Not bad for a Good Friday. Send your mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. And enjoy EdQuoththeraven on Crystal Palace chairmen and their principles. Be kind.
Vardy and Drinkwater in England XI? No thanks
Due to Leicester’s fantastic form this season and quite incredible rise to the summit of the Premiership, two of their stand-out performers have rightfully been given call-ups to the England squad. It is no surprise to see Vardy and Drinkwater in the England 23 and their performances this season but I have to disagree with the calls for them to be in England’s starting line up at the Euros.
Both players have excelled playing in Leicester’s counter-attacking system this season. But therein lies the issue. They have both succeeded in a counter-attacking system. Regardless of certain opinions on England, the likelihood is that England will see large amounts of the ball in each of their group games at least. So the question is, can Drinkwater and Vardy perform in a possession-based side? Drinkwater has been excellent this season at quick transitions when Leicester regain possession, playing the ball forward quickly to Mahrez, Vardy or Okazaki. But can he be as influential when tasked with creating from deep, taking the ball off the centre-backs and looking forward to see a packed defence as opposed to the space that Vardy and Mahrez have so often enjoyed this season.
With regards to Vardy, there’s no denying that his pre Christmas form was excellent. This is represented in no better way than breaking Van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in consecutive games. But this was the part of the season where teams didn’t sit back against Leicester. They played open like they would against any other side that had finished in the bottom half the previous season. But since Christmas, as teams have started to show Leicester more respect, his form hasn’t been the same. He’s struggled against sides that have sat deep and asked Leicester to break them down. Which is a problem that England are likely to face.
When considering who should start it is easy to let our hearts make the decisions for us. Leicester’s rise is a brilliant story for football but that doesn’t mean that Drinkwater should start ahead of Alli or Barkley (both players play for sides that usually have the majority of possession). Vardy’s rise means some think he should be given a starting position when Sturridge or even Welbeck may be better suited to England’s style.
Sometimes players just suit a system that is made for their strengths but as harsh as it sounds, there may just be footballers that are better for England. So Vardy and Drinkwater just aren’t England’s best options.
Why England have been rubbish
The mailbox has touched on a number of relevant factors why England have been rubbish, and probably will be again this summer.
But, in my mind the key factors are:
Rubbish Managers: Uncle Roy is frankly mediocre/not that great; McClaren has proven his pedigree repeatedly; Capello was over the hill when he managed England; Eriksson’s (lack of) quality is shown by his subsequent record; Keegan, etc, etc You have to go back to Venables and Sir Bobby for managers who actually won anything before and after their England stint.
As has been proven numerous times recently, a good coach makes all the difference – Moyes replacing Ferguson, and anyone replacing Neil Warnock for instance. We don’t have one in charge.
Tactics: Constantly, England managers play tactics out of tune with that played by the top sides (managed by top foreign managers, generally) that the main players play for. For years, internationally we laboured on with 4-4-2 when most teams (even ManU) were playing versions of 4-3-3 in their important matches. For instance, Frank Lampard spent his international career shoe horned into a two-man midfield (generally with Steven Gerrard) when he played in a midfield three at Chelsea.
Now, of course, Uncle Roy still has a preference for 4-4-2 (two banks of four) and every time I see England play, I get that retro feeling…it’s not Man City…and it’s not Leicester…maybe Fulham (2007) or West Brom (2011).
Sub Optimal Picks: whether it’s Townsend or Milner…or Phil Jones at right back, England managers run in this strange twilight world where they seem unable to differentiate between celebrity, popularity, talent and team effectiveness – ie. basic team management. Even now, I suspect there will be a strong “case” made to include Kane, Sturridge, Vardy, and Rooney in the starting line up even though none of them play out wide or at No.10 effectively. Yes, you want the best players in the side – good management is doing this in a coherent way with Plan A, B, and C.
Unfortunately, none of the above is likely to be fixed, and so although England (again) have the basic raw ingredients to be competitive, with some genuinely exciting players all over the park, we’ll almost certainly be knocked out (again) as soon as we play a decent team.
James Milner: Old tool
The analogy of Milner being like a multi-tool when you go camping is mostly accurate. It’s just that by this point in his career, he’s more like a multi-tool that has had some of its blades/tools broken or worn down.
For example, he can still play a decent cross into the box, it’s just that he can rarely do that because he can’t get past a defender. He still can “do a job” in midfield and run around and tackle, it’s just that his tackles are often late or ineffective because he’s a step behind the play. He’s only got a few skills left that are international quality and England surely has better options for a “multi-tool” type player.
I feel bad for writing this because he’s a model professional and seems like a genuinely good fella and works his socks off, but at this point he may no longer even be a proper multi-tool. He’s more like a tin-opener duct-taped to an old pair of pliers. Not really that useful and probably shouldn’t earn a place when assembling your best 23 tool set.
The other Brian (Hoping Klopp buys some better tools this summer) LFC
Worst individual performances ever…
I liked Simon’s list, would agree with all of them. I propose the addition of:
Maicon in both legs, but especially the second one, of Spurs v Inter in the Champions League. Bale absolutely dismembered him. Yes, Bale was electrifying, but Maicon was abhorrent too.
Djimi Traore against Burnley. The own goal alone would have been enough, but he coupled that with just being Djimi Traore. Shocking.
David Luiz in the World Cup semi-final against Germany. Brazil’s team was shocking as a unit that night, but Luiz was a special kind of dross. I almost felt sorry for him finally getting exposed on such a big stage, but then I remembered who he was and started smiling again.
Paul McShane the day Everton beat Sunderland 7-1. Don’t feel the need to explain this one, just going to re-state the name ‘Paul McShane’ and leave it at that.
Eamonn (Zidane vs Brazil, World Cup QF 2006, maybe not the best ever performance, but certainly my favourite), Istanbul
…How about Jon Walters vs Chelsea? Scores two own goals and misses a penalty. On his 100th premier league appearance…
…Great mail by Simon Fitzwilliams. My eyes lit up as soon as I saw the opportunity to mention some of my favourite (not so much at the time) calamitous performances.
– Manuel Almunia v West Brom (Arsenal): The Spanish goalkeeper gave away a penalty and was responsible for all three goals Arsenal conceded. They went on to lose 2-3 after Samir Nasri could only score two consolation goals.
– Petr Cech vs West Ham (Arsenal): Though this was overall a poor performance from the whole team, it was also Cech’s debut home game in the Premier League after a summer transfer from Chelsea with many saying he could save the team up to 15 points a season, only for him to make two mistakes and allow Arsenal to lose 0-2, saving them absolutely zilch.
– Jon Walters vs Chelsea (Stoke City): Easily one of the most disastrous performances from the Irishman after he scored two own goals and missed a penalty.
There are more I’m sure, but none that come to me at the top of my head.
…In response to Simon Fitzwilliams’ call for disastrous individual performances, here’s one that’s hard to beat, but since it could very well have been deliberate, it may not count.
On March 12, 2010, Inter Milan were away to Catania, drawing 1-1. Sulley Muntari came on in the 79th minute for Inter. Almost immediately he was beaten by a Catania attacker and chopped the opponent down from behind, getting a yellow card and conceding a free-kick in a dangerous position. He went into the area to form part of the defensive wall. The free-kick was taken, and as the wall leaped, he stuck his arm out to block the ball. Penalty, second yellow, red card. The whole sequence took about one minute and twenty seconds. Catania converted the penalty and went on to win 3-1.
Here it is in all its glory:
At the time, it was speculated that Muntari did it deliberately because he was upset with then manager Jose Mourinho and wanted out. There are other possibilities, of course. But there can’t have been too many worse performances than this.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
…In answer to this question, two come to mind. The first was Wayne Bridge against Croatia in ‘that’ final qualifier for the Euros. Whilst the whole back four were dreadful, Bridge in particular played like Bambi on ice. Who had been shot with a tranquilliser.
The second, a bit more of a personal selection, is another esteemed left-back, Jon Beswetherick. Signed by Sheffield Wednesday manager Terry Yorath (so you knew he was going to be good) he only played about a dozen games for us but I remember him getting hauled off in tears after 15 minutes in a 0-0 home game to… Grimsby Town. And when the Grimsby Town winger makes you look that inept, perhaps it’s best to consider a different career path. Heard a rumour that he was a policeman. So sleep easy, everyone.
Rob (though in fairness, I’m sure he’s probably a good policeman)
is the crowning glory of the worst individual performance ever. I was 15, he made me cry.
If that was the last time…
For the sake of the argument, let say your team won’t win the league again ever in your lifetime.
Your team will come close a few times, but in the end never made it to the top again, until your last breath.
Now, would you be satisfied with the last one you had won?
For me, always yes and always will. Thanks for the memories, The Invincibles.
How about you?
Syfq Amr, a bias Gooner
Wanyama not even Kenya’s best midfielder
As a Kenyan who’s perennially embarrassed by the mismanagement of the national team, I couldn’t have said it better than Greg Tric in yesterday’s mailbox.
Here’s the thing about African football in general. Players who get to ply their trade in Europe almost always get a berth at the national team no matter how good players in the local leagues are. Kind of strange because as much as Wanyama is good, he’s definitely not Kenya’s best midfielder.
Wenger should probably send his scouts and unearth the next George Weah. Talking of which, the portrait of an icon of the man was spot on.
@Gunnerdavy (Nairobi, Kenya)
An upstairs XI please
In Brian LFC’s tribute to Cruyff yesterday, he mentioned that the ‘big game upstairs just added a lot more quality’. Can we, as a tribute to late footballers, create an XI of players participating in the ‘big game upstairs’?
Now read EdQuoththeraven on Crystal Palace chairmen and their principles. Be kind.