Sunday, 8 June 2014

England: Expectations and Formations

 England's 1966 World Cup Hero, and all time top scorer, Bobby Charlton, suggests England are  lacking "world class players" ( yes, once again, that silly phrase: "world class players") and categorically declaring the team will not win the world Cup. Then BBC Anchor, and Mexico 86' World Cup, top scorer, Gary Lineker, urges the team to "outscore" opponents, playing  attacking football. Ex-International, and icon, David Beckham has weighed in with his thoughts to the effect: "the kids will be alright".

The mind set of such luminaries easily highlights the misconceptions England have when it comes to the national team. The sum cannot be bigger than the whole. To achieve results, you need a good team - and better still, a balanced team.

There is a fixation in  England for the reincarnation of heroes of the past - Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan, Glenn Hoddle,  Bryan Robson, John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle, David Beckham.  Every new generation of players is foisted with the prophesy, pre-ordained to return England to the promised land. Players who do not even have 15 international caps carry this albatross of labels from soothsayers. This is fed through to the fans by the media, and before you know it, his development becomes arrested at it's nascent stage.

It's happened to the likes of Lee Sharpe, Neil Webb, Alan Smith, Joe Cole and Theo Walcott is another  in the current set up; but how far has he really progressed as an England International. A player picked in the 2006 World Cup squad, yet had not played a single premier league game for his Club, Arsenal. Fast Forward, 2014 World Cup, and we have Everton centre back John Stones as an appendage to the 23 man squad. The 20 year old only made his first full premier league start for his Club, last January, but he is already deemed talented enough to be an England International. Can that really be the right way to select players?

England pick players and build teams in an incongruent manner. It is rather all over the map. Similarly plans to address the scarcity of talented youngsters. Greg Dyke, the FA Chairman, proposes a B' Team league, to create a wider catchment for English talent. My take is if England have national teams at under 17, 19, 20, and 21 levels, then a synergy of scouting, coaching, incentivising, providing greater impetus, and profile to games and tournaments surrounding these teams would do wonders attracting youngsters. All premier league clubs want good English talent. It would make more sense if the FA ramps up its branding of the youth  teams. How about getting the likes of Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Ledley King, or even David Beckham, names like that, to work within a structure in the respective youth teams. That's a sure fire way to bolster the supply side of players. The supply side will create a trickle down effect to Premier and championship clubs, and England consequently, and suddenly less becomes more. It's more to do with attention, profile, and structure, and less about bleating.

Congrats to England Boss, Roy Hodgson for holding a question and answer session with England fans in Miami, last week. I give him credit for meeting with them, and articulating his intentions. At least, we know we can hold him to his words. He said he would be going out to win the world cup. I had been critical of his reticence in that regard in my last blog.

READ: It Is Roy Hodgson's Trial, Not Wayne Rooney's

After the friendlies in Miami against World cup teams in Ecuador and Honduras, it's blatant England are going to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. They are geared to want to go out and attack, and set the tempo. If you like, play like most contemporary teams try to do.

Whilst it represents a bold move to play in an attacking, more modern style, and England have most of the components to do it, however, i am not sold on the performances from the last two friendlies.

England v Honduras

I do not think Hodgson has the right sort of player to fit into the middle of a trio behind the striker. That is not being critical of any one player, but it was pretty evident in those two games. The player who plays in that position is the brain box for the team's attacking play; and he has to be defensively very aware, because he is in line to dropping into midfield. In short, he has to think like a midfielder, better still be a midfielder.

On the other hand, the team looked short in midfield with regards bodies and variety. If the manager is going to play two holding midfielders, there is an imbalance in the team. The team would be better set up for a 4-3-3 formation. It was also glaring the full backs  are not synchronised to attack down the flanks; neither do the centre halves. Jageilka and Cahill are way too flat. One has to come forward with the ball in order to release the full backs and midfielders.

Blessed with a generation of midfield runners is no guarantee for success. Folks rave about Barkley, Llanna, Oxlade Chamberlain, and Sterling, but the mechanics of the game would suggest all parts of a team have to interact. There is an inherent danger if the manager sticks to this 4-2-3-1 formation. If fusion and interaction make a good team, I'll be hoping the manager does not get ahead of himself. Better stick to a system that generates the right chemistry for this group. Play 4-3-3, Roy!!!