Matthew Syed has done another straw man column…
…but at least this time he isn’t using his column in The Times to conjecture on a topic that he a) knows an insufficient amount about and b) is a political hot potato.
Still, telling people not to ‘bang on about Marco Tardelli and Toto Schillaci’ because Italy missed out on the World Cup would have more resonance if anyone reasonable was actually banging on about Marco Tardelli and Toto Schillaci. So far, Mediawatch has only heard of Adrian Durham doing that on Talksport. Given that Syed is merely Durham but with a different audience and longer words, we’re not counting that as anyone reasonable.
There was one positive aspect to Syed’s latest piece, however: he only mentions one academic study in a completely different field and doesn’t even quote a philosopher. Wonders will never cease.
The new Chief Grumpypants
The Sun’s Neil Ashton has hardly bothered to cover his disdain for Gareth Southgate since his appointment. Last month you may remember that he mocked the England manager’s decision to switch to an ‘unconventional and unorthodox’ 3-4-3, ‘alien to English players brought up on a diet of 4-4-2’.
‘Sadly it will be an easy system for opponents, especially top-class opposition such as Germany or Brazil, to overcome,’ Ashton wrote in that column. ‘Once Thomas Muller or Gabriel Jesus are treading on Stones’ toes, Gary Cahill, Harry Maguire or Phil Jones will have to play with their feet. Good luck with that.’
So, after England stopped both of those teams scoring and John Stones registered a 97% passing accuracy against Brazil, surely Ashton was a happy man? Good formation switch, eh? Well…
‘Some day Gareth Southgate will have to beat one of the big boys…The bottom line is that the players, even England’s players, want to be winners too, you know.’
Yes, we do know. We all know. But keeping two of the best attacks in the world at bay would seem a positive step? Germany and Brazil are better than England, much better; they have been for ages. The last time England got further than either of them at a World Cup was 27 years ago.
‘A full throttle Brazil would have won at Wembley, crushing confidence before either of them get near to the World Cup.’
Erm, what? Brazil had a full-strength team out, including Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus as a front three. Even if Tite’s team weren’t playing at full pace, this was a friendly. England were missing Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Harry Winks, Jordan Henderson, Phil Jones and Adam Lallana. All could feasibly start England’s first World Cup match.
‘The World Cup is just around the corner and England will be out of the tournament the moment they come up against half-decent opposition, on this showing. Germany treated Friday’s friendly like a training exercise and Brazil were not far behind.’
Yes, and so did England. Southgate specifically said he wanted to test out his new defensive formation against top-class opposition. The formation you wrote off before it kept two clean sheets, remember.
This just makes no sense whatsoever
Sticking with Ashton. Not sorry:
‘The best sides, Brazil being one of them, do not show their hand too early. There is no need to.’
‘At some stage Southgate needs to find a way to eek (sic) out a win against a top-class outfit.’
So England’s failure to beat the best two teams in the world with a reserve team seven months before the tournament actually begins is a stick to beat the manager with, but Brazil’s failure to beat us is proof that they are not showing their hand early? Glad that’s clear.
Save the best ‘til last
And by ‘best’ of Ashton, we mean the most ludicrous:
‘It is no use arranging all these prestige games one after the other so Marcus Rashford, Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire can collect England caps.’
Mediawatch is (almost) speechless. There are at least three or four things wrong with that one sentence, and we should remind you that Joe Gomez was Man of the Match on his first England start, but criticising the England manager for picking Marcus Rashford is the weirdest thing we have read for a long, long time.
We’ll end the section by letting you guess which journalist was saying only two months ago that Harry Kane should play as a No. 10 to accommodate Rashford as England’s first-choice central striker.
He was okay ‘collecting caps’ then?
Everything is rubbish
Turn the page from Ashton’s bizarre rant, and you find Dave Kidd singing from a similar hymn sheet. A reminder: England’s reserve team did draw with a full-strength Brazil side on Tuesday night, and restricted them to three shots on target.
‘THEY played the Benny Hill theme tune to entertain the crowd when a bunch of school kids staged a race around the perimeter of the Wembley pitch,’ Kidd begins.
‘Yet so farcical was the gap in technique between England and their illustrious visitors that they probably ought to have played it during the match.’
Four inches to the right of Kidd’s piece are The Sun’s match ratings from the game. Brazil’s total? 73. England’s? 74.
Is that a ‘farcical gap’ too?
“I only see one outcome, I think Ireland are going to the World Cup. I don’t think anyone will stand in our way. They [Denmark] are a very good team, very good players, but they don’t have the character and the heart and the desire that we have” – Ireland captain David Meyler.
Heart and desire 1-5 Talent and tactics.
Doing player ratings alongside a feature piece for the newspaper is a thankless task. But even so, Mediawatch cannot believe that nobody at the Daily Mirror bothered to change John Cross’ assessment that Joe Gomez was England’s second worst player on Tuesday. Still, he ‘tried hard’.
For what it’s worth, every other paper picked him as England’s best performer.
On my terms
“It [the Everton job] never materialised as I thought it would, unfortunately. For me such a long time without a decision, I had to make a decision myself. The decision was it was probably better it wasn’t me, and I’d move on to something else. It would have been a fabulous job, but it just didn’t feel right” – Sam Allardyce.
It just didn’t feel right to Everton, Sam.
Pressed the wrong button
Mediawatch isn’t surprised that the Irish Times quickly removed their ‘World Cup 2018: Martin O’Neill’s greatest hits’ story on Wednesday morning after accidentally publishing it.
‘Guiding Ireland to a first World Cup appearance since 2002’ really would be the ‘greatest addition to Martin O’Neill’s long list of managerial achievements’ now.
Hot take of the day
‘Joe Gomez has ended the England careers of Cahill, Jones and Smalling’ – Jason Cundy, Talksport.
Three players in one performance? Some going. And some nonsense too.
Recommended reading of the day
Jason Burt on John Stones.
Rory Smith on Italy.
Jack Lang with Roberto Firmino.