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Build around England’s best five
Ken’s email about moving Trent to midfield for England to make room for AWB sent a serious chill down my spine. I felt immediately transported back to the halcyon Gerrard and Lampard days where England managers tried unsuccessfully to shoehorn both players into the same team. Similar to Gerrard and Lampard, TAA and AWB are both great players however we need to get over the urge to play them both. We need to recognise that at international level the best XI does not necessarily consist of the best XI players in the country. Otherwise you get insane situations such as England’s last 16 clash against Ecuador at the 2006 WC where Gerrard, Lampard, Hargreaves, Beckham, J Cole and Carrick all started. Weirdly enough Ecuador created more chances than an England team consisting of just midfielders.
Instead of being too cute, England should play a formation that suits our best players (Kane, Sterling, Henderson, TAA, Rashford). We should then fill in around them (Maguire, Rice, Gomez, etc.). This will unfortunately mean that certain top players will not start (AWB, Sancho, Ings), but does mean that we will have a stacked bench to call upon if we need to change the game. The main benefit though is you will have your best players doing what they do best: TAA launching attacks by pinging pinpoint 50 yard crossfield passes to Sterling, Rashford running the channels, Pickford flapping at easy crosses.
…Ken, Wisconsin, I’m not normally one for shoehorning players into a team who play the same position (see the not-at-all boring Lampard/Gerrard/Scholes discussion). But in the case you mention I’d probably go the other way around. TAA is the best RB in the world at the moment, and could end up being England’s best ever RB. He should play there, but for TAA and Chilwell to bomb forward, England do need that DM, particularly as some of our better CM options are quite attacking. Someone mobile, good engine, fast, defensively aware, positional sense, and timing in the tackle, attacking threat not so important. That sounds like AWB to me, I think he could be a DM, a position England are struggling to fill for a while now.
Nick (Is Rice a DM or a CB?) J
What about Walker?
So has everyone just forgot Walker exists? The guy absolutely bossed Hazard and Real Madrid last week and is a key cog in City’s very potent attack. He’s playing better than ever and yet AWB getting a transfer to a “big” club seems to have been enough to turn him into yesterday’s man.
AWB is a massive hindrance
Some amusing emails on Wan-Bissaka this morning. One from James, Galway was well received by some in the comments section. Has James not noticed that the opposition are routinely all too happy to allow him acres of space down the right and funnel possession in his direction? Utd’s attacks down the right consistently come to nothing as he can’t do anything with the ball. It’s actually comical at times to see a guy that technically poor playing at that level. His passing is woeful, especially when pressed.
Now, it’s not his fault he cost 50m and he is excellent at one-on-one defending and last ditch slide tackling. However, that is what his style of defending is, constantly desperation defending, diving in. His positioning is poor, note how often he is caught ball watching or just standing there causing the defensive offside line to sag.
He suits Utd when they are the underdog and sit deep where he can make lots of slide tackles and not much is expected of him going forward. In games where Utd are favourite and dominate possession, he is a massive hindrance.
England’s back up right back should be Reece James who has plenty of potential. Wan Bissaka’s ceiling was Crystal Palace. It’s going to be an issue for Utd in future when attempting to break teams down but having cost so much, they won’t be replacing him any time soon.
Shane, LFC, Ireland
England should not play Maguire
I agree with Ken, Winsconin, that the England lineup looks great. Unfortunately, a team is only is good as it’s weakest link. My dad used to say that Steve Bruce and Jan Molby turn like the QE2 and unfortunately Harry McGuire is the same. Totally out of his depth at the highest level and will be an anchor to Man United’s ambition of winning a proper trophy and England’s hopes of international glory. Luckily for England, they didn’t pay $85m for this guy so are in no way obliged to play such a liability every game. Better English centre backs than McGuire: Gomez, Stones, Tarkowski, Dunk, Mings…I could go on.
Mark, LFC, Hong Kong
Griping about combined XIs
I enjoyed James’s mail this morning about comparisons between AWB and TAA. He’s absolutely correct that although they play the same position, they carry out different roles and as such, opinions about which is ‘better’ should be taken with a pinch of salt.
It reminds me of one of my biggest bugbears in football writing (whether in the mailbox or journalism). That of the combined XI. If you treat them as a bit of fun, fine, but some people take them far too seriously. In reality, they are a complete waste of time because they don’t take into account differences between teams.
As an example, lets look at a combined XI of United’s treble winners and Liverpool’s Premier League winners. Consider the right back position. Would Gary Neville get into this Liverpool team? Absolutely no chance. Trent’s attacking play is vital to the way Liverpool operate. Neville could not match that. However, would TAA get into United’s team? No. In the 442 they played, the fullback’s main job was defending. Neville was a better defender than Trent is. For left back, repeat. Liverpool need Robertson. Irwin fits better into the United style of play.
What about forwards? Do Yorke or Cole get into the Liverpool front three? Definitely not. Would Firmino replace either of them in the United team? No. The 5 players in the teams forward lines all play different roles. Who makes a combined XI depends entirely on whether you play 442 or 433.
Schmeichel or Alisson? I’m sure most United fans would argue that Schmeichal was the better keeper, but undoubtedly Liverpool would choose Alisson for his ball playing ability.
The only realistic positions you can compare are centre backs (VVD and Stam I’m sure all would agree) and centre midfield (pretty sure Keane and Scholes would make the team whatever the formation). But trying to say whether Beckham, Giggs, Mane or Salah would make the team is utterly pointless. In a 442 its the United players. In a 433 it the lads from Liverpool.
Football is far too complex to just mash teams together and come up with the best XI. Who you pick completely depends on the manager, formation and style of play. Otherwise you risk ending up like Garth Crooks. And no one wants that.
Mike, LFC, London
Another Ozil masterclass
I’m running out of superlatives, but what else can you say about the latest masterclass from Ozil’s PR? I never thought I’d witness someone performing at this high a level at Arsenal. The vision to spot opportunities that us mere mortals just can’t see, the perfect timing, the deft touches that can only be natural (I mean, they were able to suggest Ozil needed to maintain his level of income in order to look after his family, and got no comeback! Class!)
Just look at the stats: Five key interviews over the past two years; 4.5million gullible fans won over; 5,000 positive words; 20 mentions of emotive issues for fans. But just as important are the defensive stats: 0 mentions of his relationship with Erdogan; 0 references to waiting before the club was at its most vulnerable to sign the contract.
We are used to mediocre PR at Arsenal, most notably from the club itself, but also from the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie (the ‘you guys’ letter) and going further back, Nicholas Anelka.
Obviously, I’d love Arsenal to buy the Ozil PR. But with finances like they are, they are well out of budget now. Maybe we should be looking for the next generation of PR. Or maybe free up funds by shifting on the mediocrity around the club, like Mesut Ozil.
Jaimie Kaffash, AFC, north London
Are clubs going for managers who have felt player pressure?
In response to Johnny Nic’s piece about the current trend for having high-profile former players taking the top jobs, I do think there’s a little more to it than just the pendulum of football swinging back. Due to the ever-increasing wealth in the game, and the global presence that comes with it, managing the elite clubs has an additional layer to it. Clubs like Juventus, Barcelona, Man Utd, Real Madrid, et al bring with them an incredible pressure as the manager becomes not just someone required to pick 11 players in a coherent formation, but the figurehead of a global, corporate brand. The job of manager at these clubs is analysed to a microscopic level of detail by the numerous sports media outlets, as well as the endless tide of the social media commentariat. To work in that environment is to cope with an unbearable level of scrutiny that the likes of you and I cannot begin to fathom.
With that in mind, who better to manage such clubs than recent former players whom have had to deal with many of those same pressures as players? Whilst there are of course instances of managers not from such backgrounds finding success at big clubs, those that do seem increasingly to be managers with enormous personalities such as Klopp and Jose. On the flip side, there’s been a spate of managers that have succeeded at smaller clubs and wilted under the pressure when they’ve joined a side in the elite, such as Moyes, Villas-Boas, Sarri and co.
There’ll probably continue to be examples of both types of manager at top clubs going forwards, but I don’t blame top clubs for reaching into their recent past in the absence of an outstanding candidate; at least they’ll know it’s not the pressure of the job that’s going to break a former player.
Lewis, Busby Way
Football365 peddling leftie nonsense again
What incoherent nonsense spouted by your leader writer.
Bizarre and challenging year – well what do you expect when we have a once in a lifetime killer disease on the loose?
The lockdown has obviously disrupted all walks of life, football is no different so not sure what he was complaining about with the timings of the football calendar. Perhaps he should be more concerned about the pandemic’s effect on the parlous economic state of many clubs down the football pyramid.
Yes F365 is a footie site and therefore should be politics free but he then proceeds to air his lefty bleeding heart views. (Describing the channel migrants as refugees and desperate humans as though they are fleeing some living hell is bollocks. I know France can be difficult at times but they are not that bad).
Dave, you are a very miserable person who need to get out more.
JD (“right-wing snowflake” hahahaha)
Man United should just buy Borussia Dortmund
Apparently Dortmund want €120m for Sancho.
United, for all their posturing, will probably end up paying that amount anyway. Hell, woodward’ll probably pull a Fellaini and negotiate a 20% premium.
United will in the future also probably go back and try and sign one or more of a Haaland or a Bellingham or some other world class 17-year-old none of us have ever heard that they have an uncanny knack of unearthing, for similar or more money.
Apparently, Forbes value Dortmund at €754m.
So, taking all that into consideration, it probably makes most sense to buy Borussia Dortmund. It’d give a saving in the medium term.
I’m only half joking. Sancho is valued at approximately 1/6 the value of his whole club – that’s crazy! Doesn’t players moving for those sums when football clubs, as businesses, aren’t even that valuable sound crazy?
Also, it’s what City football group are doing anyway with their collection of clubs – how long until they just go out and buy one that’s already good?
Giving tactical fouls the elbow
Lee (LFC) gives a list of current things that piss him off about football and one of the things he missed, that seems to piss a lot of people off, is persistent tactical fouling to break up play (I’m looking at you here Man City). Now I know every so often a referee will do that whole pointing at three imaginary spots on the pitch thing to represent a totting up of fouls for an individual player, thus resulting in a yellow, but it’s fairly subjective and inconsistently applied. So how about formalising this to really crackdown on the “cheats”?
Having recently watched the brilliant “The Last Dance” documentary, about the dominant 90s Chicago Bulls, and playing too much NBA 2k20 on the PS4 (there are other game consoles available) during lockdown, it occurred to me that we could learn something from the B’ballers across the pond. To simplify, in basketball after a certain number of team fouls against any player, penalty free throws are awarded for every foul on this player thereafter (thus targeting the opposition’s best player gets punished). And if an individual commits a certain number of fouls they get thrown out of the game but a sub can come on in their place.
So, how do we implement something in football to discourage persistent fouling? How about the following:
1) If a player commits more than say 3 fouls in a half they immediately get ejected from the game – another player can be subbed in but if they commit 3 then it’s a red card and down to 10 men.
2) If a team commits say 4 fouls in a half then it’s a direct free kick from wherever the other team chooses to place the ball (outside the box).
3) If a team commits 5 fouls against one player then it’s an automatic penalty, which that player has to take.
The VAR ref can keep watch on the technology which will flag if any of these thresholds have been breached. Diving and being a di*k, such as shouting at the ref, also counts towards your personal and team fouls in a half.
The only thing this may not account for is the fact that the likes of City have loads of possession and so even if they do persistently dish out tactical fouls when they don’t have the ball, which we all agree they do, they spread them around and it might not put them over the threshold. So before F365 forward this idea to the FA (aka straight into the recycling bin), any ideas how we account for possession to properly punish these tyrants?
Garey (prob suggested before but who cares) Vance, MUFC