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This is England
Where to start? I suppose we should start with the defence, all four were basically abject, panicked in possession and clueless out of it.
Stones may think he is the reincarnation of Franz Beckenbauer but we know better – he is an average centre half who looked competent surrounded by World class players at City but looks out of his depth when asked to do actual football stuff himself when in an average England side.
Maguire (please don’t sign him Ed) is a typical English centre half bullish, brawny and totally lacking in any form of footballing intelligence, trundling forward time and again to be robbed of the ball in midfield and be way out of position when it comes to the actual defending.
On to Kyle Walker, I didn’t rate him at Spurs and he hasn’t changed my mind at City he just gets away with it more due to the better players around him, thinks he’s Cafu he’s not even Tofu causes so many problems for his team with his lack of positional sense and all-round stupid headless chicken running.
Chilwell gets a pass as he is new.
Midfield, has there been a less creative bunch of central midfield players ever to pull on an England shirt? no need to answer that one it’s no. Barkley gives the ball away more times than a Chris Smalling tribute act, Delph again another City player being carried by far better colleagues, Rice at least as a holding Midfield player isn’t there to be all fancy and shit but he does need to stamp his authority on the game more.
Up front is where it a least looks promising, Rashford, Sterling & Sancho would be my starting three every game, I will get pelters for this but Kane is and never will be World class, he is found out by competent defenders and offers nothing to the team, at least with the three I mentioned defenders will be wary of their pace even when having an off day.
Until we unearth the next Gaz to link play we will always be bridesmaids and never take that next step to the top table.
Trust me on this: Kane is a fraud.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Seemed like a bit over reaction in the morning mailbox. “We’ve regressed!”, “I thought we’d turned a corner, but alas no!”. That’s outcome bias. Were it not for a tight offside call we would have beaten a full strength Dutch team with half a side. Nevertheless, I’m not criticizing as it wasn’t a great performance, summed up by:
It was very Champions League final-y, in that players looked rusty (on both sides). Stray passes going straight out, un-coordinated runs etc
Main culprits were our fullbacks. Walker looked terrible, very fast but all over the shop. Chilwell looked rusty. Alexander-Arnold (I called him Alexander Armstrong after a few too many in the pub to much hilarity) is now a no-brainer; for left-back Chilwell probably keeps it but Shaw and Rose will push him next season.
Stones’ mistakes/general performance is more of a problem given that who do bring in to replace? Keane, Gomez? Didn’t exactly set the world on fire last season, for different reasons, but there is potential.
That midfield… played as badly as we expected. However, they’re (Delph, Barkley, Rice) maybe our 3rd, 4th string: Delph shouldn’t be near the squad; Barkley has been in and out of Chelsea’s team; Rice is just establishing himself. I would say that in midfield Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Dier, Winks probably rank above all of those. Would also like to see Maddison come in.
Up top and in goal, our first-ish string played fairly well.
I’m OK with the line-up and decision to rest Spurs and Liverpool players (Winjaldum didn’t look very good, as if he’d spent a few days justifiably on the sauce) – again, but for a tight offside call it would have resulted in a win. I’d rather make those mistakes now than in 12 months, however, I do agree with people who called out it’s similar to last years semi-final. Take a lead and then just cede control and impetus, with some exceptions at the start and end of the second half.
So not great by any means, but not the end of the world. I understand the disappointment, but I think this squad still has it to be considered contenders for the title in 2020. Finally, I had a mental image after he’d given away the pen and been megs’d of de Ligt’s agent, in panic, calling every suit at Barcelona trying to get them to stop watching TV.
Matt, EFC, London
So it was disappointing, but don’t forget we’re only 3 years removed from the Iceland debacle and only 2 from a last gasp draw against Scotland. It feels like progress by a thousand steps right now but that’s fine as long as it’s progress. Main takeaways from the match for me from an England perspective:
– Walker has become a distinct liability and we should phase him out now in favour of TAA/AWB going forward. He’s way too reliant on using his pace to get him out of problems and at his age that won’t work forever.
– People are talking a lot about the suicidal defending from Stones which is very fair, you can’t mess around on the ball like that. But then Maguire, Walker and Chilwell also made huge mistakes at times last night and the common denominator was a lack of options in front of them, which leads me to…
– The midfield was our weakest area despite those defensive errors. I actually thought Barkley was fine for the majority of the game but his job is to primarily create chances and he doesn’t do that enough. I understand why he wasn’t there (U21s tournament) but the sooner Maddison can be introduced into that spot, the better. Alli isn’t the right type of player, Barkley doesn’t do enough. Actually RLC could maybe play the role, too. Maybe a fit Chamberlain also. Or Foden/Mount assuming both kick on.
– Delph is too similar to Henderson and I thought last night exposed that for all the hype right now Rice isn’t an upgrade on Dier. He needs at minimum another season at West Ham or he’s going to be painfully exposed at a club like United. He could improve of course, though.
– Biggest issue though is that again we lacked the player who can recycle possession and offer the defence an outlet. It wasn’t as bad as the World Cup in that aspect simply because there it was just Henderson being left to do 2/3 jobs whereas Rice/Delph offered some more protection, but they’re simply not comfortable enough on the ball. Winks is and for me he should be the first name on the team sheet going forward. He’s not flashy but every time you’re up against a side with solid ball retention he steps up, be it for England (3-2 vs Spain) or Spurs and offers the defence far more options rather than dally on the ball and/or charge forward if you’re Maguire. Which leads me to…
– Winks should’ve been in the squad and I feel like he would’ve been had he played more regularly for England in the autumn. The one annoying aspect about Southgate is his loyalty to players who got the team to where they are. Like, he’ll drop an off-form Trippier which is understandable, but because Delph was great vs. Croatia in November he still gets in despite not playing since Boxing Day. Stones similarly hasn’t started that much for City lately. Was there a case for starting Michael Keane, who has been on form here?
– The U21s tournament should tell us a lot about things going forward. If Maddison looks like the real deal then you’ve got to promote him I think. I’d also take a super close look at Hamza Choudhury because for as raw as he is, he’s horrific for ball-players to be up against in that 90’s Paul Ince way. Some of Leicester’s best results last season came when he was starting and making a nuisance of himself by breaking up play.
– 4-3-3 clearly suits England’s strengths which are the power and pace of the forwards (Sancho has to be almost an automatic pick for me now too) so I’d stick with that and ignore the pleas to go back to 5-3-2 as those defensive errors last night won’t (shouldn’t?) happen all the time and weren’t down to positioning. For me…
Pickford, TAA, Maguire, Gomez, Chilwell, Dier, Winks, Maddison, Sancho, Kane, Sterling
….would be the kind of upgrade I’d be looking at going into the Euros. Choudhury or Chalobah for Dier too if they kick on/get fit.
– VAR was painful but it’s something everyone will need to get used to. It’ll help England in the future and no doubt screw them again at some point too. Issue for me is the speed; I don’t want a situation where you score a possibly winning goal and cant celebrate for fear of it being chalked off. Pre-VAR the attacker would’ve been given the benefit of the doubt last night I think. Then we’d likely be praising Bernardo and the Portuguese midfield for beating England instead of…
– De Jong was fantastic and did the Modric job on England, just constantly recycling possession and finding the pass. He’ll be great at Barca next season. However….
– For all the praise De Ligt gets you can see he’s still raw. A move to a pressure-soaked environment like Barca or United, particularly the latter where he wouldn’t necessarily be alongside a strong defensive partner would worry me for him. He’s imperious at times but looked panicky against Sancho and Rashford and for all his physicality, you can tell he’s a 19-year old kid who isn’t used to being muscled around by older, stronger and wily big guys. It’s good for him that the big man striker is almost extinct these days because Llorente bullied him the other week and I think someone like Shearer would’ve eaten him alive had he come up against him. VVD though is the best defender on the planet by a mile right now.
– If the Dutch find a competent striker then they’re laughing going into the next 2/3 tournaments. Is there anyone coming through? Bas Dost and Vincent Jansen do not count.
1) Obviously stats aren’t everything, and can be cut to justify any argument, but the idea that England were unlucky to lose last night is a little far-fetched given what actually happened (below). England had some good chances, but were fundamentally outplayed. Collective and individual brain-farts allowed the goals, but without them Netherlands were likely to score nonetheless on the balance of play.
Netherlands – England
Score 3 – 1
Possession 53% – 47%
Shots 29 – 13
On Target 14 – 3
Corners 7 – 4
Fouls 19 – 15
2) Why paint England as unlucky rather than outplayed? This seems to stem from a pathological need for England to be considered amongst the world’s elite teams, when England palpably are not – one home World Cup win is not elite performance. But that’s okay – we can still have a bit of fun – see Russia 2018.
3) For England to become an elite team, we cannot keep on hoofing it to our quick players – this is literally the easiest approach to defend against – all you have to do is drop deep, and World Class defenders like VVD and De Ligt will lap it up. Being able to keep the ball in defence, then quickly transition from back to front is essential to draw the opposition out and create the space in behind for England’s pace to exploit (which F365 rightly identifies as our most potent weapon). Southgate’s approach is sound, and got us further in an actual tournament than for many years (see Russia 2018 again), so is proven.
4) Martin Tyler on comms last night was weirdly obsessive about how attempting to play out from the back was why we lost, and the wrong thing for England to do. We would not have got to 2 semi finals without this approach, and individual mistakes are not indicative of a flaw in the system – they are indicative of individual mistakes, which happen, nothing more.
5) The aforementioned stats do however indicate that this approach is not currently enabling England to outplay superior opposition, which we saw in Russia as well, but we will get better at it. Remember Guardiola and Klopp’s first seasons in the Prem? You have far less time to improve International teams when compared with league seasons as well – we need to be patient (point 2 above doesn’t help).
6) Midfield – the fact that we think Harry Winks is the answer just shows how unanswerable the question is.
7) Henderson with Wijnaldum and Fabinho = Champions League Winner. Henderson added to England’s midfield dross = changed England’s midfield for the better, but still not recognised as good enough. Henderson is one of the least appreciated played in world football – for England, perhaps the problem is around him, not him? Why the lack of recognition? Is it because he resembles a dog that has woken itself up by farting? (One for you F365 lifers there).
8) VAR – in its current form – is like a cyborg sucking the life out of the game. It takes too long, interrupts the flow of the game, and introduces too much slow-mo detail and analysis into what remain subjective decisions. Simple fix – learn from the sports that have done video officials for longer. They put VAR in the hands of the on-field referee – like linesmen they talk in the referees ear, if the referee wants to look at it he can, otherwise play on. Subjective decisions are best left to the on-pitch officials. So for last night the conversation would have gone: Goal yay! Lino to ref – might have been offside. Ref to lino – looked okay to me, need VAR? Lino to ref – yes please it looked close. Ref to VAR – was that offside? VAR to Ref – maybe a millimetre, not a howler. Ref to all – goal stands, we are supposed to favouring the attacker, and VAR is only to prevent making us making a massive cock-up remember?
9) If J-Lings had been 2 metres offside then it would have gone: VAR to ref – massively offside guv, you look like a muppet. Ref to VAR – soz mate, thanks for the catch, no goal. Currently everything is looked at in minute detail which is killing the game. The emotional aspect IS football, and must be cherished and protected at all costs.
1o) UEFA have already confirmed it is here to stay though *cough* more stoppages equals more ad breaks eventually *cough*
11) We need to talk about Sterling. Love him and what he is doing, but I believe making him Captain is putting too much on him, considering he is already the (wanted, warranted and deserved) poster child for anti-racism in the U.K. He has enough on his plate and was nowhere near as effective last night with the weight of the captaincy on his shoulders along with everything else. I take the point about being surrounded by inferior players – this would require him to have to do more, but he looked like he was trying to do EVERYTHING because he was captain.
12) Love the site, keep it up, please can you lose some of the advertising though? Cheers! Have a splendid weekend one and all.
Gofezo (come back Conor!) Jesus
Not a great performance from us last night, against a decent but limited Dutch side. But I was disappointed by the reaction from this site. It was overly negative in my opinion. It’s clear that Southgate is trying to adopt a completely new style of play the England team utilises and in the main it’s been a positive change, there will always be some poor performances and this was one but it’s not the time to heap more pressure to revert back to the old limited style that you also used to be critical of.
I think we need to accept the occasional performance such as this in what have been an excellent transition to a different approach and playing style overall. It was pretty clear that the approach would be to play out and build and that’s to be commended, we do need to mix that approach up though so as not to be overly predicable, but I’m sure that comes with being completely comfortable with a slow build up as well as the occasional long midfield bypasser? Winks could be the key, if he can stay fit of course.
The players looked well off the pace, maybe it was the timing of the match, maybe it was being simply outclassed but it did seem uncharacteristic of this current side.
Poor performance, terrible result, but keep the faith.
As promised, I will draw attention to this (extremely good and correct) analysis of Kyle Walker whenever he is asked to do anything requiring decision-making or competence of execution:
He is living in a protected environment at Man City. For every other occasion, he is a befuddled panic merchant and yes- he still has spoons for feet.
I’m available for takedowns of pretty much any player who has ever crossed me at Spurs since 1994, tell your friends.
Darragh, Spurs, Ireland
Good Afternoon everyone
Kyle f***ing Walker
I really can’t be arsed to write anything more than 1 paragraph as he is the epitome of everything that is currently wrong with England.
He’s just Theo Walcott playing in defence, stupidly quick, literally.
Our only hopes
Remembering what is was like when Ferdinand was injured for England and all you wanted was Man Utd’s center back on the field and so he could bring a calming presence to the England defence….
Recall for Jones and Smalling anyone?
Tom, Tractor Boy in Switzerland
The Southgate Seven
Can we stop talking about how Southgate made this big decision to left out seven Champions League finalists from last night’s starting lineup? He left out Kane and Henderson, that’s all.
Rose, Dier, Alli, TAA and Gomez aren’t part of his first choice XI and would have been on the bench even if there hadn’t been a Champions League final.
I bet Deco Rice wishes he was turning out for the boys in green tonight against our most recent enemy Denmark. He could be p*ss poor and we would still love him and revere him for just showing up and not being hungover during the match. Instead, he has a career of being made a scapegoat and be just one in a long line of midfielders that just cant quite cut it at the top table. I bet being hung drawn and quartered feels good though. It does wonders for his image rights.
On a serious note, we would have a decent shot at qualification if we had Jack Grealish and Declan Rice in our midfield. Ah well, onwards and upwards. At least we have the other half of Villa’s midfield playoff axis Glenn Whelan who I believe was recently released. He found out from a journalist.
Oisin, Dublin (played Football Manager 2011 last night and I saw one Shkodran Mustafi lurking in the Everton reserves. Why hasn’t more been made of this??)
For some reason I was reading an Arsenal programme – the one from Arsenal’s first match at Highbury given by the club as some sort of souvenir at some point or other.
In the captain’s editorial he talks about how the players are not machines and asks for the fans patience if players make mistakes and for the fans continued support and backing for those unfortunates that do. This was over 100 years ago when players participated in far fewer games than they do today – the season ran from September until the end of April.
It’s easy to have a pop at the likes of Walker and Stones but these England players, as well as those that have just played in a Champions League final, have come off a long and gruelling season and are less than a month away from pre-season.
It may be a little too much to ask – and they may all be millionaires – but how about we cut the poor sods some slack?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
To paraphrase Bart Simpson, if you look closely you can actually pinpoint the exact moment Southgate threw away all the goodwill.
Totally agree with Mark Pilling and his fear of robots. I quite like VAR, and somehow it took the pain/anger away from Lingard’s disallowed goal, It was fine toothcombe stuff but according to the rules as they stand it was the right decision. I’ve found myself saying the same thing though, City’s disallowed goal vs Spurs (glorious though it was) was again the right call given the rules as they stand but the last touch before it reached Ageurro was (surely?) not intentional – I’m not even sure the player made a move towards the ball? What’s to stop (other than ability) a striker standing in an offside position and a midfielder trying to skim a through ball of the defenders legs, if it reaches the attacker is that offside? By the City example, no, which is a bit silly really. If I was Eriksen and Kane I’d be trying that all the time!
I love a through ball me, seeing a midfielder pick a run and weight a pass into the runners path is a thing of beauty, but eventually the passer is going to have to release it so early that the runner won’t be able to gain any significant ground on the defender. If the ball is released when the runner is moving past the defender, if his toe is an inch ahead of the defender that is offside? The margins are too fine for my liking. I have no answer, but then I’m not paid by FIFA/UEFA/THE FA.
VAR is here, it’s going to change the game, but I think the rules need to be adjusted to suit the system. Such fine margins will end up making it a game of precision rather than the fast paced chaos that brings about the best football.
Tom (Klopp Kops the Lot!)
The 1990 World Cup was probably a low point for football. As an Irishman who celebrated wildly as a then child, our progress to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup, this might seem strange.
We lost 1-0 to the hosts and went home to a reception fit for legends. But we scored 2 goals in that tournament, one of which came largely from a goalkeeping error.
Since then, the various rule changes have been aimed at rewarding and encouraging positive and attacking football. And it has indisputably been great for the sport.
But now. VAR. Last night an excellent goal and equally excited celebration was wiped from history. And in the 85th minute of the game, everything went flat for 2 minutes while this happened. All so that the most narrow of offside determinations could be made.
Now, if there was no VAR would anybody anywhere have objected to the goal standing? No.
I can say that, as an Irishman. English people might accused of being sore losers.
Similarly, was football best served by Man City being denied a goal in a similar manner, at such a crucial point in the Champions League? Is football meant to be art or is it meant to be science?
I watch football to escape the binary world life seems to have become. Everything is black or white, everything is polarised. Nothing is grey. Football is the ultimate grey. Or used to be.
As a Liverpool fan, I ask if it had taken a very lengthy time to adjudicate on Liverpool’s second goal against Barcelona, would the third goal have then come do soon after? Literally 30 or so seconds from the kick off, Liverpool had forced a third. A lengthy VAR review would have burst that momentum and given Barcelona time to climb off the ropes.
VAR should be for the clear and obvious only. This means that a VAR decision will be quick and won’t undermine the art that football needs to be.
I’m not going to dispute that the VAR pictures of Lingard’s ‘goal’ showed that he was very, very marginally beyond the last defender. In fact it was so marginal he would have probably been onside if he’d cut his toe nails before the game.
My problem with this decision, and any other extremely tight decision like this, is more to do with just how accurate these freeze frames can actually be with respect to capturing the exact moment the ball left the passer’s foot. Especially if there isn’t an exactly square on view level with the passer.
If you’re going to call offside for the sake of a few millimetres then you have to be damned sure you’re equally accurate when it comes to the point at which the ball was played. And I’m not entirely sure you can be!
Darrin Cowen, Manchester
As a qualified referee, I understand the shift in the way we are now approaching handball decisions. But we need a compromise, and I have one.
The authorities are clearly trying to remove subjectivity from the decision by erring on the side of giving a foul if the ball hits a hand, even if not deliberate. This is largely in keeping with most other rules of the game – eg tripping an opponent is probably the most common foul committed, but there is no need for intent to be proven in order to rule that a trip is a foul.
However, many of the recent VAR decisions on handballs arising from this new interpretation show how poorly this has been thought through. All these decisions are now resting on entirely subjective decisions about what constitutes a natural position for a player’s arms to be in when the ball is coming toward them. This is literally impossible to determine.
The ridiculous penalty in the Champions League final was a perfect example – no foul was committed when the ball hit Sissoko’s chest, so in the nanosecond it took for the ball to move from chest to arm, is he supposed to have been thinking about how he could put his arm in a position that would appear more natural, or was he supposed to be moving it to an unnatural position to get it out of the way of the ball? Or more appropriately, should we just accept there was nothing he reasonably could have done?
But because every situation is different, I can’t tell you that there is some perfect rule we can apply to make sure everyone is treated fairly in every instance. The best way forward is to reduce the impact of these subjective decisions. This means always giving an indirect free kick for cases where the balls hits an arm or hand, including when it happens in the box. Referee could still use their judgement to say when there is a clearly deliberate handball, and give a direct free kick or penalty. In other instances where there is doubt, we introduce an exciting dead ball situation, which doesn’t excessively penalise the defending team.
Does eight constitute a shortlist?
I am sitting at my desk at work, cold and tired, so I figure it must be the right time for me to reveal my wish list of players United should sign. Would they want to come? Who cares, it’s a “wish” list, idiot.
1) Daniel James. Mainly because it looks like he’s about to sign, which is a nice change from players using us to get better contracts at their current club. Also, he’s a winger and he is not Jesse “17 league goals in 111 appearances” Lingard, which is also nice.
2) Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Give Palace whatever they want. Seriously, anything they want, give it to them. A player that will replace Ashley Young is worth more than anything else that we need.
3) Wilfred Ndidi. Incredible player and exactly what we need to replace Herrera. Still young, hungry and probably has more energy than our entire team combined.
4) Idrissa Gueye. Basically an older, cheaper, alternative to Ndidi. Still far better than what our squad currently possesses in that position.
5) Matthijs De Ligt. Will be a nice chase before we inevitably end up overpaying for Harry Maguire who will stay for an underwhelming 10 seasons joining our elite collection of overpaid English players who never really perform for the club but they had that one good season which means they are reliable squad members. Reliable squad members who start over better players.
6) Ben Chilwell. Because it’s more like Luke not so Shaw you’re any good, actually.
7) Literally any striker capable of actually scoring goals. Anyone. Someone call Jermaine Defoe. Maybe not. Seriously though, Rashford is just not good enough to lead the line alone this season.
8) Lionel Messi. Very good player.
Gaaavie, Kaapstad naaier
I think we should all take a minute to feel bad for G Thomas’s son for not being Frenkie De Jong.
It’s not often I’ll laugh when reading Mediawatch, mainly due to the nonsense that some newspapers put out, however I did laugh at the line “the idea of simply booing someone for cutting you up or littering” brought a chuckle to my lunchtime break.
Can just imagine it right now and it is hilarious, but instead of booing we just swear quite loudly, even though the driver in front can’t hear us.
Mikey, CFC (May try booing instead of swearing next time someone takes the last parking space)
Bring on the alternate reality Moyes
In honour of your article of the first signings by Man Utd managers, let us all wonder how David Moyes would have (not “would of”) gone in an alternate universe where his 6-year contract has just expired.
2013 – Moyes signs Fellaini and (in January) Mata. He instructs rookie defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić to watch VHS compilation tapes of England legend Phil Jagielka to teach them a thing or two. Finish 7th.
2015 – After losing the League Cup final to Leeds Utd on penalty shootout (13 pens to 12) and finishing 16th in the league, Moyes signs Steven Pienaar (club record £62M) and Tim Cahill (swap with RvP + £45M) after a record 5,782 attempted crosses in the 14/15 season (12 of those were successful). Tim Cahill immediately inspires Rooney with his varied boxing celebrations. Angel Di Maria, when asked in an interview about Man Utd’s reported interest over the last 12 months, replies that he’d rather eviscerate himself with a rusty spoon than play for Moyes.
2017 – Remarkably, Rooney and Cahill strike up a successful partnership in the 16/17 season with a combined league 27 goals and 16 assists to scrape into a Europa League position. First glimmer of hope for Utd fans in years, who are somewhat dismayed by the nation of China officially changing the term “Lingchi” to “David Moyes.” David de Gea retires aged 26 after being forced to watch Microsoft PowerPoint presentations of Joel Robles saves for 3 days straight.
2019 – After signing Wilfried Zaha for Man Utd for a record 4th time, Moyes’ Utd finish 7th for consecutive seasons and make the last-16 of the Europa League, marking the best season yet of the Moyes years. Before his contract expiry and his consequent retirement, Moyes signs Fellaini to a 7-year deal worth £400,000 per week (with a £200,000 bonus per elbow to opponent’s head per game) and finally signs Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka after half a decade of speculation. Juan Mata blogs that Moyes is only the 2nd worse manager of his professional career.
Andrew M, AFC (Utd fans, if you complain about Solskjaer and Mourinho, don’t forget how terrible/amusing/terribly amusing the Moyes months were), Australia