Keep your mails coming in over the weekend to email@example.com…
Theirry Henry once explained what Guardiola told him in terms of his on-field tactical play, which basically amounted to having a limited defensive role in their own half and then when it was in the attacking half to basically do their own stuff.
This was good sense, because Guardiola was a more deep-lying defensively aware midfielder, who saw his job as a player to get the ball back from the opponent and then move it forwards to the attackers. He focused on the areas he knew best, and then trusted the excellent attacking players he had at Barca to deliver. And it worked like a dream. I presume he has continued much the same approach at City, maybe with some more direction but why change something that works. It’s a bloody good plan.
Wenger seemed to be the opposite, more interested in directing the attack and trusting the defenders to do their stuff. Which worked when he had a well-drilled defensive unit that he inherited, less so when he had to replace them…
Sir Alex encouraged wing play, fast counterplay because as a striker he thrived on crosses (and still enjoyed them from the sidelines). His whole plan was built around getting the ball to the striker in the right places as quickly as possible.
This is where I struggle with Gareth Southgate, and where I think he struggles. He was an ok defender. Maybe that’s harsh but I never particularly rated him as a player. Instinctively, his mind is set to protecting the goal above all else. That’s fine, but he also seems to want to give very specific roles to the forwards (mostly about defensive duties and holding position).
Thursday morning’s submissions to the mailbox commented on how uninventive our attack is, and I think that’s the problem – we have a defensive-minded manager who doesn’t really understand attack. Which is fine, but he needs to have an attack-minded assistant that he listens to. With the quality of attacking players at his disposal, he needs to follow Pep’s approach, take the restrictions off in the attacking areas of the pitch and let the players go. With the likes of Sancho, Rashford, Kane, Grealish, Foden, Mount, Greenwood, Bellingham etc our attack could be so dazzling and exciting. But currently, it’s clearly restricted and that’s going to cost us against better opponents.
In praise of England
I think it’s worth restating just where this English team project is at the moment.
That Hungary team were no pushovers, just look at the games in the summer against all the rest of that tough group. But England dominated them, dominated possession, were best in every department. This isn’t a new development though. Southgate’s qualification campaigns have been a succession of increasing impressive performances. It is easy to forget that the qualification process for the Euros was equally impressive as the performance in the tournament itself. Rolling over teams, quality teams, five, six, seven goals. A decade ago we were struggling to qualify from poorer groups.
What has been particularly impressive in the last few months has been the improvement in the defence. Stones looks superb, Maguire also, and Walker the top of a list of five or six who would be arguably first choice in any other national team. Shaw is the star though, as he was at the Euros, driving the play from left back. I’ve been unsure about whether the central unit of Rice and Phillips was the absolute best, in terms of generating creative play, but the Hungary showcased them at their very best. I just think an attacking midfielder facing them must be utterly terrified at the prospect of the constant aggressive pressure. Then the front four. Again, the interplay and quality, the confidence on the ball is such a departure from England teams we were watching in recent decades. But then there is dozens more who could fill those positions, again who would be first choice in many other national teams (Sancho, Foden, Saka, Rashford, Dom C-L, Greenwood, Ings, Abraham, Lingard, Bamford, Alli, Maddison, Watkins, etc.)
It continues to be tempting to be negative about the England team. I can see why – the association of a small minority of UKIP idiots, the historical underachievement. But this group, the culture within it, should change minds. The taking the knee to say that they stand against racism is inspiring, and it’s not a gesture. I help out with a grassroots under-8 team, and these kids notice this stuff and understand it. People feel a genuine connection with these guys, they are (for the most part) real role models who appear to care deeply about the team and each other- just witness Walker’s devastation when he made the error that led to the Polish goal and let down his mates.
Long may it continue!
England having the most expensive squad does not mean they have the best players. We don’t.
England’s supposed most expensive squad is inflated by the fact that we have the 3rd youngest squad in the world (Mexico 1st, Nigeria 2nd). Transfer value is hugely influenced by age.
The stats quoted are transfer value which at least does make sense rather than transfer fees. However, Harry Maguire is valued at 50 million euros which equates to 5 times the combined values of Ciellini and Bonucci (remember them?).
England’s value is also boosted by our squad depth, we have 100 million Sancho and 65 million Saka on the bench as we already have 65 million Grealish, 90 million Sterling and 75 million Mount on the pitch. Ronaldo is valued at 45 million, Pogba 60 and Messi 90 by the way for some further context – none of our players are fit to shine their shoes at international level even with 2 of them being past their peak (and remember, the French Pogba is a lot better than his Mancunian twin).
It is great to have that depth and potential (if we even used subs anymore Gareth?) but not great if so much talent sits in the same positions and has to be left on the bench. England have so much potential but are still short of true elite players like a Gazza, a Beckham or a Bryan Robson that makes the difference and adds a quality other players can’t match. We are lucky to have Harry though.
Jon, Cape Town (if you interrogate stats for long enough they’ll tell you whatever you want – allow them to explain themselves and you’ll get the truth)
Having decided to once again lace up my boots, approaching 40 and carrying an extra 15kg+ back into football training for the 11 a-side game, I went digging for my last pair of boots. I found them untouched and unwashed in 15 years but still as glorious as ever, a beautiful pair of Copa Mundials. They instantly transported me back to the day I bought them, 21 years old, I wanted a pair since I first remember seeing them sometime between ’86 and ’90 no doubt..
This then took me down memory lane rabbit hole; my very first boots when I was 6, store brand, my only memory of them is how they sliced and diced their way through my heels and ankles. My first proper pair of boots, Diadora Baggios circa ’94, I remember sleeping in them for weeks, Dad bought them for me so kept it a secret from Mum. Unfortunately I only managed to wear them twice before the were stolen out of my bag in school by some absolute ****, cheers for that. I then remembered the first pair of boots I bought for myself, and the only decent pair since I’d worn since I was robbed, Adidas Predators 1998. My memory tells me these boots improved my touch no end and I took pride in having my ankles kicked in every game for being a poser, it was well worth it. I stuck with Adidas Predator/Mondial right up until I decided Saturday and/or Sunday mornings were for hangovers and stopped turning up for training.
But my most poignant memory is of cleaning my boots with my dad after a game on a Sunday; toothbrush, basin and soap every week for over 15 years. Looking back it was like a religious experience and given we were lapse Catholics with every Sunday spent in a park on not on a pew maybe that’s what it was. Taking care of the leather, cleaning out the studs/blades making sure they were pristine for next weeks game, listening to how I did or didn’t track my marker, how I needed to be more vocal, look up when on the ball, organize the defence, feed the ball into our number 8 more etc. I’m sure over the past couple of years many of us have been unable to see family or elderly parents and my dad certainly won’t be the sidelines for my come back, thanks COVID (did you also nick my Diadora’s!?) but at least I’ll feel at home in my boots. I now just need to dig out my touch, last seen Sept ’05.
Anyone else have a boot fetish/similar routine?
Alan A (Excited for Ronaldo’s return tomorrow night)
World Cup compromise
There has been a lot of opposition to hosting a WC every two years, with the Euros also following this. And I agree, a football tournament every summer would be too much.
So how about a different suggestion; have them every three years.
So over a three-year cycle it would go something like WC, Euros, empty summer. And then starts again.
I think most proper football fans really do love international tournaments. So a three-year cycle seems a nice compromise between getting a bit more, but not having too much.
Obviously somethings would need to change – qualification would need to be streamlined somewhat for example. But given that we now have 24/55 UEFA team at the Euros, the current format is rather bloated anyway. Maybe the Nations League format could be adapted to function as the Euros qualifying too. 11 groups of 3 teams, top 2 qualify for the Euros (leaves room for 1 or 2 host countries), bottom teams relegated. Then a second division of 11 groups of 2 – winners promoted in place of the bottom teams from the top division. Requires less matches during the season, so seasons can be shorter, and players can have more rest prior to (or after) a summer tournament.
Let’s be honest, most PL clubs don’t really care too much about player burnout. They just want to be the ones doing the burning. Otherwise, they wouldn’t all go on pre (and post) season tours to the other side of the world.
It was great to see Szczesny and Lewandowski from Poland appeal to the home crowd to respect England’s national anthem. Bit of a shame the crowd let themselves down again by booing the players taking a knee to support BLM afterwards but baby steps I guess.
This got me thinking about the England fans routinely jeering the oppositions’ national anthems for matches played at Wembley and this was most evident in the Euro 2020 final against Italy just a few months ago. I would love to see Kane et al responding in a similar way to the Poles by demanding respect for the away team’s anthem.
I recall Terry Venables before Euro 96 asking the fans to not boo the other team’s national anthem and this seemed to work for a while but old habits soon returned. It’s been said to me that the England players didn’t want to call out this reprehensible behaviour for fear of alienating the fans but this argument seems redundant as they continue to take the knee anyway despite the jeers from a section of fans. So, Sir Kane, I implore you to point to the Respect badge next time booing occurs and f*ck off to any little Englanders who take offence.
Phil (exiled in Brisbane) Chiz
1. England were pretty rubbish last night and a 1-0 win albeit with a stunning Harry Kane goal would have been flattering.
The number of times England had the ball in wide spaces, but the player on the ball decided to take extra touches rather than a first time cross was ridiculous.
Main culprit for this was Sterling.
2. The Brazilian player ban being imposed by FIFA is really not fair (and yes I’m Liverpool biased).
Brazil have a travel ban for people coming into the country from the UK. They have to quarantine for 14 days.
Which is why the match was stopped, as some players didn’t comply with this.
After returning to the UK from Brazil, they would then have to quarantine in the UK for another 10 days.
Its ridiculous to expect anyone to do that, just so they can play for their country.
What about the clubs that pay their salary who would be without those players for over a month.(including the time to train and actually play the matches)
Is this situation going to be repeated again after the next round of fixtures?
FIFA should really step in as these are really unusual circumstances.
Neil, LFC, USA
If Dave (35) PVFC enjoyed the pronunciation of Puchacz as “Poo-Hatch”, I suggest he starts watching Major League Baseball.
There has been a great player for the St Louis Cardinals and both the LA Angels & Dodgers called Albert Pujols. His surname is pronounced “poo-holes”. He has been playing for 20 years and I still laugh every time I hear it.
John Porter (41 and still immature)