I have had this blog tooling around in my head for a while and my apologies for being away, but there has not been much for me to write about, with England mostly being dissected to death on the news websites. But this is a blog more about England and not Arsenal. As an England supporter living outside of England (but still exposed to the BBC’s World Service and Sky News), I’ll try to highlight the problems with the National Team below:
There is no real pool of talent of English managers.
This is partially down to a lack of coaches going for the UEFA Pro licence, the lack of coaches willing to leave England to get more experience and also the lack of opportunities at Clubs, who would all rather employ an “experienced pair of hands” than a younger coach with more radical ideas. Compare the number of top qualified coaches in England to those in Germany. Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche and possibly Garry Monk (if he can resurrect his career after Swansea’s debacle) are the only real talents that I can see at the moment around the top flight but they need the “Big Club” experience, which none are able or willing to get at the moment due to Clubs rather employing experienced foreign managers.
There is no depth of experienced defensive (all positions, really, but defense is hardest hit) talent around at the moment.
Smalling and Cahill were the best that England could come up with. That alone is a terrible indictment. Stones is a good defender coming off of a bad season and doesn’t have the experience to start yet for England. It is true that players develop at different rates and defenders (and goalkeepers) usually take longer to develop as they need more experience under their belts than midfielders or strikers in general to be most effective but it’s all about the money, not just for the players but for the Clubs too. Experience has to be developed – talent helps but talent can’t take you all the way. Being able to keep that pool of talent small means more quid for the Clubs when they sell players on, as Clubs would rather sign cheaper foreign talent than develop their own players as it is seen as cheaper and less risky by Clubs and, consequently, managers trying to hold on to their jobs. There’s not a huge amount of defenders coming through with English Clubs and this ties in with my next point.
A few Clubs have a near-complete stranglehold on the youth market.
I am looking straight at Chelsea and Manchester City here. Manchester United used to be in that group but they actually played many of their young players and many went on to achieve success – van Gaal even did that this season with Fossu Mensah and Marcus Rashford. Very few get a chance at City or Chelsea yet they buy up and hoard most of the talent because they are greedy and self-interested and that is no good for the England National Team who needs those youngsters to go out and get real experience by not being limited to only youth team football.
The “instant results” mentality that exists for both Clubs and players and which is pushed to the forefront by the Media
This ties in directly with points made above in this blog. No-one properly builds a squad anymore – Wenger is the only one who tries (when he actually signs players!) and Ferguson used to, too. That is also partially down to the Clubs, who do not really give managers enough time to properly build a squad as too much money is on the line. We’ve all seen the media attack managers multiple times, while some others (Ferguson and definitely Mourinho) almost always get a pass as they are “liked” by the Media as their quotes sell papers. Ranieri just tweaked the squad (and kept the same tactics) he was left by Pearson and added a little, with help from their excellent scouting network.
The lack of tactical prowess and acumen in the EPL.
Just about every team (apart from Leicester, and well done to Ranieri on this) plays a dull-as-dishwater 4-2-3-1 formation which basically keeps the game suffocated in the midfield for most of the time and limits attacking play, as the supposed “wide players” and often the strikers too (Giroud for us Gooners in particular) are drawn more into the middle to help out the aforementioned suffocated midfield. Draws (Sunderland) seem to always be rewarded with staying up another year (Sunderland) in the EPL. This partially ties in with the point I made about coaches not broadening their horizons too much (they’re not seeing or experiencing other leagues or styles of play a lot).
The selection of the squad for this tournament.
Yikes. Almost no proper wide forwards or wingers and virtually no strikers and many players were simply not in form at the start of the tournament – Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere all have had injuries or poor/patchy form or both for large parts of this past season. I don’t want to blame the young players too much as they need exposure to tournaments to become better players (again, experience) but some of the squad selections were baffling. Granted, Ashley Young has not played a huge amount but he has that pace England needed. Andros Townsend, while not brilliant at Club level, has always done a job for England. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Danny Welbeck missing out through injury were huge blows, too.
Jack Wilshere should never have gone to the tournament after his lack of game time through injury this season – it should have been either Mark Noble or Danny Drinkwater, both of whom had excellent seasons for their Clubs. Wayne Rooney has hardly played as a striker this season under Louis van Gaal at United, which leaves just Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, with Marcus Rashford (Rashford has almost no experience). No Jermain Defoe? Really? I know Sunderland were bad but his goals kept them up and he can be quite a dynamic player who brings experience and who is not afraid to shoot from range. Another miss for me was Aaron Lennon, who had his best season in years in a poor Everton side, always looking lively and dangerous and who also has some pace. A serious lack of able, experienced defenders didn’t help, either (a point I already stated above) – I feel Bertrand is a better defender than Rose, who should perhaps have been pushed further up the pitch as a left midfielder. Right-Back is a problem position as Walker is simply not a good enough defender, but gets in the side due to lack of competition, tying in with what I have said above.
Some of them are given everything from a young age, which does not make them hungry. Some undoubtedly do have strong National pride, but many seem to not care much at all – they are getting their huge wages from a Club, they have the good-looking WAG and the big SUV. This “Big-Time Charlie” attitude shown by many (Sterling as an example) is another factor in the poor performance of the England National team at many levels. Compare this to young players in Germany, who are all wage-capped and seem more humble in general.
Where do I even start? All of their priorities are wrong and there is no emphasis on building squads at any level but rather just showcasing some talented players – a huge problem for the youth levels which then impacts the senior National Team. Some of it is down to coaching, some down to pressure from the higher-ups at the F.A. for results and some of it down to the sensationalist Media. The biggest problem is that players mature at different times and ages as every player is different – the player who may be a 17 year-old prodigy may be completely burned out by his early 20s (e.g. former Man City midfielder Michael Johnson), while a young player with maybe less talent or ability doesn’t get a chance at youth level but goes on to have a good career as he plays himself into a squad at Club level (a rare thought but it happens sometimes). The impact at youth level is that the young talent is often getting snapped up by the senior team before they are ready – again, experience counts. The F.A. is so out-of-touch, which doesn’t help – too many bureaucrats, not enough “football people” in powerful positions. There is also a lack of talented young coaches, a point made above. Gareth Southgate got Middlesbrough relegated, even with Steve Gibson’s not-insignificant money. Remember that.
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The expectation is always so high going into tournaments, frenzied up by the Media as it is in their interest to get clicks/sell papers/get viewers so they talk-up everything. We, as fans, need to acknowledge that the Premier League is quite limited in terms of tactics and young talent being produced and that this will have an obvious impact on the National Team in a negative sense in both the short- and long-term and lower our expectations accordingly. We should also try to put less pressure on the manager in terms of results but only if he tries to be more tactically flexible – if the football is bland and the manager makes no real tactical changes in a match, then it is understandable that the fans will put pressure on the manager (Hodgson has been guilty of a lack of tactical flexibility in this tournament and 2 years ago in the World Cup too. Wenger is guilty of that too, but this is about England and not Arsenal). But if a manager tries to be flexible, even if some results do not go England’s way, then that manager should be given more time to perfect things, right? The Clubs should try to adopt a more flexible attitude too, but they are all-business, so that won’t happen. So it is up to the fans to be more flexible, because we can be.
Most of the things that pertain to them have already been highlighted above so I won’t go into any more detail as this blog is long enough already!
Phew. That was a lot. Let me know of your thoughts below in the Comments section.
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The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.