In his England absence, James Maddison has become our Pirlo, Modric and Kimmich

Editor F365
James Maddison is just like Andrea Pirlo

James Maddison is a decent attacking midfielder but now we must all pretend he is a playmaker like Andrea Pirlo. FFS.


Madd about you
There is certainly an argument to be made about James Maddison getting another chance with England – though going to a casino after pulling out of an England squad with illness is the kind of thing that sticks in a manager’s mind – but Graeme Bryce of The Sun makes that argument in such a ham-fisted way that sympathy is in short supply by the end of the article.

‘Gary Lineker took to Twitter after England’s defeat against Italy on Friday night to issue a barbed comment aimed at the England boss.

‘The Match of the Day presenter wrote: “A gentle reminder that England’s most creative midfielder, (James Maddison) was not in the squad of 28.”

‘Instead, Southgate pinned his hopes on a midfield duo of Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice.’

Instead? You’ve just named two players who play in entirely different positions to Maddison. That’s like saying that England played Harry Maguire ‘instead’ of Trent Alexander-Arnold or Harry Kane ‘instead’ of Jarrod Bowen.

And looked to get maximum width from the likes of flying full-backs Reece James on the right and England’s Player of the Year, Bukayo Sako, on the left despite the fact he is currently operating as a right winger for his club.’

They were wing-backs. And it’s Saka. And the only left-backs in his England squad are not playing for their clubs.

‘Grealish is the go-to poster boy for England but, as Graeme Souness pointed out, he is too often mugged in possession and wins plenty of fouls without actually winning too many games.’

Can you be a ‘go-to poster boy’ if you have started one game in five? Over the last five games, 14 footballers have played more minutes for England than Grealish, including Jarrod bloody Bowen.

Does Maddison deserve another chance? Probably. Will that happen at the World Cup? Probably not. Is he a replacement for Declan Rice and/or Jude Bellingham? Is he f***.

It should be remembered that England were dumped out of previous World Cups by the maverick skills of Andrea Pirlo and Luka Modric.’

Somebody doesn’t know what ‘maverick’ means. And has patently never watched Pirlo or Modric play.



Playmaker…dream breaker
Some of the coverage of the decision to leave out Maddison is just bizarre. He is a decent attacking midfielder but let’s not pretend that he is some kind of East Midlands Andrea Pirlo.

‘Gareth Southgate has claimed England do not produce playmakers in comments which will not please James Maddison,’ begins a piece in the Mirror.

What the hell have these comments, made as part of an answer to a question about Joshua Kimmich…

“In terms of the profile of players, we cannot buy somebody, we cannot generate somebody – we have got to make the most of the players that we have. That’s what we try to do – we try to find different ways of building from the back to allow us that lack of a playmaking pivot, if you like.

“At the moment, we don’t have that sort of player in this country. I don’t think we develop that sort of players well through youth football and through academies. Other countries probably have a little bit more focus on that.

…got to do with James Maddison?

Kimmich plays as part of a double pivot for Bayern Munich and Germany; in this season’s six Premier League games for Leicester, Maddison has played as a No. 10 v Brentford and Arsenal (he ‘ambled around’ v the latter, according to the local newspaper), as a No. 8 v Southampton (‘pretty anonymous’ in open play), in a free role against Manchester United (‘he was barely involved really. He was allowed to float about the pitch, but did not get into any pockets from where he could threaten. When those rare opportunities came, the final ball wasn’t there.’), on the right against Brighton (‘He gave the ball away for the second goal and generally played poor passes throughout.’) and from the right again against Tottenham, when he actually played very well.

Not once did he play in a two-man midfield and at no point was he a ‘playmaker’. Indeed, it sounds like he has played well exactly once in six Premier League games this season.

And yet…

‘Gareth Southgate rubs salt in James Maddison’s wound with England playmaker claim’

Either somebody does not understand what a ‘playmaker’ does or has decided to ignore the small matter of accepted football vernacular in search of clicks. We’re not sure which is worse.


Unpicking the statistics
To return to that Sun piece, Bryce writes that Southgate ‘needs a midfield craftsman to unpick that kind of double-bolted lock’. If we ignore the small matter of Maddison not really playing in midfield, let’s look at the list of English players who are creating more goalscoring opportunities from open play than the Leicester non-playmaker (ignoring those who have played just a few minutes) this season:

Jack Grealish
James Milner
Adam Lallana
Harvey Elliott
Phil Foden
Trent Alexander-Arnold
Harry Kane
Jadon Sancho
Jack Harrison
Harry Toffolo
Jordan Henderson
Dwight McNeil
Lewis O’Brien
Bukayo Saka
Jacob Ramsey

You could of course argue that it’s unfair to ignore dead ball situations so let’s look at those shots created by dead-ball situations. So let’s look at the list of English players who are creating more goalscoring opportunities from dead balls than the Leicester non-playmaker (ignoring those who have played just a few minutes) this season:

Jack Harrison
James Ward-Prowse
Kieran Trippier
Trent Alexander-Arnold
Eberechi Eze
Morgan Gibbs-White
Matt Targett
Aaron Cresswell
Reece James
Dwight McNeil
Bukayo Saka
Jarrod Bowen
Phil Foden

Why oh why is Gareth Southgate not picking Jack Harrison James Maddison?


How bizarre
Over at the Leicester Mercury, ‘Gareth Southgate’s bizarre claim that England do not produce playmakers has raised eyebrows after he overlooked Leicester City ace James Maddison for the national team’.

He is referred to by Justin Lawrence as a ‘midfield juggernaut’.

He might want to have a word with his Mercury colleagues who have awarded Maddison match ratings of 6, 5, 6, 5, 4 and 8 this season.

The only thing ‘bizarre’ about all this is the clamour for his inclusion and the pretence that he is some sort of playmaker.