Alexander-Arnold criticism absolutely is out of order

Date published: Friday 29th June 2018 1:30

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England need Hendo
Last nights game made one thing abundantly clear. Henderson is key to Englands ability to play the expansive pressing football we saw in the first two games. Dier sat too deep, as if he didn’t trust the back three one iota, and was negative in his play. One of the better ‘attempts’ from england started when a team mate ignored Diers instruction to knock the ball back to the defenders. When Dier was playing a forward ball its was an areal one, which Belgium dealt with comfortably. It must have been so frustrating being Vardy in this game. Vardy played his role well, staying on the shoulder of defenders looking to make blistering runs…but the service was just lacking.

What a frustrating game it was. Hopefully Henderson makes it through this tournament as fit as possible because England sorely need him.
Will “knew how crap the Germans were by watching Bradford City all season” Claringbold 


Can all those (presumably Tottenham fans) who’ve been talking up ED for England please now get back in their box?

His delivery has been woeful all game and for some reason he’s trying to pass the ball 40 yards, despite being crap. When you’re a poor man’s Jordan Henderson, know your place. And that’s firmly on the bench.
Andrew Fairclough (strange that someone would berate a 19 yo who’s clearly playing second fiddle)


I really don’t want to bite, but I’m sending this email so I’ve obviously taken the bait.

Two phrases I’ve heard consistently over the last few days in regards to our ‘friendly’ against Belgium Reserves are ‘building momentum’ and ‘making a statement’.

I’d like to call bulls**t on both.

Firstly building momentum.  Do you think that the likes of Kane, Alli, Henderson etc are moping around for the next few days because Rashford missed a one on one and Rose let his man cut inside?  Not at all.  Now, if our first eleven lost last night then this would be an argument but no momentum is lost when virtually all the team is benched.

Secondly making a statement.  Lets say we beat Belgium 2-1 last night and then thumped Japan in the next round.  Do you really think Brazil (or Mexico) would be quaking in their boots or changing tactics to deal with England because of the statement we’d made.  Not at all.

The tournament starts now.  Forget Panama, forget Tunisia and forget Belgium.  One game at a time starting with a tough one against Colombia.
Ross (still glad we can’t play Brazil until the final) Norwich


Momentum? It’s a falsehood in my book.

Portugal in the last Euros:- Draw with Iceland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia (won in ET), Poland (won on pens), First win in Semi Finals against Wales and a

Draw with France (won in ET) in the final.

They won 1/7 in 90 minutes but were champions – in the three group games they were awful and only played anywhere near good football once they got to the semi final – they had no momentum.

Germany in WC 2014 drew with Ghana in their second group game and narrowly beat USA to win the group – playing awful football, no momentum, until they got to the ¼’s – won the tournament

Spain got lucky to get a draw with Italy opening game on Euro’s 2012 – won the tournament

Spain World Cup 2010 – lost to Switzerland opening group game, no momentum – won the tournament.

Almost every single tournament see’s teams that lose, play awful or draw against a minnow yet these teams still make the quarters, the semis or the final and most winners have slipped up along the way.

So I don’t buy this momentum shiznit, the sum of the whole is that if England had put out the first team last night and either lost it how would that have helped momentum. Worse still what if a first teamer picked up an injury? Last proved they have no one that’s able to take over from Kane, Henderson, Lingard etc.

I’m not saying I agree with wah the manager did – I don’t and think you should always play strongest side available in such a short competition but this babbling on about “oh the poor momentum “ is a misnomer, a stick to later beat the team with “Well, if he’d played Kane against Belgium we’d have won the tournament”. I’m calling bullshit.

The real issue is the zero expectations have now turned into who we play in the semi-finals?? WTF?

Columbia: 3rd in the last Copa, Ranked 16th, World Cup ¼’s 2014

They have consistently achieved more than England over the last 4 years, only the mental co-efficient of the FIFA rankings – and lower ranked friendlies in particular – denying them sitting above England.

Yet according to many, we are already through on the easy side of the draw.

And this momentum argument is what they will hang Mr Southgate with if he hasn’t swept Columbia aside by 9pm next Tuesday night.

And people wonder why England fans are considered arrogant.

Cheers Me Dears


In February, Manchester City were flying – a 5-1 defeat of Leicester was followed by a 4-0 win away at Basel in the Champions League.

Unfortunately they then squandered that momentum by playing a weakened team away at Wigan in the FA Cup, and losing. Six days later this loss of momentum was obvious in the Carabo Cup final, where they could only manage a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Arsenal. This was followed by another 3-0 victory over Arsenal and a 1-0 win over Chelsea.

Just think how different their season could have been if only they’d taken the Wigan game seriously.
Graham (hey, at least it’s a form of wit) Foreman


The dream is over
Long time reader, first time writer. (MC – *ahem*)

Whilst I’ve very much enjoyed all of the thought, counter-thought, tertiary guessing and knicker-knotting over the last few days, I can’t help but notice that everyone has missed the most critical factor in Our Brave Boys chances in this World Cup.

Our next match is on ITV.  We never win on ITV.  We’re a-gonner.

Should anyone wish to dig out the mailbox from 2 years ago, I made exactly the same prediction ahead of Iceland, and people said “you’re crazy” and “who are you? get out of my house!” but you just can’t argue with facts, and we never win on ITV.

Sorry for bringing it up, but it’s best we mourn the loss early.

Jeremy (Rashford, Sterling, doesn’t matter, nothing matters now. Stupid ITV) Aves


Some perspective
Reading this morning’s Mailbox, the general opinion seems to be that England purposefully contrived to lose to Belgium last night. I’m not so convinced.

I genuinely believe that Southgate/England didn’t ‘throw’ last night’s game. I take Southgate’s claims at face value that the team selection was to do with conservation of energy, protecting key players from injury and working on ‘match fitness/preparedness’ for the knockout stage for peripheral squad members.

He made a conscious decision to ‘protect’ many of his first team players in an attempt to give them the best chance of being fresh in the next round, letting last night play out come what may. He would have been happy to win the game, I have no doubt, but not at the risk of losing Kane, Trippier et al.

I understand the frustration with wanting to see our ‘B Team’ push a bit harder and play with more urgency. But maybe, in the cold light of day, this game actually just served to show how England’s squad has very limited strength in depth compared to Belgium and several of the other ‘elite’ teams in the competition. We’ve known all along that this squad is weak; this was the bump back down to Earth we all kinda needed.

The arguments as to why finishing first or second was more favourable than the other both rely on a huge amount of assumptions. As Germany’s fate — and history in general — has proven, you can never assume anything in football. Can we assume England would 100% beat Japan? No. Can we assume that Brazil would have 100% knocked out England? No. Can we assume that Sweden/Switzerland is an easier game than any other potential quarter final? No. Can we assume any sort of result against Colombia? Definitely not. The whole discussion is a load of hot air and somewhat tiresome.

There’s also talk of momentum being lost in this game. It was almost an entirely different team that played Belgium, so I can’t imagine that the first team will be overly affected by the result. If we lose to Colombia, it won’t be due to a loss of momentum; it’ll be because they’re better than we are.
Tom, Devon, NUFC (I’ve said the squad is limited, but it’s definitely coming home)


Leave Trent alone
I knew this would happen. People more than ready to crap all over a young player on one poor performance (set piece wise – he was fine otherwise). Perhaps the manager or captain should have asked someone to take over free kick duties rather than ignorant Inglund fans taking it on themselves to bash a young lad.

For the record, the reason Liverpool fans rate him so highly is because of how brilliant he was this season. Two poor performances against Man U and Palace weighted against pocketing the likes of Leroy Sane and Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s been class all season at doing what he did well last night – making well timed runs and putting in boss first time crosses.

God forbid a 19 year old with 47 career appearances doesn’t quite have the same free kick acumen as a 27 year old with 308 appearances, the bulk of which came at a team that love a set piece.
Theo, LFC, Liverpool


Calling TAA a poor man’s Trippier is absolutely ludicrous. Poor man’s as in, if you could afford Trippier you’d have him, but you can’t, so you’re stuck with TAA.

First up, Trippier is a poor man’s Kyle Walker. Tottenham couldn’t afford (to keep/pay) Walker, so just got Trippier to fill in. And he’s been good, so we’ll done to him.

Yes they take both take free kicks, but that doesn’t mean TAA is just copying his idol from Bury, in fact TAA was scoring free kicks in the Champions league (against Hoffenheim) before Trippier was even first choice for Tottenham.

Finally, there’s more years difference in age (8) than there is in international caps (7). Also Trent has already started in a bigger game than Trippier will ever play in his life (unless England make the final).

If you think TAA is just a cheap Trippier than you’re deluded. He might not be quite as good as him right now, but up until a few weeks ago there was nothing in it. Credit to Trippier for ensuring he’s first choice. But Trent is going to be much much more than he is right now.
KC (when Trippier was 19 he made 3 appearances for Barnsley in the Championship) 


Why the Brazil fear?
Southgate really pissed me off last night (there I said it) this unfounded fear of a mythical being that is Brazil is pathetic, Brazil haven’t been all that since Ronaldhino retired, Southgate is afraid of a name. Japan should of been brushed aside, for all their nice play and industry England would be a threat from every set piece then on to Brazil (who still have to get past Mexico and that aint a given). Brazil’s talisman is more narcissistic than Ronaldo and has an aversion to gravity, I honestly cannot believe we still think of Brazil as some sort of footballing powerhouse, they haven’t been one since the 90s.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Final thoughts
Some positives first. Cards on the table: Belgium’s first choice 11 probably still beats England’s first choice 11 (but we probably won’t get to find out for sure at this World Cup), so the decision to rest/try players was the right one in my opinion. We’ve lost a little momentum and good feeling, but we knew we were in the next round and having a slightly fresher and, more importantly available first choice eleven for the next (and more important) match is a plus, whichever way you look at it.

Loftus-Cheek played pretty well. I really enjoy his dynamism and driving runs forward – we definitely need a player like that in the team. I dare say he’s shown enough form to start our remaining matches at this point.

Any doubt about what the best first choice eleven looks like has now been put to bed. Unlike previous tournaments, where fans have been left wondering “what if” because of England’s refusal to use their full squad, we have now seen every outfield player for at least a portion of a game. I think we can all agree that the team that started the Panama game is probably as good as it gets, with Alli’s position only under scrutiny because of his fitness.

Now onto the negatives, unfortunately. Like the lost boy in Hook, stretching old Peter Pan’s face, this was our “Oh, there you are, Peter!” moment. It might not have been the best lineup we could muster, but that performance was a return to the standard England tournament offering. In some ways, it would have been better to have played Belgium before Panama, as at least it would have meant that we could either boost the confidence by beating Belgium with our best team, or end on a high by recovering from a Belgium defeat by finishing the group with a win against Panama. That performance and result makes me feel like this tournament isn’t actually the big turning point we’ve been told it is, and it’s just more of the same (even if it’s not).

None of the players starting their first game of the tournament had a particularly good time of it. Dier was suspect defensively (which is literally the only facet of his game worth a damn), Alexander-Arnold started off brightly but tailed off sharply as the game went on, and his crosses and set-pieces were shocking. Rose was decent going forward but very poor defensively (more on that later). Jones and Cahill both had heart-in-mouth moments throughout the game. Rashford was guilty of missing a golden opportunity, and arguably should have laid it on for Loftus-Cheek, who was in prime position for a tap-in. And other than the pass that put Rashford in for said chance, Vardy was virtually anonymous. None of the rested players will be losing any sleep over their places for the Colombia game.

England don’t seem to have a plan B. While they made wholesale changes to the personnel, the tactics and style were exactly the same. I was hoping that we would have seen a different formation, at least for a portion of the match, but no; it was the same all the way through, with just a few players switching position. Different players have different strengths, and not adjusting your tactics for different players (expecting Vardy to be Harry Kane, for example) is only going to end one way.

Someone in the mailbox compared France’s style to the way United play, but I think England are closer. Same tactics in every game, regardless of opposition? Check. Same tactics in every game, regardless of your own line-up? Check. Plenty of possession and shots on goal but guilty of missing lots of easy chances? Check. Replacements/alternative options failing to take opportunities to impress? Check. Sounds like United to me.

I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that our goal came after Maguire replaced Stones. While Rose was more at fault, I have not felt comfortable with Maguire in our defence at any point in this tournament. He may be good at bringing the ball out and a threat at set-pieces, but his skittishness is a concern; he looks like a rabbit in the headlights far too frequently, and it seems to impact the players around him. At this point, I think I would rather see Cahill in ahead of him for the next game.

Now, Danny Rose. What was he doing for that goal? He seemed to be concentrating far too much on not handling the ball than he was on actually stopping the cross. Everyone could see that Januzaj was trying to work it onto his left foot, but Rose fell for the most basic of tricks. He was also guilty of leaving Januzaj with way too much space, instead opting to double mark Batshuayi, who was already being tracked by Cahill. It’s a worry when the actual defender is not as good as defending as the converted winger.

Despite what the commentators on BBC 5Live might try and tell you, Colombia will not be an easy game. With or without James Rodriguez, they pose plenty of threats and will be a difficult opponent. Just because they didn’t play at breakneck speed yesterday doesn’t mean that they can’t. It’s this kind of hubris that has plagued the national team, whether directly or by extension, and it seems that they still haven’t learned their lesson. 
Ted, Manchester


Japanese off a little, yeah?
Just a quick note on the BBC’s hatchet job on Japan, or as they described it – a “mind-boggling farce”.

I think that’s a bit sensationalist.

One of the joys of the WC group stages are the ever-changing permutations, especially on miti-screen at my desk, and how teams react to it.

Conor McNamara said that Japan have “gone through on fair play. But can you call that fair play?”

Well, let’s first of all keep some perspective. The criteria for splitting the teams is; Points, GD, GS, H2H, Fair play. In that order.

Japan have actually gone through because over 3 games, they performed identically to Senegal in every aspect. They were equal on four other more important criteria, so needed to be split on an unprecedented fifth criteria.

A “mind-boggling farce” would be the team in bottom spot with no wins being given a knockout place because of fair play. But that didn’t happen.

Imagine if, days earlier, Sweden were instead losing 3-0 to Mexico, and Germany were drawing at the close of their final game. Would Neuer have left his goal and ventured up the pitch to try and secure a win? No, that would be insane. They would have “played the conditions” so to speak, and played the remainder of the match for a draw – or certainly played not to lose. No farce would have been called.

Another “mind-boggling farce” would have been teams trying to game the cards system – ie Eng or Bel intentionally picking up cards to finish second, or, say, a team trying to get players on the opposing team booked for their own progression. But that didn’t happen.

Goal difference is a thing that we all accept. The 2012 Premier League title was won on goal difference. Japan simply chose to try and preserve their GD. A 1-0 loss is better than a 2-0 loss. This is something we all accept.

I think Pat Nevin at least provided a voice of reason (as always) –

“Had they gone forward and conceded again – and gone out, they’d be called naive and stupid.

The reality is now and again a strange set of circumstances comes up and they took a chance. Had Senegal scored, they were stuffed.”
James (I’m actually a quarter Polish), LFC


Love you, Brian
Since it’s the first day of the World Cup without football, I thought I’d take some time out to praise the absolutely peerless Brian Kerr.

He’s a League of Ireland legend, former Ireland manager, a cult hero in the Faroe Islands and the absolute best co-commentator in the business. While there are countless jobbing ex-pros who are only semi-aware of who’s actually playing in any given match, Brian does his research and comes out with nuggets that no-one else would. Like that Japan’s Nagatomo has written a book on yoga, that Tunisia’s left-back was their league’s top scorer a few years back with 16 goals from defence, and that FIFA’s team graphic for Morocco in the opening game had Hakim Ziyech further back than he would really be playing.

He’s a footballing encyclopaedia who wants to see the game played the right way, but gets some stick over the fact that he’s an old school working-class Dubliner with the accent to match. This only makes listening to him more of a pleasure though, as he describes a player who’s been taken out as banjoed, or as having been milled out of it, ineligible players as bangers, and a solid header as a loaf. It’s not only in the World Cup we get to enjoy it though, he regularly features on co-comms to cover Premier League games on radio. On the opening day of last season he pointed out that Stephen Ward’s goal against Chelsea (an absolute peach) came as no surprise to anyone that remembered that he started out as a striker for Portmarnock at schoolboy level.

I can only hope that other Irish football fans realise how lucky we are to have him on the air and on the tv! I’ll leave you with his finest moment from this World Cup so far: “Stefan Milinkovic-Savic – that’s only one bloke!”
Kevin, (met him and Kevin Kilbane once, pure gents in person too) Dublin


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