England coach Gareth Southgate can’t please everybody and that is very clear from the latest Mailbox. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Play more expansively? Against Germany? Shush
I’m amazed by some England fans’ call for Southgate to “take the brakes off”, particularly now against Germany. Do these people even watch any games besides the England ones? Germany were mostly toothless against a France team defending deeply in two banks of four. France were ‘in control’ but could only sit on a lead because it was gifted to them, and weren’t committing many men forward. Hungary defended extremely well, also deep and compact, and took the chances that came their way. Portugal, who tried to play a bit more expansively against Germany, were blown apart.
Luckily for England, Southgate is not such a moron that he will renounce the Rice-Phillips double pivot to squeeze two number 10s into his midfield, nor will he allow his full-backs to push up too far and get their pants pulled down by Germany’s wing backs. Germany’s defence is legendary, in the literal sense that it’s remembered from the past but doesn’t really exist now. England don’t need to commit many players forward to score.
Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t, but England is far more likely to be on the winning end if the final score is 1-0 than if it’s 4-3.
Fanmail for Tom
Really enjoyed Tom’s email re: England from a German’s perspective.
Everything he says is absolutely spot on. We don’t have that experience in midfield – we have Kalvin Philips, Declan Rice and Mason Mount who have as many caps combined as Ilkay Gundogan.
In reality, we have a naive team in that we don’t have the experience of how to play at tournaments. Look at all of the successful teams – how many have blazed their way through a tournament without a strong defensive line up? Even Brazil in USA ’94 had Dunga & Mazinho. Look at the line ups from this tournament and I bet there are a good chunk of teams (not just the poor ones) who play with two holding or defensively minded midfielders. Portugal lined up with a defensive mid and Moutinho/Sanches!
Why don’t we just enjoy the fact that we have qualified for the knockouts, we’re playing at Wembley, and we have a manager in charge who has already taken us to a WC semi. Maybe he just knows how to manage a tournament?
Mat, Optimistic, Liverpool
…The mail, England from a German Perspective, is the best analysis of an England team I have ever read.
This email is boring so I don’t expect you to print it, but if you could pass on these sentiments onto Tom I would be grateful.
England are like Crystal Palace
Ironically, as a Palace boy Southgate is suffering from the same problem that Roy Hodgson did at Palace, most blatantly in this past season. Too much caution and a feeling that the players were shackled and not allowed to give their best led to poor quality football and a feeling that ‘we’ve got the players to do better haven’t we?’
Like Palace, England have a very shaky defence. You can’t rely on it to keep clean sheets, however Stones and Maguire are comfortable bringing the ball out to begin attacks. Also, England have (many more) players that can unlock defences and score goals. Goals change the psychology of games, bring doubt to the opposition while improving confidence. Rice and Phillips have been anonymous in the last two games, even taking into account the role of a good DM does not grab the headlines. The reason being that they were not both needed at the same time. Pick one please Gareth and swap the other for someone with flair. Croatia showed how to smash Scotland if you believe in your ability and play the opposition, not the occasion, Hungary showed Germany are vulnerable if you have a go. Palace used to do this too, a couple of seasons ago we scored three at Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City with largely the same group of players we have now. We won 2 of those games.
All I ever want is for the team to play to their potential, something England have traditionally struggled to do. We have the players, we have to have a go, the shackles must come off. Leave Kane up top, he’s no use dropping deep, whereas Sterling is. Get him running at them with Saka/Foden/Grealish/Shaw/Walker, some quick passes and see what happens. We may not win, but I’d say we have a much better chance and wouldn’t it be great to see?
Otherwise we’ll be like Palace this season, left with a feeling of how it could have been more. Come on England.
A sense of perspective
England haven’t beaten Germany in England since 1975.
England haven’t beaten Germany in a knockout game since 1966.
England have won one knockout game at the Euros. Ever.
That was 25 years ago.
England have never won a knockout game at the euros in normal or extra time.
England have never won a knockout game at the Euros on foreign soil.
That’s a lot of bloody records which are going to have to be broken just to get past Germany let alone win the tournament. And this is probably one of the reasons England fans get so miserable with our performances in the group stage – we know that’s going to be as good as it gets and after another 90 minutes (sometimes 120 plus) of having our nerves shred we’re going to have to start looking ahead again to the next tournament, and often with a new coach. Ultimately we’ve played pragmatic, dreary football only to get a match up with our biggest rivals (we’re not necessarily theirs mind) at a stadium which ought to be reclassified as an additional German National Stadium they’ve had so much success their over the years (imagine if they’d had VAR in 1966). And if we do win against the Germans we’ve then got to play on foreign soil where we’ve never won a knockout game. I’m fully behind England and hoping they fan fart in the face of history but given how short the tournaments are, would it really hurt to play well in the group stages occasionally?
This is probably the one game Sancho should start, we started shouting for him too early.
DCL? Be careful what you wish for
For all the fans crying out for Calvert-Lewin instead of Kane, I have to just warn you to be careful what you wish for. As an Everton fan, I’ve watched him a lot, and he definitely has areas in his game he needs to improve drastically. As a target man his hold up play is great. He can take it on the chest and lay it off to the midfield with the best of them. He’s also great in the air and has that goal poachers knack of being in the right place at the right time. He could come in and play really well and do great and shut me right up and I’d love it because it’s my sincere hope he can become an Everton legend and become the complete striker we all want him to be.
However, I am not sure this England team will play to his strengths, mainly many crosses into the box. Some of our set-pieces have been awful. At Everton he has James Rodriguez, Siggurdson and Digne (FFS) whipping in quality balls every game. He will not get that with this England team. He is not great at the old one touch and shoot that Kane is the master of. He probably wouldn’t have got a shot off if he’d had the chance the other day that we all expected Kane to bury. He’s not great at running behind and scoring one-on-ones either.
In all I’d love to see him get more than five mins at the end of the game. I’d love to see him start next week, run the Germans ragged and bang three in. But I’d be gutted for him if it turns out that actually Kane has been struggling because the service hasn’t been great, and DCL would struggle just as much, probably more.
Not gonna stop getting my hopes up though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching us play this year.
On Pogba, Man United and more
There are only so many opinions on England. And, in the last ten days, we have heard all of them. Changing topics….
Duck wrote about Pogba being the complete package for France and being a conundrum for United. Holy crap. You hit the nail on the head. Pogba is insane frustrating because we know what he is capable of. And, how little of it he produces every game. At times, every other game.
He is perfect to play in a midfield two. We know he is. Ole knows that. However, Jose once said, Pogba is perfect for tournament football. Four weeks of high play. Asking him to focus for a year is impossible. And, him needing five elements to be successful is nonsense. Pogba will go wherever his Agent sends him off too. The reality is he does not have the drive to excel consistently. Calibre yes, Drive – no. If the World Cup or the Euros were a three or 6 month affair, we would not see Pogba be who he is.
As a fan, what do you find more infuriating? – A player with limited talent playing his socks off (Fred, Young, Valencia, Ji Sung Park) or a player with insane talent playing once in a while (Pogba, Veron).
Special mention for Tom, the German from the previous package. Loved the note and how balanced it was. More such posts please 🙂
PS: England seem to have used the last three matches to prepare for the round of 16. That is intelligent. Let’s wish them luck for that game. They will need it.
Man United could have perfect summer
At the start of the 2020-21 season, United required a centre back, a central midfielder and an attacking player (striker or winger or preferably both).
At the start of the 2021-22 season, United required a centre back, a central midfielder and an attacking player (striker or winger or preferably both)
Sancho deal looks almost done. (Tick off attacking player). For the position of defender, Rafael Varane looks odds-on favourite to join United (though we have been through this before with Ramos and other Real players.
Add to that Renato Sances, a player who was the star of the 2016 Euros, had a dismal career since then but has seen a revival at Lille over the last year and is currently excelling at this year’s tournament. There are many who may still not be convinced that he is an elite player which means he could be available on the cheap. In any case, he could only be an upgrade to Fred, Matic or McTominay. Sign Sancho, Varane and Sanches and United could actually become a threat next year.
Adeel (Just realised that was just another rendition of Liverpool’s infamous next year will be our year)
Selective protests unacceptable, is it?
A rainbow flag is to LGBT right to equality as kneeling is to black people’s right to equality except one is accepted as non-political and the other is not. How so? If anything UEFA have got this the wrong way round. Kneeling is the adopted symbol of BLM, which is a political movement who actively engage with other left wing political causes and is different from the ideal that until black lives matter (all lower case) not all life is equal. The rainbow flag has no political owner and is a sign of togetherness.
And yet the appeal for equality for the LGBT community is rebuffed. This is cowardly by UEFA on one level or another. If politics is to be kept out of football then ban kneeling even if this results in being accused of being racist. Then banning the rainbow flag falls under a single, defendable principle. Or if you are to allow kneeling then allow other forms of equality protest, and if certain countries or part of the fan base are unhappy they tell them to grow up.
But hopping between one stance and other is absolute weakness. Scared of being called out as racist (although UEFA’s record of not policing clubs and nations who repeatedly demonstrate racist behaviour in the stadium would suggest undertones of racism) and scared of engaging in a political wrangle with governments who lack the societal willpower to strive for equality.
I have no opinion as to which position is right, but this current selective stance is undermining to all those who do not enjoy a life of equal rights and respect.
Rumour has it that, in an effort to speed up the global rollout of the Covid vaccine, world governments have come together and simply agreed to let every potential candidate for the Spurs managerial job have a jab as part of the interview process. It’s estimated that, as a direct result of this measure, 97% of the world population will be fully vaccinated by the end of October, at which point Spurs will abandon their search and offer the role to David Pleat.
Chris (the other 3% said “Frank Lampard”) Bridgeman, Kingston upon Thames