For God’s sake, don’t change this England side…

Date published: Wednesday 20th June 2018 7:39

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An Irish fan writes…
The England hype train is building nicely. Hopefully a comfortable win against Panama will have it rolling at maximum delusion.
This is a terrible England team and reality will kick in when they come up against proper opposition.
Stephen, Eire


The media turn us off England
I’ve been an avid reader of your mailbox for eight years and never felt compelled to write in until now.

For this World Cup I planned in advance to not be working so I could catch every game (I’m a seasonaire so worked out how to get a month off)

From the opening ceremony I’ve caught every game and generally been quite surprised by the coverage from both BBC and ITV, now being Scottish I clearly don’t have a team to support at the World Cup, for once though I actually didn’t want England to lose. The English team don’t have the irritating players of old (Rooney, Terry etc) I quite like Southgate and his manner.

I watched the Tunisia game and probably for the first time in my adult life I wasn’t fussed if England won or lost!! When Tunisia equalised, I found myself feeling sorry for England, I was almost willing them on!! I went to bed confused, why didn’t I want England to lose???

Yesterday morning I woke up and was looking forward to the Colombia/Japan game, the coverage started… and I remembered why I don’t want England to win!! 12.30 the coverage started, it was almost 12.45 before the BBC actually spoke about the upcoming game or gave any information about the teams, the first 15mins, of course it was reaction from last nights England game. Then I went to watch the Poland game and ITV were the exact same!!!

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back?? Half time of Egypt/Russia and we get treated to more highlights and analysis…no not from the two games earlier but from the England game last night!!

Now I can’t wait for England to get put out, I hope Belgium pump them.

You see it’s not the team or even the country we hate, it’s the media and the constant England England. I want to watch the previews and the analysis of the game that’s about to start or the one I just watched!! I don’t care what Harry Kane had for breakfast or how many replays of the injustice of the not getting a penalty (you can’t give it without giving the stones push first)

And it’s clicked back for me, no matter how much I like the England players I now want them to lose.

I blame BBC and ITV, please remember there’s another three nations watching and we don’t all want to hear about England!!


England’s back three needs Walker
I cannot wrap my Irish head around the one-sighted, superficial view of Kyle Walker as one of the best attacking right wing-backs in the world; and more specifically why that plays so heavy on the mind of the English when analysing the Tunisia game (or really any qualification game for that matter). While I admit that he has that capability, it is remiss to say that he should be taken from the back three and thrown out on the right because he’s a world class right wing back. Here’s why –

1) A quick look to the Premier League records will show that Kyle Walker has only 24 assists in his 230 career games in the Premier League. Not a bad rate of one assist in every ten or so games, but not what you’d expect from “The World’s Greatest Right Wing-Back”. He’s attempted 633 crosses during this time yet he’s only accurate on 18% of these, and he’s been whipping them in to Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Harry Kane for a number of years, not Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard. Bottom line, he’s not a great crosser. He might be a frequent one, but he is not supplying the quality many might think.

2) According to the Premier League’s Opta crew, Walker has successfully completed 654 long balls in his club career – 5 times as many as the 113 of 633 crosses he’s attempted. Granted, they might be cross field sweeping passes, or a clipped pass with no pressure to change the point of attack, but he’s still demonstrating a passing ability beyond what his strengths may appear to be given his time as a marauding full-back for Spurs. Take his defence-splitting pass to Trips on Monday night – even the great De Bruyne or Guti would have been salivating over that. Which brings me to…

3) Kieran Trippier was England’s best player against Tunisia. To compare, Trippier has played in only 80 career Premier League games – a third of Walker’s appearances – yet he has already amassed 15 assists. Also, his 25% crossing accuracy stat means he is connecting more often than Walker, and more frequently given that he has whipped in 526 crosses in 80 appearances to Walker’s 633 in 230. Of Trippier’s 80 appearances, 38 were for Burnley playing as a true RB and whipping in some crosses to markedly less notable finishers. Also, his set-piece delivery is top-titty.

4) This is the point in my piece for all of you who think you can prove anything with stats and facts. If this is you, then if you take nothing from this mail, just read this point and tell me it has no merit.

– From my perspective as a non-English football fan, it makes sense for Southgate to have Walker in the back for this main reason – EVERYONE ELSE IS SLOW. Now, Maguire might be slow on the pitch (and arguably, in the brain) but he’s great in the air and very comfortable driving out of the back and bringing others into play. Stones is not a great athlete by any means, instead relying on his precision when creating from deep, and his calm demeanor when faced with reading the game. Cahill is crap let’s get serious, and Jones is Terry Butcher reincarnate (that is not a compliment when considering him for this generation of footballers, this England team, or this tournament in particular). Kyle Walker provides sheer pace when the inevitable brain fart comes from Henderson/Dier etc.

Let’s play a game. Imagine Henderson gives it a Stevie special and slips at the base of midfield receiving a pass from Ashley Young. Kylian Mbappe picks up the ball. He is accompanied by an overlapping Thomas Lemar, and has Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele picking seams to run into. You look at the white shirts retreating, and it’s Stones, Cahill, and Maguire… Are you confident they’ll slow them down or nullify their movement? No, well are you confident they’ll compete athletically to cover the ground once a pass or dribble is initiated? If you answered yes, congratulations you’re Sam Allardyce!

Now think of Mane, Ronaldo, Messi, Salah, Jesus, Neymar, Hazard, picking up a slack pass and flying forward to attack those three players. You can almost smell the turds falling from your respective rectums. Now picture Kyle Walker chasing down a Pogba raking pass running along side those players at maximum velocity. He’s the only one who can catch them. He’s the fastest defender in the England squad, and no other England defender could hope to win that foot-race in open space. This will be vital if Southgate has aspirations of going deep in this tournament. He know’s he’ll come up against it versus the better teams, and he doesn’t want to sit back and absorb everything that a top team can throw against them. If that was the case he’d have brought players who do that weekly (Bertrand, Smalling, Tarkowski etc). He wants to play – Walker just provides him a safety net against those players who can stretch the game out on transition. And no, don’t just play him there against the big boys, he needs that time now to build a partnership with George and Lenny (Of Mice & Men… no? Just me? I’ll be here all night)

This England team is different. They want to get out and play with the ball in the opposition area. They will be open to counter attacks, and instead of Walker chasing 65 yards back from his wing-back position to tug on Lukaku’s shirt and concede a penalty, he might just be able to shuffle him down the side line and win a few duels with less pressure on him to do it on both sides.

You are lucky to have him there.


Drop Kane? Sorry, what?
I don’t want to pick on him, but it would be tricky to fit more incorrect conclusions into a single mail than Lloyd Thompson yesterday. He starts by saying Trippier had a good game, but ‘surely the world class walker would have done the same if not better’. As a Spurs fan who has watched both a lot, I can assure you the answer to your rhetorical question is no. The last time Kyle Walker created six chances in a game he was probably 14. I’m not saying Walker isn’t the better full-back (although it’s closer than many suggest) but Trippier’s biggest strength is his delivery, and it’s walker’s biggest weakness. he performance on Monday is the kind Walker just isn’t capable of against opposition like that.

My main ire though is the repetition of the stupidest idea f365 have had in a long time, the idea of dropping Kane. Daniel is lamenting taking stats out of context in 16 conclusions, and meanwhile people quote chance conversion as if that is the sole criteria for selecting a forward. Well guess what, you also have a role in how many chances you get. Vardy’s game of sitting on the last shoulder will lead to less chances but a higher quality of chance when they do come along. Kane just makes chances full stop. If all you had to do to score the volume of goals Kane does is shoot all the time, why isn’t everybody doing it? Not picking Kane is just trying to be too clever by half, and fortunately I don’t think Southgate is even considering it
Phil, THFC


…Lloyd Thompson, why, why, why would Southgate want to drop our CAPTAIN and our BEST player for Vardy because he had a better conversion rate this season?

Other than the two great instinct goals like he scored against Tunisia he offers much more like the will to track back, defend from corners and you have that faith in him that he can score out of nowhere. It would be suicidal to drop him.

Also, he wants to go for that golden boot so he will be hungry.

Vardy is a good player to come off the bench but no way can he start over Kane regardless who we play in this World Cup.

Oh and why would we drop the guy who scored in the 90th minute to put us 2-1.

It’s been less than 24 hours after Kane scored two for England and we win our first opening game in the WC since 2006 and we have a fan wanting to discuss to drop him. Laughable.
Adam Shreeve


…There is really very little selection issues for England to concern themselves with for Sunday. Get Young out for Rose and possible, injury dependent, Dele for Rashford or Loftus Cheek.

But the idea that Kane should be dropped makes as much sense as wearing a fireman’s helmet in a sauna. Saying he has no link up play and/or lacks pace is dim….aside from the fact he has proven, year on year, he has both, this is a list of relatively slow players who have done what Kane did last night.

Gerd Muller, Thomas Muller, Pippo Inzaghi (perhaps not slow but positionally few better) and Gary Lineker.….none of those players appeared to affect the teams performance….


Change? England managed Tunisia game brilliantly
One of England’s problems at summer tournaments relates to how well they acclimatise to playing football in hotter and more humid conditions than they are used to. Or rather, don’t acclimatise. They aren’t the only team that suffers from that issue, but usually, they are the only ‘big’ European side that doesn’t at least try to adopt a game plan that takes it in to account.

Southgate had England going hell-for-leather for 25 mins, then they backed off for 40-odd mins, before slowly cranking it up from the Rashford substitution onwards. Result was the best England tournament performance I’ve seen since about 2008.

Not sure any game plan can win England the World Cup, but at least we have now developed one that stops us looking like a drunken stag-do, playing five-a-side in Benidorm.

This novel approach was accompanied by some relatively tidy possession football that saw the opponent running about a lot, and England standing still a lot.

Using Sterling and Alli for the larger part of that disciplined performance, as Champions League proven players that are used to playing in that manner every single week for the two best managers in the country, was probably the right call.

Usefully, our two young, dynamic flair players were then available to come on when the opposition were knackered. Cue Ruben Loftus-Cheek being mistaken for Gazza by a confused Joey Barton. The reason Loftus-Cheek is not Gazza, is because Gazza could do that against players who hadn’t been pulled from pillar to post for the past 80 minutes before he came on.

Luckily, Sterling and Alli are happy to do a job for the team and thereby risk being picked out as flops, through being professional and not sacrificing the game plan in an effort to look like they are playing with ‘passhun’. This being opposed to the previous generation of superstar heroes, who in the hope of single-handedly winning the game, wasted all their energy in the first 40 minutes running into brick walls and turning purple.

We are used to seeing England thoughtlessly strapping a series of impressive looking weapons on to every available appendage, and heading into battle – looking like a medieval knight, sadly labouring under the mistaken impression that madly thrashing about with a claymore clasped in each hand and an axe tied to each foot, whilst sporting nothing but a jewel encrusted helmet and gold-plated codpeice, may prove more effective than a nice suit of well-fitting leather armour and a rapier. Despite all previous evidence to the contrary.

Cue confused suggestions that England should have played in top gear for the entire match, and should for the next game, consider dropping some of the accomplished, professional players for ones who look a bit more exciting…

F***’s sake.

Against Tunisia, we converted ten percent of our chances, our finishing seemed pretty much on par with what this team has produced in the warm ups. The top Premier League sides converted about 20 percent last year. The Premier League average was 15 percent.

So, we probably aren’t going to score hatfuls of goals to blow the opposition away. The best hope we’ve got of making a good fist of it, is keeping tight, retaining possession, playing the percentages, and trying to be the team that has some energy left to nick one in the last ten minutes.
Ben, Ingurlund, Manchester


Our Japan correspondent writes…
Well that was just as stressful, but more pleasantly surprising, than I or probably most Japan supporters expected. Nobody was expecting much bearing in mind Japan’s recent history and what happened in their last World Cup game. Coach Akira Nishino was happy to play the underdog line.

It’s hard to know exactly how Japan will do in their next matches as they were helped by playing against 10 men for 85 minutes and even then struggled to break them down. But Japan will be even more confident having won a World Cup game for the first time in eight years and having somewhat vanquished the memory of that thrashing in Brazil.

Japan looked to attack down the left as much as possible using Takashi Inui’s form and confidence and Yuto Nagatomo’s eagerness to get forward. Osako joined them on the left a lot, but I couldn’t see anyone taking up the central position. Osako was good, causing problems with his movement, but he needs to work on his shooting accuracy. His header was well taken though. It was only in the second half that Genki Haraguchi and Hiroki Sakai down the right started to come into the game, and they created several chances.

There’s still plenty for Japan to think about. Like many people who know a lot more about Japanese football than I do, I don’t think Eiji Kawashima should be the number one anymore; his mistakes or dodgy moments are coming more frequently. Japan also needs to remember not to invite pressure by slicing unnecessary hoofed clearance attempts (Nagatomo) or playing absurdly long back passes to no one (E Honda).

Incidentally, I’m not sure how the officials came up with one minute of additional time for the first half and five for the second. There were three minutes between awarding and taking the penalty, for example. Japan were lucky that there was only one extra minute at the end of the first half though, as they looked panicky and clueless after Colombia’s equaliser.

Anyway, these results mean Group H is intriguingly poised going into the second set of matches. Japan and Senegal will of course both want to make it two wins from two and secure a place in the next round, while Colombia and Poland both need to win to keep their hopes alive.
James T, Ishikawa, Japan


Our Egypt correspondent writes…
Not quite 16 conclusions, but:

Hard luck for Egypt & well played Russia. In the first half we had possession, but again, not clinical and no serious shots on target. Marwan Mohsen was an embodiment of this current team: industrious, but lacking any fear factor (Salah aside). We need a bastard of a player with the personality of a Stoichkov, a Suarez, or – more locally – Hossam Hassan; someone who sacrifices (almost) everything to avoid defeat (without doing something idiotic: they did do many idiotic things, but you get the point).

Second half, we were very naïve. Shenawy should have held that cross that led to the first goal and afterwards, a mental collapse. Neny & Hegazy leaving plenty of space for the dangerous Cheryshev to score. Then Aly Gabr showed the maturity of a two-year-old to lose a 50-50 to Dzyuba in his own box. Game over. It’s like watching Arsenal.

Best for Cuper to go at this point. I appreciate some of the things he’s brought (defending in numbers, tactical awareness, the AfCON final, & WC qualifying) but we still have issues with set pieces and building up attacks. We are also mentally weak an d lack tactical flexibility (Cuper is basically a more pragmatic version of Arsene Wenger). Plus three goals scored in the last seven games is unacceptable. I’m probably in dreamland, but Antonio Conte should be jobless soon…
Mamoon S (I thought I was done with that yet I must say: thank you for the memories Cuper, but it’s time to say goodbye).

Peter G on Russia and a team of the round…
You can take your pick of reasons not to support Russia, but it’s hard not to like this side. They play on the front foot (although that might change against Uruguay), they try a little bit of everything, and their reactions suggest they’re genuinely surprised they’re doing so well.

It’s great cast of characters, too. There’s the old warhorse making one last appearance (Sergei Ignashevich); the guy finally getting his first chance in a major tournament and scoring for fun (Denis Cheryshev); the hulking centre-forward who had scored all but two of his international goals against Liechtenstein, Moldova, and Costa Rica (Artom Dyuba); the young, exciting and just a little bit mad playmaker (Aleksandr Golovin), and a manager with one of the best looks in the tournament.

They’ll need only a draw against Uruguay to win the group, and there’s no reason they can’t beat Portugal in the Round of 16. They might even have a chance against Spain. As long as they don’t get undue help from the refs, I wouldn’t mind at all seeing them go deep in the tournament.

And here’s my first-round best XI, with the second XI in parentheses, as a 4-2-3-1 (excludes the Russia-Egypt match):

GK: Kasper Schmeichel (Munir Mohamedi)

RB: Kieran Trippier (Carlos Salcedo)

CB: Andreas Granqvist (Diego Godin)

CB: Kalidou Koulibaly (Kim Young-gwon)

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez (Youssouf Sabaly)

DM: Hector Herrera (Yoshimar Yotun)

DM: Gaku Shibasaki (N’Golo Kanté)

AM: Aleksandr Golovin (Denis Cheryshev)

AM: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lionel Messi)

AM: Dries Mertens (Isco)

FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Diego Costa)

The three I most hated to leave out were LB Jesus Gallardo, AM Gylfi Sigurdsson, and FW M’Baye Niang, all of whom were excellent. A lot of other strong performers are missing too.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


The big question
Can we get an extra chair for the guy who always has to stand in the VAR Room?

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