Mails: If England don’t pick Carrick this time…

Daniel Storey
…one Mailer will be angry. Plus more on stats, England, Benteke, Vardy and RAT…
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Well done England
Re: England – fully deserving of praise. Yes, the group was probably the worst set of opponents I have ever seen – as funny as it is, it’s frankly a sin that Scotland won’t be in the finals and Switzerland (and maybe Slovenia) will. But ​bad opposition hasn’t stopped us cocking things up before. And ​consider England’s classes of 19​77 (Brooking, Francis, Keegan, Clemence), 1993 (Platt, Wright, Shearer, Gascoigne) and 2007​ (Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes) against our current mob. 100% record looking a bit perkier now isn’t it?

Second point: this thing Carragher and others are whining on over, about caps being too easy to get now (preferred it when you couldn’t get one did you Jamie?) For some reason, an idea has developed that the England team exists purely as a nice reward for playing well in the premier league; this needs to stop.

While someone’s form, results, achievements, experience, etc. with their club is often a good indicator of how well they’ll play at international level, this isn’t always the case – we can all think of plenty of players who’ve been great at one and not at the other. The job of the England manager is to put a good team together consisting of players who are English, and that’s it. This idea of ‘deserving’ or ‘earning’ a call-up is complete bulls***.

For example: Spurs bought Delle Alli purely because they thought he would be a benefit to their side; fair enough. And rightly, nobody complained that he should have to ‘earn’ a move to Spurs by playing in league one for 10 years or whatever.

So if Hodgson thinks he should be helping out the England team, what’s wrong with calling him up? Why should he have to get a minimum amount of time on the clock in the prem before he gets in the England side? How much premier league experience should a player need to accrue before they’re ready to be thrown in at the Lithuanian deep end?​​

More caps, more players, more formations, styles, systems, try everything. Let’s face it, it’ll still just be long-balls for 80 minutes of a 1-1p defeat in the quarters next year, as soon as we play someone good. Bring it on!
Neil Raines


Dier or Cork? NO, Carrick
I’ve just read F365’s grades (10 on the bounce is bloody good by the way) from last night and it suggests either Jack Cork or Eric Dier play midfield at this summers European championships. So I thought I’d take a look at the recent history of England’s midfield.

It’s the build up to the 2010 World cup, Football 365, Sunday Supplement and Sky Sports’ punditry team are pushing Gareth Barry as England’s first choice holding midfielder. Three-time premier League winner and Champions League winner (two-time finalist) Michael Carrick goes but fails to make it onto the pitch. England are embarrassed by Germany.

It’s the build up to the 2012 European championships , Football 365, Sunday supplement and Sky Sports’ punditry team are pushing Scott Parker as England’s first-choice holding midfielder. Four-time Premier League winner and Champions League winner (three-time finalist) Michael Carrick is left out of the England squad. England exit on pens against Italy having played for a draw and not strung not passes two together.

It’s the build up to the 2014 world cup, Football 365, Sunday supplement and Sky Sports’ punditry team are pushing Steven Gerrard (in a new shiny deep role) as England’s first choice holding midfielder. Five-time Premier League winner and Champions League winner (three-time finalist) Michael Carrick is left out of the England squad. England are embarrassed by Italy/Uruguay/Costa Rica.

Now…. It’s the build up to the 2016 European championships, football 365, the Sunday supplement and Sky sports punditry team are pushing……….

Can we just bloody play Carrick at an international tournament please? Surely he deserves a go once!
Rob, lazy ESL teacher, Guangzhou China


Fear for Benteke, not Lallana
Matt (Think about this – would Southampton have him back now?) LFC, is worried for Adam Lallana’s place in the Liverpool side under Klopp but I would’ve thought he would be the exact type of player that would thrive under Klopp’s regime.

…Klopp’s Dortmund side was famed for ‘gegenpressing’, a fancy term for trying to win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible. This requires energetic frontmen targeting the ball/player as quickly as possible in unison. This is pretty much the style Southampton played when Lallana was at his best, which suggests Rodgers was using him wrong more than anything. Matt seems to question Lallana’s stamina and technique in stating his unsuitability for the role but Lallana’s stamina is second to almost none. Stats from the 2013/14 season (sorry Mr Storey) show Lallana ran the fifth highest distance of ALL players in the league.

Not only that, his figures had a higher average speed and had 30-40% more high speed runs than the players above him. That suggests he would get to his man quicker and more often than most making the opposition more likely to make a mistake. So his energy would be perfect and the space creating from winning the ball early should allow more of his ‘fancy flicks’ to come off.

In fact, the player I would fear for most is Christian Benteke. Whilst undoubtably a brilliant finisher, it’s his lack of movement and timing of runs that looks poor whenever I see him. He is too often guilty of waiting for the ball to come to him and looks disinterested when there is not a sniff of a goal. Gegenpressing starts from the front and only works if the attacking players all work together. Sturbridge and Ings could do this, Benteke I doubt.
John Porter (I used stats for my Lallana point, my eyes for Benteke)


Matt, LFC wrote in to express concern at Lallana’s position with Klopp coming in. He may well be right. However, in his defence his best season where he was absolutely phenomenal (he really was) was under Pochettino and his high intensity, high press. Lallana led the league by a mile for winning the ball back in the oppositions half and used his ability to turn defence into attack in an instant. This is as close to Klopp’s approach as you’ll find so Lallana might thrive. I always found this strange as his stamina is a problem and his habit of being subbed at around 70 minutes has carried on since his big move. Odd.

Matt asks whether we’d have the billy big bananas back? This season we would, but he’d have to sit on the bench ready for when it gets too cold for Mané (he was dreadful last December) and Tadic gets injured but carries on anyway.
Jon, Southampton


Celebrating Vardy’s selection
Listening to the post match analysis on 5 live after the England game on Friday evening, the questioning of Vardy’s deserved inclusion in the squad. This is the current premier league top goalscorer, who after coming off the bench and providing an assist, was questioned by both 5 live hosts and callers in on his quality and ability to cut it at the top level… What more does the guy have to do?

Albeit with a bit of luck he did everything you would hope for from a substitute, scored two goals and hit the post and crossbar against Arsenal, the team who have conceded the fewest goals in the premier league in 2015 and always have one of the top defenses in the league year on year. His tireless work rate and clear eye for goal in my eyes absolutely merit a place for him on the England bench. If he was a squad player at Spurs (see Townsend) would he be facing this lack of confidence?

The favoritism towards elite club players got me thinking back to a Roy Hodgson interview a few weeks ago on Grealish choosing England. During which he discussed Danny Ings’ inclusion, this quote in particular caught my attention for the wrong reasons:

‘…especially now he’s with Liverpool and scoring goals…’
Now I like Hodgson as England manager but I cant help but feel like the emphasis was on especially now he’s with Liverpool rather than the fact he’s scoring goals, despite him having been scoring goals for Burnley. Although previously tied up with the under 21’s, if he was still there I very much doubt he would be in consideration for the seniors. Grealish isn’t yet ready, but if he didn’t play for Villa I doubt his path to the England squad would be as difficult as Hodgson in no uncertain terms made clear it would be.

The form England XI posted on this site recently shows clearly that stats alone isn’t the basis on which to select a team, but it does worry me that too often players outside the big 6 that merit inclusion are overlooked due to the stature of their club.
Joey, (I dream of Vardy becoming England’s Solskjaer) AFC, Manchester


A glorious era for the Premier League
Are we potentially coming up to another purple patch of Premier League football I wonder ?

Results haven’t been great in European club football recently but that is not to say that this year City and United could have a good campaign and even Chelsea once they sort themselves out. Chelsea didn’t start the season well the year they won the champions league did they. My main enthusiasm though comes from the recent influx of better quality managers and whispers of those who are interested. Of course the money is one of the main reasons these managers agents are making these nice sound bites.

– Jose is an upgrade on Rafa at Chelsea (Inter and Napoli example of that)

– LVG is an upgrade on Moyes (16th in Spanish league with a top half side and 7th with a team that won the Premiership by 11 points the previous season)

– Klopp is an upgrade on Rodgers ( I don’t need to point out why)

– Pellegrini will soon be replaced with Ancelotti or Pep both huge upgrades

– Wenger although struggling has always got the Premiership a good coefficient score in Europe (whatever that is)

With the money coming in and reputations of these managers the best players will not be far behind. I just think things will be very rosy in a season or two for another five-year period maybe. Let’s be positive and stop the doom and gloom after two games in the Champions League so far.
Steve James


Rodgers: A home boy
I’m a bit late with this but in Mediawatch on the 7th of October there was a breakdown of the recent Liverpool signings and whether they were Rodgers-driven or not.

It’s striking how, almost to a man, the players championed by Rodgers were signed from Premier League clubs (e.g. Lallana, Milner, Lovren, Benteke), while those recommended by the other members of the committee were signed from foreign teams (e.g. Sakho, Emre Can, Firmino, Markovic).

If I could give Brendan Rodgers some advice as he moves forward with his career, it would be to get a Sky/BT subscription so he can watch some football from outside of England.
Brian Oliver


No Jens, no party
Sorry, I realise you probably didn’t want your list of top Germans to be too Arsenal-centric but how the hell do you omit Mad Jens?

He’s the only keeper in the modern game to wait until his second season in English football to lose a match.

He also kept goal during that ridiculous run of clean sheets that got us to the Champions League final.

But aside from either of these two things, he should be on the list for his over the top sarcastic reaction to Chris Kirkland’s time wasting in a PL match against Wigan – it remains one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on a football field.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


The Euros and the ‘elite’
First, the 24-team format. At first, I thought it was a good idea. More football, right? I have since changed my view on this. I think it bloats the summer tournament to a stage where the quality begins to suffer. Less is more. Of course, it provides an opportunity to some of the supposed lesser lights to have a crack at the big time. At least that’s one way of looking at it. The alternative view is that at the start of qualifying, everyone has an equal chance to win it, regardless of how many teams are in the finals. Extending to 24 teams simply provides a bigger safety net for the big boys (which The Netherlands still look like slipping through!). An 8-10 game qualifying campaign is a better indicator of quality than a three-match group phase followed by a knockout tournament. By that rationale, a smaller finals tournament for the elite is a better idea.

Look at the teams that are likely to make the playoffs. Is the tournament really going to be any better for the inclusion of those teams? I realise that’s a little inflammatory, but are Ireland really any better than they were four years ago, when they were outclassed in an admittedly difficult group? Put it this way, of the nine teams currently in third place, only three have won at least half of their matches. I’m not someone who only wants to watch ‘attractive’ football played by ‘world-class’ players. I simply believe reward should be difficult to obtain.

Let’s look at that elite, though, shall we? It has a decidedly different make-up to what we’d traditionally expect, doesn’t it? Even if there were 16 qualifiers, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Austria (how impressive have they been?), Albania and Wales would all still likely be in attendance. This is massive, in my opinion. Iceland, Northern Ireland and Albania were seeded fifth. That’s the same pot as the likes of Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. Plenty of hope for the supposed lesser teams, and a thumb in the eye for those who believe the ‘minnows’ should have their own qualifying competition.

I find it interesting that this should happen. European qualification has generally been something of a closed shop, historically. Six to eight traditional heavyweights, along with those who go in cycles (Czech Rep., Belgium, Sweden, etc), and maybe a little guy that sneaks in. There can be little doubt that The Netherlands have better players than Iceland, or that Denmark have better players than Albania. What the hell has happened, then? Personally, I believe that there is currently a huge dearth of talent in European football, and it is the elite that are weaker. I look at the traditional heavyweights and I am underwhelmed, both in terms of an overall unit, and in terms of individuals. Has the gap closed to the point that a well-drilled unit with a sprinkle of team spirit and determination can upset the odds? The proof is in the pudding, and I think it’s ruddy fantastic.

Finally, just to touch on 2020. I think the current ‘week of football’ that UEFA has gone for in qualifying is a little sneak preview at what Euro 2020 holds in store for us. It’s going to be rubbish, isn’t it?
Andy, London


Is one superstar better than a team?
Watching England play is exciting at the moment. Lots of great young stars coming through! But is there too many great youngsters coming through…

The commentators were saying that not every position at England is certain for any player and he’s right. Apart from Clyne at RB (due to 0 competition) every position has 2, 3 or 4 players that could all start. Maybe Harttoo.

A club manager’s dream, but is it a country manager’s nightmare? Between now and the Euros there will be four maybe five friendlies and Roy will need to get a team playing strong together. But he will struggle due to constantly having to change his starting XI because of high competition.

Got me thinking should country teams base their whole game around 1 superstar. Wales play a slow defensive build up and then their attacking game around Bale scoring from nowhere, a free kick or playing a great ball. Since Rooney is now about as useful as a toddler trying to pick up a ball but keeps kicking it away, England have no superstar to build the team around. None of the English players will start every game allowing Roy to build his team around them.

Yes England won every game….but they also had fairly easy group to do this in. And yes they have players like Sturridge who on his day is world class but then you have Kane who is also world class on his day.

Is England’s downfall going to be this factor……who knows….. But as a Welsh fan I am finally looking forward to watching my country at a competition!
Stoky Boy


Storey, Fergie and Relationship Awareness Theory
Bear with me on this one, but Relationship Awareness Theory (devised by Dr Elias Porter) divides us into 4 colours that seek to analyse behaviours:
Red (Sir Alex Ferguson) – are self confident, persuasive and forceful
Blue (Kevin Keegan) – are trusting, relationship focused and loyal
Green (Daniel Storey) – like data, are methodical and analytical
Orange (I couldnt think of an example) – are social, adaptable, flexible and creative,

Fundamentally if you are a Green and you want to get a point over to a blue, charts, numbers and data will not do it, you will have to use emotion, talk about relationships or how it will make them feel. I realise I am massively over-simplifying here but look how it worked out for Peter Moores as the England cricket coach, he understood that data helps your understanding of a game (albeit a different game), but he had a team of blues and reds, if they were reds they wanted bullet points and direction, or if they were blues they wanted to be told how good they were and why they were important to the team. Peter Moores couldn’t see that and the players thought he was talking gobledegook.

I would suggest a similar thing happened to Brendan Rodgers, he wanted data and theories, his players wanted direction or emotion, while they had Suarez, it didn’t matter because Suarez was so good he papered over the cracks, but as soon as Rodgers was left to his own devices he wasn’t experienced enough to know how to get his point across to this team and hence they didn’t deliver. That’s why you have quotes from Rodgers saying the art of defending is easy and his teams defending record being so bad, he knew what they should do but couldn’t get his point across.

People like Sir Alex Ferguson are experienced enough to know that different people need different styles for them to take in your ideas, but others such as Roy Keane or at the other end of the spectrum Kevin Keegan, just rant for the former, fine if you are motivating another red or just get too emotional and cant stand it if there is conflict and crumble like Kevin Keegan.

The point being some people love data and some just don’t enjoy it, the good people in any walk of life understand that different people need different styles to get them to do what you want, the inexperienced ones just think other people don’t get it.

I refer you to my earlier comment about over simplifying, but if you got to the end of the email thanks for your patience.
Andrew, QPR, Twickenham


It’s time we worked together
Statistics are not the same as analytics. Analytics is the art of using data to help make data-driven decisions. Statistics form a part of this but basic “stats” like possession, shots on target, corners are only the starting point. For analytics to be relevant you need context. e.g. completed passes is a flat statistics and without context is almost meaningless.

However, if you can rank those passes based on distance of pass, no. of opposition players between passer and receiver, pass sent to strong foot of attacker or weak foot of attacker, pass sent into path of attacker, pass distance, diameter of freedom when making pass etc. then you have a picture of whether someone is passing the ball weakly like Tom Cleverley or someone who is an incisive risk taking passer like Bastian Schweinsteiger. We all know by watching that one of these is better than the other but analytics can help us understand what it takes to be a top class midfield maestro.

I think it is obvious that stats add to the fun of football discussion and understanding but the real question should be what kind of analytics are clubs actually using. Are they using very basic stats which are not informative enough or are they using analytics?
Also, it is rare that any decision is made wholly on analytics. Movies like Moneyball exaggerate the fact but the truth is analytics is only another weapon in the armoury. It is a weapon that is here to stay but people in football need to understand that they can use football intelligence to combine an understanding of the game with mathematical modelling. Mathematical models do not know the difference between an incisive ball that takes a line of midfielders out of the game and a ball played backwards to a defender but this is where football intelligence comes in.
It’s time we worked together.



Mediawatch wonders if Klopp takes a s**t every now and then too. ‘That’s why he’s the normal one’.

Surely that would then make him ‘The Regular One’?
Dominick Hardy