praise on the anti-England that is Wales. Thankfully, the Mail have Laurie Whitwell, here to tell us the ‘SECRETS that give Wales the wow factor’. This is how it begins:

‘As the clock ticked down on a match that will be etched into Welsh history, manager Chris Coleman made a substitution to symbolise the essence of his squad.

‘With seven minutes left, Gareth Bale came off, replaced by Simon Church. There were high fives and a hug between the world’s most expensive player and one who 12 months ago switched Charlton Athletic for MK Dons on a free transfer.

‘They have been Wales team-mates for seven years and Coleman – with his side 3-0 up against Russia – appeared to make the point that his squad is a collective, a genuinely unified bunch.’

Tell us, was Coleman making that same point when he brought on Church in Wales’ last warm-up clash with Sweden that ended in a 3-0 defeat? Or indeed on any of the other six occasions on which Church came on the pitch for less than 20 minutes in the last two seasons? Or is it only when Church is being used as a handy narrative point?


Thought for the day

Out of the mouths of babes…


Recommended reading of the day
Michael Cox on the power of substitutions
Raphael Honigstein on the David Alaba question
Stephen Tudor interviews a man with a billion-dollar sock invention

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