Saturday, 19 May 2012

England's Mixed Bag

                                                          By Carlos Zimmermann

On the day of the selection of the England squad, we felt the same shock as the Harry fan club did with the appointment of Hodgson.

Eyebrows were raised with the inclusion of John Terry. The FA may have slightly pressured Hodgson down this route with the up-coming court case; the Terry camp might have pushed the fact that he was the England captain and a starter before the incident, and when you're innocent until proven guilty, not selecting him for the team could tarnish his name and, they could argue that this could damage his chances in court. The FA may have chosen not to open that can of worms.
I believe Terry seems to be oblivious to what is going on around him. He tends to put his own interests before those of his team mates, fellow professionals, spectators and the nation as a whole. It will be interesting to see how united the team will stand in these circumstances. I waxed lyrical about England standing as one in the article "Hodgson's Choice", and one has to consider Hodgson's thought process for making a decision that could potentially be so divisive.

Hodgson being chosen so late may have forced his hand into picking more or less the same pack that saw Fabio Capello's England though the qualifying stages. Fans would have expected more unorthodox choices like the young exciting Arsenal attacker Oxlade Chamberlain. We wanted a team filled with vibrancy and hunger, instead we are left with underwhelming familiarity that has shackled the team down when most needed.

Steven Gerrard's over-enthusiastic nature to go looking in key areas is what contributed to his Liverpool team conceding three goals in the first half against Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final. Noticing this, Rafa Benitez impressively changed things, putting the underrated Didi Hamman on in the centre, which granted Gerrard the freedom to get into the promising attacking positions his ill-discipline often allows him to find. Although this is effective at club level, where Gerrard's team mates can be coached into covering the space with many hours of training,  international football is the place where the vulnerable can be exposed: and there is none more disorganised than a national team.

Stuart Downing was brought in to provide crosses for Andy Carroll, but looking at the statistics of the two players this year, Downing has accumulated zero assists. His crossing is at its best when driven low- as was the case at Villa- combining with the fact that Carroll got most of his goals for Newcastle with high balls: not from the wings, as expected, but provided mostly from Barton in deep central areas. If Carroll can sort his lifestyle out, and put the effort in on the training pitch, he has the potential to have a good England career. His inclusion is not surprising as we do not have another player in the squad like him (if you don't pick Crouch). Looking at the other strikers, Jermaine Defoe's shoot-on-site policy will come in handy in certain situations. Danny Wellbeck is an interesting talent who runs the channels and uses the ball well- he is only let down by not being a natural finisher. A lot will also stem from Rooney's performances once back in the team. His goals have been consistent this year unlike his performances. He had his most prolific year when playing right up top and I can only assume that it will be the performances of the other three strikers that decide whether Rooney will play in the hole behind the front man, or up top leading the way.

Ashley Young has come on strong at the end of the campaign. He was also one of England's top goal-scorers in the European qualifiers, and is looking sharp. His unpredictability enables him to go inside or outside the fall-back and makes him a menace to the opposite team. Theo Walcott's phenomenal pace will always cause trouble, especially on the counter. His decision making is in question sometimes, so he will have to be disciplined: staying wide when needed and choosing the right time to run the channel inside the full-back.

Centrally, Frank Lampard has been very impressive of late in the Chelsea team. It used to be said that Lampard didn't know what his own half looked like, but he has matured as a player this season, adding an extra string to his bow by showing us all that he can sit deeper and control the game. I therefore find him a better suit to central mid-field over Gerrard. Defensively, Lampard has slightly more tackles, interceptions, clearances and block shots per game than Gerrard. His success rate in passing is 4% better and he averages more key passes per game. As Rooney will be absent from the first two games, Gerrard is likely to play behind the striker. If this is the case, it would be dangerous to play Gareth Barry and Lampard in the centre, due to an overall lack of pace. I think Barry is still trying to catch up with Ozil from the run he made in the game against Germany at the World Cup!

Scott Parker's industrious work will prove vital to the controlling of the central areas. We go into our first major competition in a while with some very reliable hands in Joe Hart, although this unfortunately cannot be said about his feet. It is a shame someone so good has not worked on his distribution more, as the Keeper keeping possession is crucial in the modern game, to relieve pressure.

Ashley Cole is always a performer of the highest level once he steps over that white line. We have a more than adequate replacement in Leighton Baines should Cole get injured. Baines is a fantastic crosser of the ball and helps stretch the play by sticking wide. His ability at the dead ball situations could help swing advantage in our way in tight matches.

Glen Johnson has been in and out of the Liverpool team this year and I believe his inclusion is down to Kyle Walker and Chris Smalling's injures.

Phil Jones' ability to play right back, centre back and central midfield is very handy although I believe he is vulnerable to mistakes in the centre back position at his young age. Cahill's performance in the Champions League final could get him a place, while Joleon Lescott's pace always gives him a chance.

Roy Hodgson once said he made a mistake in his selection of the 23-man Switzerland team by picking two identical players for each position. Looking through his squad you can see that he has picked a mixed bag this time. This may be why Aaron Lennon was dropped as you can get the same out of Walcott. Only time will tell how costly it is to not bring someone who can keep and pass the ball as well as Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick can. Mancini didn't seem to trust Micah Richards in the run-in, for as powerful as Richards is, his positional awareness lets him down, which Hodgson- being a strong tactician- would not stand for. Adam Johnson would have been an interesting wild card, but I believe his lack of commitment and fitness cost him his place.

There is no doubt this competition will be tough and building for the future can be tricky, especially trying to win in a distant football continent (as we will have to try to accomplish in Brazil in the World Cup 2014). With a bit more risk, and luck on injuries, we might have been able to inject a bit more enthusiasm and fearlessness into the camp. Make no mistake, Hodgson will want to win this competition but in the big picture, progress is the key to the locked door that is success. As long as we are not  in a state of arrested development, we can walk our own path, with our heads held high, knowing the future is unwritten. 


  1. I think Barry is still trying to catch up with Ozil from the run he made in the game against Germany at the World Cup!

    brilliant! worth it just for that line alone!

    great article, i stummbled upon this from zonal marking, its good stuff.

    another point i would have made was about why cleveley wasn't picked over ox, assuming hodgson only wanted one untried player in the squad(i would have taken both) but considering clev has a lot more good games at prem level(for wigan & man u) and is a passing mid which we don't have in the team down to misplaced long-termism(why gerrard, cole, terry and lampard , who are all about the age where this could be their last major, in the team and not scholes or carrick or even the in form holt over the under-preforming carrol) or missing out on a good passer because of injury (wilshere), clev could have been very useful.

    although i agree that that lampard has improved his game by being more considered, lampard in the champions league semi against barca(the highsest level any englishman has played in this year) i think set up three of the goals, which put him in a good position to be important when we deal with the intense pressure we will inevitably face this summer.

    also john terry is a moron and shouldn't be anywhere near the team, apart from being racist his a knob head who fucks team-mates wifes and tries to get his managers sacked by undermining them and getting himself sent off in his teams most important game of the season, all probably good enough reasons without taking into account the court case.

    looking forward to the dortmund article....heja Dortmund.

  2. lampard 'important' ha ha ha ha ha! not fit to lace gerrards boots

    1. loving the unbiased comment from 'redhead'

      lampard dispite his early season snub from avb has been excellant this second half and could by tonight be a champions league winner like gerrard but with added league titles and 20 plus goals a season for 5 or 6 seasons in a row, also is the premierships all time leading goalscorer for midfielders where at chelsea there has been undoubtably more competition for places over the years which comes from consant challenges for league and euro trophys

      and this is from a west brom supporter

  3. Really interesting article here, I agree with many of its points. Downing on the face of it may raise a few eyebrows; he's certainly a hot/cold player. But I do think when he's on his game his pace, technical ability to keep the ball and his left peg will prove a useful ally. His lack of assists are puzzling, but Liverpool's (apart from Suarez) lack of finishing ability and their bizarre habit of hitting the woodwork last season might go some way to achieving this stat. Plus if Carroll had managed to find his form from the tail-end of the season sooner things may have been different. On Carroll he certainly looks in better shape, both mentally and physically. If he can boss defences as he did Chelsea's in the FA Cup Final then he could have a very profitable tournament. Adam Johnson is a shame, but I believe if he stays at City he's just not going to get the game-time managers need when considering international squads.
    Keep these pieces coming man.