Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Be-labouring The Spanish Point

Place your bets folks, who dares wins !! Almost a year after retaining the European Championship, and exactly a year to the FIFA 2014 world cup in Brazil, Spain continue to ride a crest of a wave. It is best to classify their current dominance as epic. Spain have written new paradigms into the game of football, and if they retain the world cup next year, they would be inducted into the hall-way of sporting immortals. Spanish soccer has now become a paragon. Not only central to the theme of winning, but excellent for it's production line of a range of superlative youngsters. It just won the UEFA under 20  championship with an intriguing team, and tipped to win the FIFA under 20 world cup in progress. It seems their reign has no end in sight.

FULL CIRCLE : I was insane enough during Euro 2012 to suggest the wheels was about to come off their cycle of dominance. Italy, Croatia, and Portugal were inspired enough in the tournament to push back on Spain's irrepressible form, and I sensed the moment had arrived when events would conflate with the collective will of nations to dethrone them.
Spain and Italy poised for EURO rematch
READ : Guess What, Spain has reached it's Plateau 

It proved to be a false call. They went on to do a demolition job on Italy in the EURO final, raising their game in that match to such unparalleled levels that sent a message of shock and awe, and still has  rivals cowering one year on.  This game is relentless in hatching plots and intrigues, and here we are again with a tasty grudge match in the confederations cup semi finals between guess who ? Italy and Spain. The world and European Champions have it all to do once again as they continue their incredible ascent up that greasy pole. Italy have some explaining to do, and scores to settle in practical terms after their spectacular flame-out on that barmy night in Kiev. Spain needn't listen. This fits in with my theme from last summer: has anyone out there been able to concoct a potion to neutralize Spain ? does soccer have it's own version of subversive resistance?

ACHILLES HEEL : Spain were held to a 1-1 home draw by Finland in March, in their 2014 world cup qualifier. They out-possessed and out played the Fins, who were resolute in their blanket defending on the edge of their box. Spain had so many men forward, it only took a counter-attack of a blowtorch type for Finland to equalize. If Spain had not scrambled a lucky winner in their next qualifier in France, they would have been in danger of not getting automatic qualification from their group. That close shave went largely unreported amid all the hype surrounding Spain. Had Nigeria played with a better presence of mind, and know how in front of goal in their confederations cup game last sunday, Spain's characterization of invincibility might have been seriously examined. The key to beating Spain is first and fore most a change in MINDSET, a stronger will, followed by a tactical plan of disciplined  defending  with two blocks, and counter attacks with intensity and purpose. The fissures in the Spanish last third is latent, but a tactical reality for opponents. Has anybody noticed that Spain's starting XI has been more or less unchanged for the last three years or that nine of the twenty outfield players in their current 23 man squad is 27+ and another three over 30 ? Here's the deal :

* If Spain's starting XI picks itself for three years, then why is all the young talent not seeping through ?

* If the squad if brimming with talent, how come the glass ceiling has not been broken ?

* With the age symmetry of the squad, won't it  be the case a large percentage of the current squad        
    getting phased out the same time ?

* If 60 % of the current squad are likely vanish at the same time, would the talent of the up-and-coming youngsters be a match for the unique experience of the departed ?

Hypothesis for consideration.

Sergio Ramos

BUCK THE TREND : The game has never stayed static, and we must fathom the surmounting of Spain. It's a prerequisite for the dynamism of the sport. This monumental epoch of Spanish soccer orthodoxy will be talked about for another one hundred years to come, no doubt. Spain might dig in for  more self preservation despite my call to arms, as they did a year ago, winning the Euro championship.

READ : LA ROJA turn-on the fury to Slay Italy , the Critics , the doubters, and I

We cannot eternally view Spain with rose tinted spectacles, we must start to challenge the status quo, hence I belong to the esoteric school of thought that seek to exalt a fiercer contest to Spain's reign, rather than the sport to remain paralyzed by their panache. An International record 28 games the world champions have gone unbeaten: It's time for  nations in the football community to take a good hard look at themselves and what they are doing. Spain are outstanding, but there is also an argument of a psychological inferiority hanging over the rest which is self evident. Change that, and the barriers start to fall.

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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Big Phil Has Got Brazil Revving

The notion Brazil have run out of talent, and not good enough to compete with reigning World Cup Champions Spain is increasingly looking like a load of baloney in the face of their tremendous display against Italy in the Confederations Cup. Too often Brazil are harshly judged, we have come to expect their teams to be clones of the great world cup winning teams of '70 or '94, and I must admit after watching Phil Scolari's first game in charge in February this year, I concluded the team was lacking.

READ : Promising For England, Worries For Brazil

I will be setting the record straight by saying on the evidence of the on-going confederations cup, Brazil are in good heart; they have got what it takes, and I boldly tip them to beat Spain in the confederations cup final, or whoever their opponents are on the occasion.

Brazil: Will face Mexico on Wednesday

STATE OF PLAY: A competitive game against historic rivals Italy served as the rallying call for Brazil, but it was not only that they won 4-2 that mattered, it was how they performed at a tactical level and the fitness conditions of the players which evokes sanguine vibes about the team. There is a litany of talent in the starting 11, and on the bench, first and fore most : Phil Scolari adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, but there is a pioneering sub-plot to that formation which has me buzzing, and could potentially perplex a lot of teams in the future. On paper, there are 4 defenders, but the full-backs - Danny Alves and Marcelo in effect play as wing-backs, advanced in positioning, starting off attacks, an outlet, or an option for the short pass. The wide men of the 3 behind the striker also have that multi-functionality about them: Oscar and Hulk do not necessarily hug the flanks.... they tuck in-field like inside forwards, but also track back to defend, and attack from the flanks in tandem with the wing backs.  These four are weapons of stealth, difficult to deal with because they are utility and disguise rolled into one. This team can generate swiftness, play with combinations, and attack in numbers, constantly probing the opponents back-line. The brilliance and magic of Neymar is the real deal; Fred is definitely capable of scoring goals (twice against Italy) ; Luis Gustavo and Hernanes / Paulinho are the pivots in midfield. The team has balance, technical flair, and an increasing appetite to win games, which morphs into devastating confidence eventually.

Neymar: Celebrates his goal against Italy

THE COACH, BIG PHIL : I am a big fan of this guy, why ? it's the result of his proven ability to organize  teams on the international stage. He was called upon in 2001 to rescue A Selecao  (the selection) and he went on to win the world cup for Brazil in the Japan-South Korea 2002 finals. This uncanny ability was repeated with his handling of the Portuguese national team in the 2004 Euros, where they got to the final; and then the semi-finals of the 2006 world cup in Germany. Phil Scolari is one to maximize talent and human resources, tactically nuanced, and adept at preparing teams for tournaments. Before he took charge of the team  4 months ago, supporters of the national team were in dismay, and optimism was in melt-down. I am sure Scolari will here-on change the mood, he is that infectious. He has most certainly given the team an edge it lacked months ago, and make no mistake, his teams are hardly ever a bunch of show-ponies - there is a lot of grafting and a work ethic to it. Hulk's performance against Italy epitomizes that, I have never seen him put in as much hard work and defending like he did...... Let's not tempt fate by asking if Phil Scolari can do it again ! Winning the world cup on home soil will be tough with the likes of Spain, Argentina, and home pressure as factors to contend with. But if he continues to innovate and motivate with a bunch of talented players, and the nation gets behind the team in a positive way, big Phil is the sort to make far-fetched dreams come true. Watch this space !!!

PAULINHO TO SPURS ?  The media has it that Spurs are on the verge of signing Flumenense's Brazilian international midfielder, Paulinho. You can be sure this decision is a culmination of the player's performance in the on-going  confederations cup. Ramires has been a hit in Chelsea's midfield, but generally i'd caution against signing players on the back of tournaments for their national teams, because it is never a true indicator of a player's ability to adapt. It's one thing to be in an environment with colleagues of homogeneity for a month, and another to arrive in london to a different weather, culture, and absence of family. A player's form is the consequence certain variables. In addition, deals like this tend to be rushed, that means the Club pays a lot more that it should in transfer fees and wages. Watching Luis Gustavo play magnificently in central midfield for Brazil makes me wonder why he cannot get into the Bayern Munich starting eleven. I might also add, I have not seen him play as well for Bayern Munich. See where I am coming from ?

Paulinho (left) challenged by Mexico's former Spurs forward Giovani dos Santos

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Thursday, 20 June 2013


In the aftermath of an intriguing season in European club competitions, trends and prognosis are popping-up. That school of thought that has German club football making significant gains on it's rivals gets ever nosier. The Spanish and English contingent remain dogged in their push back, though...
Italian teams held sway in continental club competitions in the late 80's to the mid 90's point, and since then for a combination of reasons have evaporated as a credible force. Inter Milan won the champions league in 2011, then self-imploded, subsequently; AC Milan are in rebuilding phase, though, lost the glamour appeal they held ten years ago; which brings us to (la) Fidanzata d'italia  (the girlfriend of Italy) Juventus. A generation of fans have evolved oblivious to the powers, prestige, and history this great Italian team holds in Europe, why is that ?

Juventus: Mauricio Isla lifted the Serie A title last season but is set for a move to Inter Milan, says his agent

CREDENTIALS : For sure, it's all gone wonky in the last ten years, but Juventus are not only a special Club, they are a formidable one too. Historically, Italy's best supported side, accounting for almost 30% of the entire spectrum of fans in the country. It has won 29 Serie A titles, and 9 Italian cups, on both counts, more than any other team in Italy. It has consistently provided the Italian national team with players over the years, in fact, it's the biggest supplier of players to the national side, as many as six starters in the recent CONFEDERATIONS CUP match against Mexico underlines the historic trend. But Juventus have given a lot more than that : They are the only club side in the world to have won all the continental and intercontinental club prizes. Players from Juventus have won the European player of the year award on no less than eight occasions - including a record four on the trot when Paulo Rossi won it in 1982, and Michel Platini in '83, '84, and '85. Roberto Baggio ('93 ) Zinedine Zidane ('98), and pavel Nedved ('03 ) making their haul amongst the best from a single club. 

DOWN TURN: Juventus have not won the champions league since 1996, losing two other finals afterwards('97 & '03). There were shock waves in May 2006 after the"calciopoli" match fixing scandal  broke. Juve' were one of the clubs caught up in it, prompting the Italian FA to nullify their '05 and '06 league title wins; and star names departed, with the club demoted to the second tier of Italian soccer, as punishment for their part in the sordid scandal. These events were deeply damaging to it's reputation and prestige. But even before the scandal broke, it could be said that  Juventus were treading water, and in need of fresh impetus. It may have the record of winning all the titles in Club football, but the statistics tell you it has never truly come anywhere near holding dominant power in European football at any point in time, and that leaves not only an ambiguity, but a chasm in the Juventus' narrative which seriously needs addressing. AC Millan have a richer European profile than Juventus despite their inferior domestic title record of 18 to Juve's 29. AC Millan have won the European Cup / Champions League a second all time best - 7 times.  Juventus have 2 in comparison. The success of Juventus in European competitions in the context of their history is superficial rather spectacular, and certainly an issue worth addressing by it's owners, the Agnielli Family.

Emanuele Giaccherini: Juventus midfielder has no plans to leave

THE CURRENT TEAM : With no less than eight managers in the last ten years, the ignominy of match fixing allegations, and subsequent mandatory demotion to Serie B, ex-player Antonio Conte has blazed a trail as manager, winning two league titles ('11/12 &12'/13) in his two years in charge, and firmly re-establishing the Turin club on the map. It's even more stunning that he has done it without star names. The current team pales in comparison to Marcello Lippi's champions league winning team of 1996, but Antonio Conte has hit the ground running in terms of assembling an effective, resolute team, built in the finest Italian traditions. Conte brought in players like Asamoah, Giaccherini, Pirlo, Lichtsteiner, Vucinic, Arturo Vidal, Barzagli, and Paul Pogba, not house hold names, but he has masterfully fused them in with established performers like Buffon, Chiellini, and Cluaudio Marchisio. The manager has the team playing the text book 3-5-2 formation, solid at the back, very efficient in midfield. I watched this team a lot last season, it's evident that it has the right foundations,  and potentially on a cusp of a cycle of dominance in Serie A. Antonio Conte deserves a lot of eulogy for the Juve' revival

Paul Pogba: Midfielder is happy to stay at Juventus

SPECULATE TO ACCUMULATE : Can the bianconerri  seize the moment ? can it rebrand itself in terms of the champions league ? does it feel any anger from being dumped (4-0 on aggregate) by Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of last season's champions league ? does it realize it's stock in Europe has declined ? Juventus are a well run club. Their debt is not catastrophic, and they have a large following. With Coach Antonio Conte in fine form, stability re-established, this is the moment for the Agnielli family to shake off it's conservative approach, and ramp up the stakes with player acquisition. They are clever enough. Such an investment would bolster the Juve' brand which is in need of some razzmatazz and broader appeal. The vehicle to this end would be a couple of high profile signings. The goal scoring department is crying out loud ! Mirko Vucinic is not top calibre, and his goal scoring returns of 19 in 63 games is woefully mediocre. They got striker Fernando Llorente on a free from Athletic Bilbao for next season, and neither looks the real deal. His 4 goals in 26 games last season compares with that of a defender. Paying top dollar for Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain offers a better prospect. A talented understudy to Andre Pirlo is a necessity, as well as beefing-up the squad for a proper launch of a two-pronged attack on Europe and Serie A next season is essential. 17 years and counting without a trophy in Europe, lagging behind Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United in global appeal, can Juventus seize the moment to re-address the balance ? Coach Antonio Conte is just the man to trust with this project. Juventus must not let this moment pass.


Who Will Detoxify Real Madrid ?

The Bundesliga's False Dawn in Europe

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Who Will Detoxify Real Madrid ?

Even by Real Madrid's recent psychedelic past, when we have witnessed the Club's dalliance with top end star players like Luis Figo, Zinadine Zidane, David Beckham, Kaka, and Cristiano Ronaldo; and trainers like Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster, Jose Camacho, and Manuel Pellegrini  that had spells which deflated as fast as air out of a balloon, the Club bears a somewhat quizzical look at present, having not appointed a manager since parting ways with the cantankerous Jose Mourinho two weeks ago.
As Madristas hold their collective breath, President Florentino Perez pauses for thought, and a calm reflection. It's easy to deduce why he would mull over his next managerial appointment. For one, just departed coach Jose Mourinho has left the club in a quandary and a toxic state. Perhaps, even more importantly is the definition of Florentino Perez's legacy. No doubt, Mr. Perez realizes more than anyone that his guidance and leadership of the club through this awkward period is as good as certain to be interpolated on his legacy at the club. A sensitive subject i am sure, hence finding the appropriate means to detoxify the air around the club from the foul and corrosive Mourinho regime( to which Perez is culpable), redefining the Real Madrid ethos and aims, then re-calibrating the dressing room at a macro level are vital components to reload the chamber with.....
Florentino Perez returned to office unopposed in presidential elections early this month. A debrief on the last four years of his presidency would reveal hundreds of millions on player purchases which has yielded a solitary La liga title and the Copa del Rey; failure to capture a tenth Champions League crown, not providing the desired counter-surge to Barcelona, who have a 3-1 lead on La liga titles in the last four years; represents a scandalous return on the Club's investment. It's been either a qualified success or outright failure in the last four years, and that points at the president.

Read : Real Madrid Shall Fall !

Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid confident he will sign contract extension

REAPPRAISAL:  It's against the backdrop of a failed grand-scheme that Florentino Perez would have to chart the Club's next milestone. Central to this is the next Manager, who will need not only to detox, heal, and adrenalize a group of players who have fallen in-between utopia and disaster in the last year. Furthermore, the Club are in dire need to strategize  not only for the short term, but also long term. Ex-President Vicente Calderon recently wailed at the failure to retain the services of coach Vicente Del Bosque in 2003, and that lends credence to the theory Barcelona are better at handling the long term game plan. Since the debacle of Carles Rexach  ten years ago, Barcelona have enjoyed better aggregate cycles, and winning more titles than Real Madrid in that time. The presumptive candidates to run the team next season are Zinedine Zidane: a "madrista", ex-player, champions league winner, and an icon of the club. He would have a galvanizing effect on the team, owing to his legendary status in the game; but the drawback to his candidature is Zidane has no coaching experience, and has a shy personality. A risk for the long term.  Carlo Ancelotti seems the perfect one. Mild mannered, possesses

Read : Remember Carlo Ancelotti ?

an impressive track record from AC Milan and Chelsea, experienced, and well respected. Except that he is under contract to PSG who do not seem keen to release him to join Madrid. The club look in a distinctly unfamiliar position currently, with not many suitable options at hand, prompting President Perez to say :

            "We will not rush, because the important thing is not to
             do it tomorrow, but to do it well"..........

Gonzalo Higuain: No agreement yet in place for Real Madrid striker

TRANSFERS: Real Madrid have been brazenly courting Garreth Bale, but it seems highly unlikely

Read : Zero Reason To Bale out

they would pull it off despite the gigantic carrot being dangled at his Club Spurs; It may well be a distraction for their dejected fans. One other target was Atletico Madrid's striker Falcao, who has chosen to move to Monaco; speculation has it Monaco is just a ruse for a reconnection to the white half of Madrid. Neymar has joined  Barcelona; Cristiano Ronaldo, the Club's top goal scorer has not yet committed to a contract extension, and their Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain looks to be on the market. It is certainly a picture puzzle at the Bernabeu right now. The Club have to get it right, and fast. There is little margin for error though, and there are quite a number of delicate issues going forward. There is a solid core of talented players, no doubt, but uncertainty can make mischief of circumstances. A good pre-season preparation from all angles precedes a successful one. Logical  thoughts on player purchase cannot be held if the manager is not in place. Florentino Perez has his hands full going into his next term. How he manages this orchestrated confusion is the bridge to the near future of the Club. One wrong move from here on, and it collapses into an expensive mess. For now, we must give him some time to himself.

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Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Bundesliga's False Dawn in Europe

Germany's elite Soccer division - The Bundesliga is enjoying distinguished and high profile attention currently after the historic all German UEFA Champions League Final, a couple of weeks ago. The rhapsody began after Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund scored twin semi-final victories over Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. Many commentators have signaled it an axiom that German Clubs will rule the champions league from here on, and advocating the virtues of the Budesliga as a blue print for other clubs in Europe. It's been heralded the Bundesliga is on the rise with it's clubs producing great youth academies, debt free, operating on the maxims of self reliance, financial sustainability, and the fans being at the heart of the initiatives of the clubs. All very impressive credentials without a doubt. However, advocates are wide of the mark  transcending the argument into a wider European hegemony for German clubs; they clearly underestimate the onerous task German clubs face reproducing two semi-finalists next season, and actualizing this vaunted superiority. The presence of Bayern Munich in the last  three finals of the champions league has spiked the Bundesliga ratings upwards, but generating a faulty calculus,  because Bayern Munich is not a prototype Bundesliga club, rather you'll  need a few other clubs to perform the feats of Borusia Dortmund to showcase that  argument. But that needs to be proved in next season's champions league, once again by Dortmund, and the other German representatives - Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke. Otherwise, it's an extrapolation of ludicrous proportions. It's like saying Arsenal or Udinese would be at the next final because they are well run clubs. It's not going to happen. The Champions League is an incredibly difficult competition, and it takes a lot to win. Here's some stats to freeze that idea :

Guardiola: Bayern can grow under his tutelage, say Souness and Redknapp

* 23 years ago was the last time any team ( AC MILAN 1989/ 90 ) retained the trophy

* It's only been retained twice in the last 33 years ( Nottingham Forest 1979 / 80' )  and AC Milan ( 1989 and 1990)

* 31 years ago was the last time two different winners emerged from the same country in successive years ( Liverpool 1981 & Aston Villa 1982 )

* The best any country has produced in last for 31 years is Spanish Clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona
    winning the competition twice in three successive seasons on two separate occasions: 2000, 2002 and 2009, 2011.

Barriers are meant to be broken, that comprises a part of why sport is thrilling. Football has no scientific bases, but the evidence that German clubs are set to shift the trend and become dominant in European competitions can be scoffed at for a number of reasons :

 BAYERN MUNICH : Folks might fail to notice that Bayern Munich's financial muscle has enabled them grow at a faster pace than their other rivals Borrusia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, and Schalke. Bayern can comfortably buy the best players of their rivals as they have done over the years, and most recently with their purchase of Mario Goetze from Borussia Dortmund. Bayern's financial dominance is an antithesis to the theory most Bundesliga Clubs are well run and financially wholesome and stable, they can all therefore compete on equal terms with Bayern, and have as much talented, and as expensive a squad as the Bavarians presently do, and achieve similar sporting successes home and abroad: powder puff..... if anything, Bayern Munich destabilizes and weakens the other clubs in the top division, cherry picking their best players, and augmenting with top talent from abroad. There is a latent disparity in the top echelon of the Budesliga, and commentators  need to wake up to this fact. The strengths of the Budesliga is subsumed under the Bayern Munich colossus, providing a distorted potential of the Bundesliga.    

Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinstiger: Bayern Munich pair had tasted the pain of defeat in the Champions League in recent years.

 ACUMEN : No doubt the geese that lay the golden eggs come in the shape of a good club structure, and the purvey of properly nurtured young players, and German clubs seem to be doing well at that, but the champions league is not a romantic competition, it's a brutal one, and competition experience is certainly a prerequisite to doing well in it. Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke do not possess the requisite amount of players with this. Borussia Dortmund are on the verge of losing a few of their best players, neither would they be the dark horses they were in last season's competition. One very reliable index of the strength of a country's league is the Europa League : If German teams had  as much as nearly clout or predominance in that competition, then the argument would be persuading, but no team from Germany has won the Europa league in 16 years since Schalke did it, that is a more poignant indication because the revamped Europa league format is modeled like the champions league. Furthermore, only two other German teams outside of Bayern Munich have won ( Hamburg and Borrusia Dortmund ) the champions league / European Cup in the last 30 years. In fact, German teams in comparison to Spanish, Italian, and English teams actually have catching up to do first before any hegemony is mentioned.

Robert Lewandowski: Likely to be working closely with Uli Hoeness

IN OPPOSITION :   The UEFA Champions League has a ruthless edge to it. The antagonists to Germany's representatives in the 2013/14 edition would be a combination aristocrats like Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Barcelona, Juventus, with their illustrious history, and tremendous potential in star players and financial resouces ; And the billionaires' clubs - Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, and a host of clubs from Russia and Ukraine : who are aspiring to dethrone the status-quo, by purchasing some of the best players in Europe for outlandish sums. After winning domestic titles set their sights on conquering Europe's glamour competition. These two blocks of clubs will provide very severe tests to the credentials of Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Levekusen, and Schalke, no doubt well run clubs, adopting a credible creed, but the argument  they stand a chance of upstaging those two blocks of clubs is diluted when you consider they won't bring in star names, not the practice, and hav a meagre four European trophies between them. Bayer Leverkusen have never won the German Championship; and Schalke last won it in 1958, and who is to say after Dortmund's scintillating campaign in the champions league this year, will not put up a few more of their talented youngsters for sale!!! After all, that's implicit of it's self sustaining model. The draw back with this model is that the aristocratic and billionaire clubs( as mentioned above) have the cash to offer for the likes of Dortmund's best players. No matter how many good ones they produce, it would have a debilitating effect on their champions league  prospects.

Jurgen Klopp: Bortmund boss was generous in defeat about opposite number Jupp Heynkes

CLOSING BELL: The issue analysts miss out when prosecuting  the claim German Clubs have an auspicious future in the champions league is that the Bundesliga is an allegory of Bayern Munich and the rest. Bayern buy the best around the country. As long as their financial powers eclipses that of the rest by some distance, so too would their collection of domestic titles. Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and clubs run on those lines would hardly be able to gain traction domestically and in Europe with the scenario their best players are apples in the eyes of their richer rivals across the continent, that pours cold water on the idea they are about to stage a coup
The rules that exist limiting foreign ownership of German clubs is admirable, but to the detriment of a challenge to Bayern. It's great these clubs are fan-based and pragmatic with their finances, but they  have to be able to match Bayern fire with fire to break out of the shadows, and be a force to be reckoned with rather than just the talk of potential. I am afraid they need to make an even bigger push on the domestic scene first. That's the gate way to any claim on the continent.  shifting the all powerful Bayern Munich is the crux of the matter. There is little empirical evidence of that, nor any more to suggest Bundesliga Clubs are set to rule Europe; perhaps donkeys would first have to  fly over the Alliance Arena for me to believe that.

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Monday, 3 June 2013

England Lack Types Not Systems

England goal scoring legend, and my hero, Gary Lineker set off a poisoned gas canister when he alluded in a tweet last week that England were back in the "dark ages" following Roy Hodgson's  4-4-2  formation against Ireland . That instigated a trend of criticism towards the England manager and his team, which lacked merit or fairness when you look at the players coming through for England, the ones that actually are fit enough to feature, and the time of the season some of these friendly games come along. England's prospects are not enhanced by such withering comments from some of the game's opinion leaders. Perhaps their frustration is borne out of wanting more from the national team... they want some form of advancement, but the manager's job is most often an impossible one: he is served a curved ball,  at the mercy of events with players' form, injuries, and Clubs taking a selfish interest.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain: England midfielder celebrates his goal in Brazildd

If Gary Lineker feared England would suffer a drubbing at the Maracana against Brazil, prompting that tweet, the team diffused all the scepticism with a battling 2-2 draw against the Samba Boys. It was a game like many down the years that highlights the  CATCH 22 SITUATION  for the England team and it's supporters. England played a 4-3-3 formation against Brazil, and for the entire first half were timid, with a palpable sense of inferiority to their opponents.  Lampard, Carrick, and Phil Jones in midfield could not get a grip; and the front trio of Walcot, James Milner and Wayne Rooney came unstuck. This generated an abysmal lack of confidence in the team when in possession, and needing to advance.   What's the best thing,  Play with inferiority adopting an "updated" formation, or to play well using a decrepit system ? 

TYPES NOT SYSTEMS: There are no  prevalent concepts that make a team world beaters. England might have  been in trouble if Brazil had scored one or two during their dominant spells in the first half. If  they do not lack  character and guts, then what is missing is not some daisy formation, but  types of players to give the team equilibrium, and that would be in the shape of a wide player like existed in Chris Waddle and John Barnes, players that could function on both flanks with skill and invention ; Plus an iconic creative talent in the last third of the pitch - a reference point for the team's attacking play. Shades of Hoddle and Gascoigne come to mind. Sad West Ham's Joe Cole did not blossom, because it's a role that he fits into by style.  Once you have the luxury of  these sorts, then putting the team together to play a system is when the manager earns his money. Before then, criticizing the team is flogging a dead horse. We should be asking why such players are not produced regularly ! The answer is because too much time is spent blaring the problem on loud speakers, rather than harnessing a solution. Lineker and his ex-England colleagues need to provide more encouragement and solutions to the younger generation. For too long the England manager has born the brunt of wayward expectations, and it's time to end that practice. Roy Hodgson for instance has put a lot of faith in Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, but what can he do if he does not play regularly for his Club Arsenal ! England need to urgently address the situation regarding youth players squarely from the academies. A dynamic sort of collaboration is needed between the FA and Clubs in cultivating players at youth level. A pro-active route needs taking, rather than the discredited and sterile posture of  forlorn and despair. The second half of the game against Brazil provides everyone concerned with the reason  building an environment for England Players to operate with confidence in themselves is a vital going forward.