The dust has settled on another Quarter Final defeat. It has become a bloody bad habit.
I have heard so many why's and why not's about Englands demise on Sunday night, so I thought I would throw my opinion in the hat.
First of all Roy.
I ranted and raved about what a cataclysmic error it was to appoint him as manager. Well maybe some humble pie has to be taken.
In his role with the press,he has been nothing short of excellent. Something his predecessors, Venables excepted, seem to have had some problems with. If you get the press on your side, you have half a chance. Less pressure, less hassle, more belief in your priorities and ideals. Let the press in and treat them like humans is always a good move. So one up to Roy.
His man management, even in the face of the Ferdinand fiasco, has been very good. The players seem to have been a lot more at ease, allegedly no club cliques and the outward pouring of team comes first has been a shining light from the darkness that surrounded Capello's reign. And a great move taking the players to Auschwitz. Another notch to Roy.
Now the performances.
Roy has a good track record in England of making the most of apparent short comings in the squads he has had. Liverpool was the wrong place at the wrong time. He did well in Sweden with small resources and had a fairly decent time in Italy with Inter. But therein lies a common denominator.
Italian football at the time, together with Swedish football, had an awful name for defence first and hope to get some sort of positive out of it. Only Gothenburg tried to break the Swedish boring model. Surely we remember the awful football Malmo presented to the European Cup for a couple of seasons.Then we had Fulham and West Brom. Sides who where annual strugglers, but became very hard to beat and then claimed a few decent scalps along the way. So Roy, you have done a good job of making a silk purse from a sows ear.
But those tactics cannot be used at International level. Unless you are Greece.
The only time's that England looked like a side in this tournament, was for 15 minutes in the second half against Sweden and for the first 20 minutes against Italy. Strangely enough, for all of those 35 minutes, England played on the front foot and attacked the opposition.
The waffle about 4 4 2 or 4 4 1 1 does not bother me in the slightest. It is not a formation that wins games, it is players. And players taking account of what is going on and changing things during a game. Playing a deep lying 4 4 2 can be a great way of playing if you have pace and players with ability to hit sides on the counter attack.
We had Milner, a hard working premier league player, who is no David Beckham and does not have the ability to cross a ball or beat a man, often enough. He helped Glen Johnson though. Good defensive ploy. We had Young, who unfortunately didn't seem to be at the races, for all of his undoubted talent and Cole, who very rarely overlapped like he does for Chelsea, game in game out. Why ? Both seemed to have detail to keep it tight and show more respect to opposing wingers and full backs than doing what comes naturally to both of them. Tearing the opposition apart.
We had two stalwarts, though I still claim Parker was out of his depth, in the centre of the park. Gerrard got a lot of plaudits before the Italy game for his performances. He didn't exactly have a lot of players challenging for the accolade of Englands player of the tournament. Though he did have one, to whom I will refer later.
So where is the pace needed to make a deep lying 4 4 2 work ? On the bench, strangely enough.
That is why the formation didn't work. No pace, players not good enough to be flexible in positions and not having the ability to read the game and change it.
Which brings me to the debacle of Italy.
Italy are not a good side. They are, at best, an average side who took advantage of what was placed in front of them on Sunday. Be honest, have you ever seen an Italian national side have that many chances and efforts on goal like they did the other night ? Yes, they can dominate possession and pass you to death, but normally in front of sides and take longer looking for that final ball than Arsenal do looking for Van Persie. Even in the heady days of Rivera and Riva, Rossi and Tardelli, Baggio and Scillaci, they never took sides apart like they did with England. Which brings me onto the oh so fabulous and never to be forgotten Pirlo.
Right, my tongue is out of my cheek.
Pirlo had the run of the show. I do not deny that the man has ability and can pick out a great pass, but then again so could Carlton Palmer or John Jensen, given that amount of time and space. It didn't need a man marking job on him, it needed common sense and decent players. He should and could have been closed down, regularly. There is also an old adage in football that says it's not the killer ball that is the problem, it is the pass beforehand that causes the problem.
If you cut out the source, by harrying and chasing down, Pirlo doesn't get the ball. If he goes deep looking for the ball, then close him down. It is not rocket science, it is basic football. You mainly pass to the nearest man when you have possession, so the nearest man closes down when you don't. Barcelona harry teams when not in possession, no matter where the ball is on the field. It doesn't make them all great players, they do a job, so Messi and the like can cause you damage when they retrieve it.
So, sorry to upset all you new Pirlo fans, yes the man dictated the game on Sunday, but he was allowed too. And that is a cardinal sin in any football game. Learn from the flow of the game and change it. Remember, the manager is not on the pitch. He may dictate tactics and formations, but any player worth his salt will see problems and stop them, no matter what the tactics. That is what makes a winner. That is why Germany will not allow him the space to play and Italy will go home on Thursday. Because they are, like England, an average side. Who can take a slightly better penalty when the pressure is on.
So Roy... I don't hold your belief that there are positives until players can take control of the game. And it is installed in them that defending first is not the way to play the wonderful game.
However, I do agree that there are some good young players out there. Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Young, Wellbeck, Willshere and Hart. And Rooney isn't exactly an old timer, but I do have concerns about the defence. Not exactly kids are they, Johnson apart.
As for a challenge to Gerrard as our player of the tournament. It really hurts to say it, but other than one slip against Ukraine, John Terry had a great tournament. Defended stoutly throughout. Remember, it was England who was playing not a club side. And I would cheer them on whoever was playing. I may be critical, but will always support them.
So good luck for the next how many years Roy... shame that come Brazil, we will be expecting very little again. If we qualify.
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