The Mailbox offers England tactical plans to beat Germany…

Ian Watson
Gareth Southgate England

There are no Euros matches until tomorrow so you’ve plenty of time to send your mails to…


The Greening issue (not Jonathan)
I love you all for this article, particularly the much-maligned Johnny Nic, whose articles seem to now come with their own carefully cultivated collection of c**ts, all ever so keen to make the same complaints and criticism. We are sleepwalking into a desperate situation and governments around the world show no real interest in actually making the necessary changes. Football is an international game, beloved around the world, and this leads into one element I wanted to pick up on. Specifically, “the climate crisis does not discriminate between United, City, Town or Athletic. It affects all equally and it will not wait.”

Sadly, this is not entirely the case. The climate crisis disproportionally affects the poorest. And the danger is that measures to limit the devastation will be paid for by us, the people, and not those who are the most responsible. In the wealthier nations, this will be financially. In the poorer nations, it will be with their lives. Crops are failing, the fish are not there, and for those who cannot just buy their way out of it there will be only one outcome. Island communities are suffering the result of rising sea levels, losing land, homes, and their future. Farming communities are struggling like never before. Drastic change is required, and we need the billionaires to make those changes more than any other group on earth. But these people do not have the required humanity to make those changes.

On a less armageddony note, it would also be good to encourage clubs to allow supporters to bring their own refillable containers. Preventing such things (in non-pandemic times) is antiquated. Granted, in the grand scheme of things it won’t stop billions from starving to death or dying of thirst, but I do not believe we will actually be able to prevent that. Because the ones we need, so very, very desperately, to stop doing what they’re doing, are absolutely incapable of the unselfishness required.

Also Harry Kane is a bloody phenomenon and we (England) don’t deserve him.

We (Tottenham) deserve him eternally and he just needs to get his head around that.


The Greening of football: It’s time for some serious changes


…I like Johnny Nic and broadly agree with him on many issues. I have followed him for many (c.20) years but his ridiculous article today was the point when I said ‘Enough’. Please get a grip – you’re never going to get anything like the required buy-in to make meaningful change as long as you’re churning out horse shit like that. If your best suggestion is something as one-eyed and regressive as “nobody should ever be allowed to fly except in an emergency”, then good luck, because it ain’t happening – and rightly so.

When you’ve parodied yourself to the point where even your own fans think you’re a joke, you probably really are taking it too far. Now go buy yourself some lentils and quinoa, and calm the fook down. You are every bit as much of a zealot as the people you constantly criticise (albeit often justifiably).

I much preferred the stories about Reidy drinking paraffin while pushing a naked Merse up Gravesend High Street in a shopping trolley after stumbling out of a nightclub with Miss Unipart 1987 on his arm.


All the Euros group stage team stats: England are boring


Unbalanced England
While it is clear Southgate is not a moron, what is clear is that he has still not worked out a balanced team.

When he talks you can tell his focus has been on the first knock out game against a decent tram – not that qualifying games, friendlies or group games. It’s all been about being able to win a knockout game.

The challenge is that given our limited CB, DM and central midfield options, which is where most defensive work matters, Southgate has decided to rein in the full backs and ‘wide’ forwards. He has gone for players he can ‘trust’, which is code for track back, rather than players who can create space for an opportunity. In doing don’t so he has kept faith with some players who are not quite sharp enough at the moment or put players into positions they don’t play for their club side and lead to further imbalance in this team. The Czech game was the most balanced we have been and it showed for a while. It will be interesting to see if he reverts to one of the formations he used earlier in the group games.

We really need to score first, especially as the Germans got very rattled going behind against Hungary. Imagine if that game had been in Budapest and not Munich. So playing someone like Saka in his right position would help. Not Foden on the wrong side.

Will be an interesting contest and, if they win, probably an easier quarter final.

Now off to re-redo my fantasy team.
Paul McDevitt
PS BLM is not a ‘political’ movement, just as LGTBQ is not. Along with anti-misogyny, all three deserve higher awareness


Four days to go
I’m afraid I’m going to have to have a news blackout until next Wednesday, I simply cannot take any more of this. However, before I go, please can I remind Ash Metcalf, and the whole of the press:

1) This group of German players, has never beaten this group of England players in an international tournament.
2) This group of English players, has never lost to this group of German players in an international tournament.
3) Most of the players were not born in 1996, and none will remember the game.

History counts for very little, if anything.

See you all on Wednesday


Southgate, vindications and double-pivots
There’s a lot of back and forth from England fans over whether Gareth Southgate is spoiling our chances of doing well or being canny and might actually know better than us armchair pundits. The midfield ‘double pivot’ is a particularly thorny subject. Some good points on both sides and some not so good. (Partly looking at you here F365 – although it’s more well-meaning you can sometimes be almost as disingenuous and agenda-driven with your analysis as the red tops)
The good news is this argument should (at least start to) get settled on Tuesday. Beat Germany and it’s a fair amount of vindication of this pragmatic/turgid style of football – top of our group with no goals conceded, winning a tricky last 16 game to be in the quarter finals. Full vindication if we went on to win that match.
Lose and Southgate will likely get slaughtered – and fair enough. What was the point? Lowest scoring team to qualify for the knock outs in a kind group and playing at home. F365’s article on Thursday listed other stats that also didn’t reflect well. It may sound reductive to base judgement on one game, but you can’t put so many eggs in the ‘getting results is everything’ basket and expect not to get a kicking if you go out at the first meaningful opportunity. It’s hard to see a realistic scenario where England lose with so much bad luck there is much real mitigation. Had we offered more entertainment or actual chance creation in the group stages there would have been more context to take into account.
Possibly worst-case scenario is beating Germany then losing to Sweden/Ukraine. Then the jury remains out, the back and forth becomes even more tiresome and likely we stay on the same ‘pragmatic’ path thinking we just need a bit more luck next time.
A couple of final points responding to other people’s thoughts. Yes, other teams also play solidly with a double pivot. But at least one of these players will have progressive skills and ability on the ball – Portugal’s Renato Sanches was mentioned and a good example, we don’t use such a player there. They will also have players further forward whose main strengths are technical skill rather than running-related.
Secondly, I’m not sure England are playing ‘tournament football’ exactly, more ‘Southgate football’. In the last year or so I think we’ve played five other competitive games against teams that qualified for Euro 2020/1. Here’s how they went:
Belgium 2 England 0
England 2 Belgium 1- penalty won from a corner, deflected shot from range by Mount
Denmark 0 England 0
England 0 Denmark 1
England 2 Poland 1 – dubious penalty and Maguire goal from a corner
In seven and a half hours football that’s one goal from open play – a deflected shot. The results, won 2, drawn 1, lost 2 are not terrible but hardly scream defensive is the best way forward.
No one wants gung-ho asking for trouble football, just a better balance between defence and attack. And possibly the realisation that the double pivot can be a false economy. If we can’t create we can’t score. If we can’t keep hold of the ball, decent opposition likely will score even if we have more defensive players in their way. Croatia 2018 springs to mind as an example, hopefully Germany 2021 won’t be a repeat.
Ronnie Buzzard, Manchester


All the Euros group stage player stats: One England standout


England superstitions
In an effort to lighten up the mailbox, I thought it would be interesting to hear about everyone’s quirky superstitions for the tournament.

In my case, England have been…progressing?….while I’ve been in my shaggy hair and beard phase up to now (COVID work from home!!). Of course, my wife has decreed that I clean up this weekend. Now, I absolutely know that it will be lack of ambition or VAR or Kane not squaring the ball to Sterling that knocks England out and not that I am some sort of Samson for the England team. But still, you can understand my trepidation. Also, I watched the Croatia and Czech Republic matches intently, but was only watching the Scotland game in passing during a work meeting (US east coast). I now have a work meeting during the Germany game. You see where this is going. I could record it, but then I haven’t recorded any other England match yet, so who knows how that might upset the fates? The mailboxers were right about the group phase being the time to experiment in preparation for the knockout round(s)!

And yes, you can pillory me if things go badly on Tuesday; my sincere apologies in advance!
Niraj (already used up my bracket quota) Tampa USA

Germany Hungary F365

Don’t underestimate Germany
Allow me to take exception to that mail that suggested Germany “look tactically outdated”. Okay, What? Say that again please. I get the ones that say they look ‘meh’ or the ones that say they look beatable but tactically outdated!?

For those that ask, I am not German and at this point I defend them only to make my viewpoint clear if anyone is interested and because I seem to be the only person who claimed Germany will win it and I have to tell you, I felt foolish for 80 minutes more or less and may well feel even more so from Tuesday; I expected them to beat Hungary but I expected France to do the same, so also Spain as regards Sweden and Poland and of course England in the derby.

But you dare to look down upon them because they concede and you don’t, because they where ‘outplayed’ by France in a game where xG suggested otherwise and my eyes thought would have ended differently without Pogba or because they dare to attack leaving spaces behind in international football. So they lost 6-0 to Spain and that makes them outdated? And mind you, it was a two-legged affair, the first game actually ended 1-1, with nothing to really separate the two sides, Germany went into that game needing only a draw to qualify, they did not lose because of tactics alone. They concede goals but that is hardly because of tactics, there is a reason he recalled Hummels and Muller. They may not be the complete team but far are they from being tactically outdated, to suggest they are outdated on a purely tactical level is to suggest Chelsea, Liverpool, Leipzig and Bayern and all the other teams in the tournament including France and the very impressive Italy and Netherlands are as well. If it’s not as free-flowing as you will expect from the club sides, blame that on the nature of international tournaments and the situation surrounding the team before the tournament because most German sides play similar styles, but to suggest they are outdated? As far as I am concerned, is far from the truth.