Mails: Drop the diamond and drop Rooney

Date published: Friday 3rd June 2016 9:59

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This diamond: Not forever
Just two months ago England beat the world champions Germany, in Germany. A new dawn was heralded. Instead of kicking on, England are regressing. Why? This ridiculous ‘diamond’ formation. Please just stop it and go back to playing the 4-3-3 (4-2-3-1) that we beat the Germans with. The best thing about that game wasn’t the result…even at 2-0 down we were playing well, looked like a good team, as all of the players were playing their natural games in positions that they understand.

The only player unavailable from the team that played that night in is Danny Welbeck. So we need someone to fill his place on the left of the front three. Step forward Wayne Rooney, who played in that role for United a few seasons ago. Yes it means leaving Jamie Vardy out, yes it means not playing the diamond, but surely we should be putting the team first.

Vardy on the left is a joke. He has had a stunning season playing on the last man, utilising strengths of pace and finishing. He has limited technical and passing ability, which are a necessity to play out wide. You have to feel sorry for him being shoehorned into the team. Don’t get me started on Kane on the right.

It’s so blindingly obvious, why can’t Roy see it?
Craig ‘cole’ Russell


…I don’t understand Roy Hodgson’s tactics.

All the players (apart from Vardy) play a variant of 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 week in/week out. Spurs, who could have five representatives, play a high press, high tempo version that is a) very English, and b) very effective. The Liverpool players (Lallana, Clyne, Henderson, Milner, Sturridge) also play this style. This style also suits Rooney perfectly (plenty of running around), and Vardy. Meanwhile, we’re going to play 4-4-2 (but ohhh, it’s a diamond), and get out-gunned in the midfield whilst our strikers, and out of position strikers hang around, unserviced upfront.

Now if Roy could only slow it down to a snail’s pace…we’d be Man Utd.

Lessons learned and all that…fifth it is!!

Matthew (ITFC/England)
…The tricky part of international management, in my not-so-humble opinion, is managing to get a group of players who are usually on opposing sides to gel into a team. Therefore it is surely impossible to achieve said objective by playing a system (4-4-2 Diamond) in which literally none of the squad have been deployed for their club. Dier is predominantly a sitting midfielder granted, however he has had the tremendous company of Dembele alongside him in that role. He is still learning how to play the position without anyone to turn to before the opposition is confronted (or not) with a very weak back line. Of the others to feature in the diamond:

Alli – from working with one of the most exciting attacks in the league, to having to sit with James Milner in the middle of the park. No wonder the lad looked so confused.

Milner – surely the English midfield has progressed enough to have a player who provides more than simply running. Adam Lallana has benefited significantly from Klopp’s pressing style at club level and also offers that spark going forward with his creative intentions. To say only Walker and Lallana, despite being a late sub, came away with positive marks against their names would not be an understatement.

Rooney – I personally feel the time for the next generation to come through could not have been better timed. The game has moved on from Wayne Rooney. I have also came to terms with the fact that the robotic management will never allow this to happen, resulting in the inclusion of the Scouse fella at any cost. What did he bring? How many times did he split a defence consisting of a 38 year old and Pepe’s kung fu partner? Did he play better when Portugal were down to 10 men? Had he ever played at the tip of the diamond in the past and excelled? He is not the world-class players made out to be.

And that’s just the midfield!

Harry Kane is coming off the back of two superb seasons of hitting the old onion bag as a lone striker. The role obviously suits him and he obviously suits the role. ‘Working’ with a Jamie Vardy type player is something he will never have done in the past and I would guess he himself hopes to be starting against Russia on his lonesome. He literally looked like he’d just seen grass for the first time!
Luke, Sunderland


…To quote a familiar footballing chant, usually reserved for a freekick routine gone awry, ‘what the f****** hell was that’?

Now by that I mean a few things. Kane taking set pieces. Vardy as left wing-back. Rooney dropping deep and literally screaming for the ball as if he’s seen a killer pass which will result in a certain goal, only to clip it over to Kyle Walker.

Now the formation… <snigger>. If that was a diamond then Roy needs to return to primary school to re-learn shapes.

For an example of how the diamond should be utilised properly I advise Roy to ask a certain Rodgers, Brendan and pay particular reference to a match – United, Manchester vs F.C, Liverpool 16th March 2014. The two wide midfielders Henderson and Allen stayed wide to occupy the United full-backs, (revolutionary I know) whilst Sterling at the tip was give a free role. The strikers Suarez and Sturridge stayed predominantly high and central to press the centre-backs (really listen here Roy), only when United had possession did Suarez drift wide but Sturridge only stayed central. Now compare that to the tactical mess just witnessed. I actually feel sorry for Vardy and Kane.

Most worrying though was the sight of Roy rubbing his chin wondering where it’s all gone wrong.

At least this match proved that a) Wilshere needs to start b) Milner does not and c) Rooney also does not.

Come on Roy stop rubbing your chin and start using your brain, play the two strikers through the middle get Rooney out and bring any one of Sterling, Lallana, Sturridge, Alli in his place. Football may just come home then!
Alex (Tactics Truck) Jegede


Just sodding drop Rooney
How deliciously ironic that England 96 should be celebrated ahead of a match in which Wayne Rooney is crowbarred into a starting 11.

Terry Vegetables was no genius but he did understand how best to get the best out of England. He just played everyone in their actual position and didn’t try to be too clever about it and reaped the rewards. Everyone knew what they were doing and we marched into the semi-finals and gave the Dutch a good spanking en route.

Roy should learn the lesson imparted by El Tel. Just play players in their position and put Rooney on the bench.

When you start with Wayne and Milner we just have this phoney war situation where we’re waiting for the real England players to be brought on – how about just start them – we’re 2-0 up by half-time and then we can all treat ourselves to tea and crumpets before seeing out the match at a leisurely pace with Rooney coming on for the last half hour and doing his impression of a footballer.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
…Managers have changed, players have changed but the mentality has somehow still remained the exact same. Trying to shoehorn a good player when the system obviously does not suit him. Lets face it, if such force-fitting could not work with Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes it sure as hell won’t work with Rooney, Vardy and Kane.

England fans must be hoping (against hope) that Woy drops one of Vardy or Rooney and puts Alli in the no. 10 role behind the two strikers. But to be honest, Woy has many qualities but having balls to do the difficult thing isn’t one of them.


…I think we all know/except/are resigned to the fact that Rooney is starting the Euros, but I hope Roy has decided what where and with whom.

Just preferably not forcing our best striker out wide, trying to make Vardy a wide player and stifling our best no 10 by putting him on the left of a diamond

Rooney would be on the bench for me, but that is the only position he won’t be.

Either play him up front with Kane or don’t bother Roy, otherwise it will be a tournament of what could have been.
Simon (Is it wrong for wishing an enforced substitution that gives us our best team? Bristol


Sterling and Wilshere must start
So the three friendlies are over and we won all three, we’re gonna win the Euros! I have some thoughts on the performances of the players and the tactics:

– Alli was dreadful and probably our worst player in both games he participated in, he offers next to nothing as a centre midfielder. Surely it would make a whole lot more sense to play him in the role he loves behind the strikers, and to put Rooney in the centre mid role he seems to enjoy? We will not get anywhere with both where they were tonight.

– Wilshere must start. Without Wilshere we are incredibly dull, there is almost no creativity, no ball players and we cannot break teams down. He is the only centre mid we have that is actually able to pass between the lines and occasionally break through them and go on mazy runs. People can point to Milner’s 11 assists in 2016 all they want but those assists are down to the quality of the tactic he plays in, not to his own. We need Wilshere to start, although I believe he is much more useful in a centre midfield role besides Rooney or Alli depending on who Roy plays there, fact is Jack isn’t the best defender in the world and against a top team he will be punished as a defensive midfielder.

– Dier is useless when we are trying to break teams down. Players like him and Coquelin are perfect at breaking down opposition attacks and helping their team counter. Against teams like Wales and Russia Dier will not have to do this, these teams will most likely play defensive and on the counter and England will have to break them down. Dier is just simply not good at this, he cannot play through the lines. As an Arsenal fan I’ve seen that a player like this is nothing but detrimental when playing against a deep defensive block. Coquelin does not contribute in a situation like this and neither does Dier. If/When we play against a top team in the quarters/semis etc Dier will be perfect, but against lower quality, defensive opposition there is no point in playing him.

– The Vardy left wing experiment has to stop. Nine touches tonight for Jamie Vardy. 66 minutes and he touched the ball nine times. That is embarrassing, a Walcott-esque performance. He cannot play on the left wing, he is completely useless there and we’d be much better playing an actual winger there who actually gets involved and knows how to cross a football. Raheem Sterling has got to start there.

– Harry Kane is a brilliant striker and is probably our best player. But his set pieces are League Two standard. He literally hasn’t put in one good delivery in two games. Surely he isn’t the best set-piece taker we have?
Matt, Arsenal fan


Ten conclusions
* “I think we won the game” – Wayne Rooney’s first words to the camera after the match. And people question his intelligence.

* Half a decade ago, after the dark years of 2008-2010, we decided to become all European and try to do this passing thing everyone keeps going on about. It hasn’t really had the desired effect. In fact, it still makes our players resemble a bunch of Land Rovers trying to manoeuvre their way around a go-kart track. Nobody in this team is particularly good at quick passing and/or movement, and even the ones that are fair at it are slowed down immensely by the ones that aren’t. That’s the thing about passing football – and the thing that made Barcelona so great and LVG’s United so terrible. Everybody needs to be able to pass and move quickly; or the whole concept fails.

* Possession/passing football is passé, anyway. Even Barcelona and Spain don’t really bother anymore. England-behind the times as usual. Sit back and counter – we have the personnel for that, and it’s easy. Probably too late now, though.

* As a Fulham fan, I will not hear many bad things said against lovely Uncle Roy. However, I do wish he was slightly braver in his decision making. In particular, the fact that Rooney-when fit-will always be shoehorned into the side somehow. Not that he had a particularly bad game, mind you, but his shoehorning has a detrimental effect on others – particularly Vardy.

* This could also be held as a criticism against Vardy, to be fair. He is fairly one dimensional. However, he does one job very well: run into good pass, break, score. If he is to play, then that should be his only role.

* I have to admit, I’ve been googling odds for Delle Ali getting a red card in this tournament since that silly hissy fit against Carvalho (who is literally old enough to be his dad). Every gifted English player must have a streak of stupidity, it seems.

* His teammate up front, however, did much better in keeping his head cool. Even with a foot flying against it. I have to say, despite having an average game, Kane’s endeared himself to me even more with that completely unbothered reaction to getting kicked in the head by Bruno Alves. I don’t care if he’s actually not hugely skilled. I don’t care if he looks like Ryan Gosling with marbles in his mouth. Harry is a Hero, period.

* The most noticeable players on our side were the full-backs, for better or worse. Kyle Walker’s early interception was absolutely bloody marvellous, but for the rest both of them were often sloppy and wasteful. Funny how none of the four full-backs on the plane have managed to even edge it over their positional competitor.

* There’s been a lot of discussion about Drinkwater, but is it really that important? Neither Drinkwater nor Henderson are/would be in the first XI, and neither of them bring much more to a game than good honest hard work. Granted, Henderson is more likely to suddenly decide he’s Andrea Pirlo in the middle of a game (despite evidence to the contrary), but then he is slightly better too. I guess my point is, why get all hot and bothered about which 6,5 midfielder will get two sub appearances and a start in the last group game if we’ve qualified at that point?

* At this point, and like a few others in the mailbox earlier, I’m more afraid of a(nother) boring, low-scoring trip to the quarters than of burning out brightly in the group stages. However, the former seems much more likely than the latter on current evidence.


Writing through the nausea post-Wembley
On the train home after getting a last minute invite to sit with the prawn sandwich brigade (thanks Matt!) at Wembley and I had my fears about England confirmed.

It’s not that we don’t have a potentially exciting XI to put out with attacking verve and a hint of mystery, it’s just that no one knows what that XI will be, least of all Roy.

I don’t necessarily disagree with Roy’s choices, and I am certainly not anti-Roy, it’s not like all 23 will play after all so the odd squad player quibble isn’t going to make much difference. And even as a Leicester fan, I can see, rationally, why Drinkwater was left out and why Vardy can be of most use as a sub as opposed to a starter.

But it has been fascinating reading the pundits and fans verdicts on what our starting line-up should be and how much those opinions differ. On top of that, none of them seem to make complete sense based on the players’ strengths.

I think the Portugal match shows that we are struggling to get that balance right between going for it and not leaving us exposed at the back. Dier is key, as is Wilshere. Hopefully that combo will give us enough cover should the full-backs bomb up and provide the width. But tonight showed that simply sticking all your exciting attacking players on and hoping for the best is a tactic Real Madrid have already demonstrated isn’t a sure fire way to success (the early naughties galatico version, not the ones that won the CL last week obvs).

I suppose my overriding feeling, as many others in the mailbox will more eloquently explain no doubt, is that we have so many desserts on offer that we dither, pick several and end up with an upset stomach when we should have gone for the sensible cheese board instead. I am assuming I am still discussing the football here and not my dinner in the Bobby Moore Suite but I digress.

A competitive fixture will be a completely different animal, but I do hope that they will come up with a formation that works. Probably with Kane up front, Alli behind him and Lallana and Sterling operating as nominal wingers. See, even that has flaws and doesn’t even include He Who Must Not Be Dropped.
Rob (the steak was awesome too), Leicester


On Hodgson the chancer…
Roy has taken a few calculated gambles with this England squad. And I say, fair play to him. I was strongly against his appointment, however, the longer he is in charge of England, the longer I want him to be. Regardless of what happens this summer, nobody could do more with what we have, and he is not afraid to take a punt. Plus he is not a total prick, unlike all of the other realistic candidates. He has really taken his straw to the water….

Our recent managers have too often played it safe. There’s really no point doing that. The only way we can win anything (or gloriously not win) is with a healthy dose of luck. Playing it safe just guarantees tedious, face saving mediocrity.

The gambles are all linked together as well, which is probably linked to some of the concern.

Roy has opted to take three centre-backs plus Dier (who is our best holding midfielder) – one less than traditionally would be taken. Employing the fourth reserve could seriously weaken the rest of the team!! The thing is, that would’ve been the case if he had played it safe too…

Instead of Jagielka, Roy has taken two specialist full-backs for each position. This prevents the risk of us having to play someone out of position in what is one of the most specialist areas in todays game.

None of our centre-backs are notably injury prone or particularly lack discipline. They are a bit pants, yes, but the players behind them are utter, utter sh*te. If we are down to playing Jagielka, then it doesn’t matter if we are playing Eric Dier or Danny Dyer in midfield – we are f***ed. For once, England are more than one defensive injury or suspension away from being an unbalanced mess. Good call.

On top of that, he has opted for Henderson/Wilshere/Milner/Alli as backup for Dier; no Drinkwater. This one has attracted a huge outcry I don’t get it…

In the two full games Drinkwater has played for England, we have conceded against the Aussies, while only scoring two; and have lost to a woeful Dutch team at home. In what way therefore, has Drinkwater demonstrated that he can either shield the back four, or contribute to the attack, significantly more effectively than Hendo, Wilshere or Milner? So why take him? In case Dier is out or we lose two centrebacks AND Henderson and Wilshere get injured? If we are that unlucky, then being able to play Drinkwater instead of Milner in holding midfield is really not going to make a jot of a difference against a decent team.

The interlinked risks above, at the cost of one ultimately pointless, Danny Drinkwater/Phil Jagielka shaped safety net, have allowed Hodgson to provide us with back up in both full-back positions; as well as being able to take Sterling, Lallana, Rashford, Barclay, Sturridge, Rooney, Kane and Vardy. That is eight top-class match winners, each with totally different characteristics.

If it goes badly wrong, then we are screwed, and everyone who is not good enough to carry Roy’s straw, let alone water, will be able to say they told him so. But we would’ve been screwed anyway so it won’t mean a lot…

Roy’s has given us the best chance of doing something special by ensuring depth on the flanks, and by taking the players who can actually do something special.

In doing so, he has taken the risk of Alan Shearer asking what might have been if only Phil Jagielka, Danny Drinkwater or Andros Townsend had been there? F*** all Alan. F*** all.

Good man Roy. And good luck.
Ben, MCFC, Manchester


Still worried about Roy
You published my letter last week wherein I expressed my concern about Roy’s obsession with accommodating certain players to the detriment of the team.

Nothing has changed.

Still concerned.
Steve, Manchester


Maybe play Rose AND Bertrand
Putting Kane and Vardy on the wings nullifies their threat. Welbeck’s injury has really disrupted Roys plans for a wide forward.

Now with Townsend not in the squad, the width is only coming from the full-backs but if you are going to play both Vardy and Kane, they need service.

Milner can make some runs but Dier and Wilshere won’t find them too much on the wings. No point playing Alli on the wings either.

There is one player Roy can use if he wants width in his midfield: Danny Rose. Playing him in front of Bertrand gives England width without compromising too much on the defensive side of things. Rose has pace to burn and more tactical discipline than Sterling.

That would push Alli up to the tip of the diamond with Dier staying at the base, Rooney or Vardy supporting Kane and Milner and Wilshire fighting for the last midfield berth.

Against the best teams he can even play a base of two with both Wilshere and Dier with Rooney ideally dropping to the bench but since Roy won’t do that, maybe Alli makes way or simply plays deeper.
Shehzad Ghias, mufc, Karachi


What’s wrong with grinding?
When club teams, that can play eye-pleasing football on occasion, are chasing a victory in trying circumstances and manage to grind out a 1-0 win, the consensus is they didn’t play well but got the job done, which is all that matters. A hearty pat on the back all round from commenters and the viewing public alike.

But when England do it? The contrast in reaction is ridiculous. Why does everything have to be so black and white?


Will we take £46m for Coutinho? God yes.
I just saw Coutinho linked with PSG in the Gossip this morning. For £46 million. Consider your hand snapped off PSG. What a phenomenal amount of money for somebody who can be considered the Brazilian Andros Townsend – the Spurs version.

I suspect Klopp, following links to Gotze, is looking to strengthen this area. Firmino (for me Clive), was far more effective throughout the season and Lallana looks like a darling of Klopp’s. With Markovic coming back, the progression of Ojo, plus an addition in that area, Coutinho is very expendable.

I also feel Liverpool may have stumbled upon a new transfer strategy. Give an average performing player in your squad Player of the Year two years running, and flog him for huge money soon after.
Lar, (Comma before or after brackets? Both to be safe), LFC


Dear Ms. Liebherr…
Please don’t let Koeman go. I think I speak for the majority of Saints fans when I say that I’m already emotionally exhausted from losing my nearest and dearest from the club. Even Kelvin Davis retiring (although possibly a couple of years too late) put a lump in my throat and now you’re taking a risk with Ron-Ron?

If it comes down to money, I’ll happily put something towards his salary. I’ve nearly paid off my student loan so I can continue to contribute that amount every month if that helps? I’m pretty sure I can skim some notes from my wife’s purse along the way as well and the kids are never really going to make it to University.

Let me know where to send the funds and we can sort this out once and for all.
Many thanks
Harry, Nervous Wreck, Leeds

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