Monday, 21 June 2010

Next Stop - Panicville

By now you should have recovered from the living nightmare that was England 0-0 Algeria. After that result and the 1-1 draw against the US of A qualification from the group is looking a wee bit precarious. So what's happened?

There's been plenty of excuses bounding around - "IT'S THE BALL!" "IT'S THOSE BLOODY VUVUZELAS!" "IT'S THE ALTITUDE!" "THE PLAYERS DON'T CARE!" "IT'S NICK CLEGGS FAULT!" etc etc. In terms of why England are performing poorly, here's my two cents:

1) Gerrard and Lampard can't play in the same midfield. I know this isn't an original thought, but by God it's true. Both have the same natural instinct - running forward from the centre circle into the box and scoring goals. Based on the two games so far, Capello is asking these two to do a job that they're not comfortable with. Both look stifled, both look ineffective, particularly Gerrard who was asked to play on the left against the Algerians (No Fabio, no!) Whilst Heskey does a good job leading the line in a 4-4-2, I'd drop him and tuck Gerrard in behind Rooney. That isn't ideal, I admit, but if something isn't working, you have to change it.

2) Expectation. Quite simply, there's too much of it. Before that game on Friday, the Algerian players probably didn't know or care what their press were writing/saying, whatever the result. The England players however knew that anything other than a convincing win, and they're getting hammered by the press.

If Frank Lampard has a bad game for Chelsea, the fans stream out of Stamford Bridge having a little grumble about Frank not being on form, but it doesn't matter because next week he'll be better. If Frank Lampard has a bad game for England, it's a national crisis - he should be dropped, never play for England again, a disgrace to his country, cares more about his club blah blah blah.

There's an interesting baseball analogy here:

In 2007, the Chicago Cubs were one of the best teams in baseball, reaching the play-offs. They promptly lost 3 games out of 3, and went home.

In 2008, the Chicago Cubs were one of the best teams in baseball, reaching the play-offs. They promptly lost 3 games out of 3 , and went home.

It's now been 102 years since the Cubs have won the World Series. So why can they be so good in the regular season, and so bad in the play-offs? Quite simply, it's the weight of expectation, and it's crushed the Cubs for over 100 years, and it could well crush England this tournament and many others. "40 years of hurt" and all that may be witty, but it may not be helping either. "The players don't care". Wrong - total opposite. They care too much, they're too aware. They are being stifled.

3) Rooney isn't right. At the end of last season, United rushed him back into action after injury because, to be honest, he was their only hope. I'm certain his poor form is a result of this. Whether he's carrying an injury, or whether he's completely frazzled out, it's a huge worry, considering that he would be the first name on your team sheet.

Despite all this however, I still think England have a chance at going far. No, really, I do. A win in the final group game against Slovenia and England are in the last 16, where the competition really gets started. And let's not forget Spain losing to Switzerland, Germany losing to Serbia, Italy being held with New Zealand, France imploding so dramatically. It's a funny tournament you know, with plenty of twists and turns still to come. Don't write England off just yet.

Here's the team I would pick if I was Don Capello. Please take a moment to marvel at my Paint skills:


  1. I don't know much about football, but everything you just wrote made perfect sense.

  2. I think you should be manager. And official team MS Painter.

  3. One interesting thing you haven't covered - who would be your captain? I say Barry, you?

  4. I'd stick with Gerrard, changing it now would be crazy.

    Comrades! The above 'Ewarwoowar' who commented above is not me. How wonderfully confusing.

  5. I'm going to sound a bit boring, but I agree entirely with this. Quite frankly the media reaction to the USA game made me angry every time I picked a paper up. Granted, Rob Green dropped a bollock but he wasn't entirely to blame for us not winning that match, and I thought several papers went way over the top in their criticism. I was a bit more accepting of the hammering we got in the press after Algeria because the performance merited it. All this does is highlight the ridiculous levels of expectation heaped on the England team. I genuinely believe that, on form, we have as good a chance as anyone of winning the World Cup, but we must be considered outsiders really, and the public expectation never seems to reflect this.

    For what its worth, I agree with that team and expect Capello to go with a very similar line up. Gerrard was fantastic against the USA and surely his positioning for the goal is justification enough for playing him just behind Rooney. He plays there week in week out, so make use of him there.

    Do I think we will go through? Well it'd be typical of us to battle to an epic win tomorrow and then go out in the last 16 with a whimper at the weekend, but if we find our form we potentially have a good chance of getting to the semi-finals. I think we are lucky in that the players, deep down, really want to do well and I think that is what will make the difference between us going through as opposed to fading away. Either way, it will be one hell of a tense afternoon and I'm glad I booked it off work!