Three Lions on the verge of crashing out after predictable defeat.
One of the most annoying things about watching England, is that if you don’t support one of the ‘top six’ clubs of the Premier League, you finally get a chance to cheer for players that habitually tear open your team on a weekly basis only for them to let you down, time and again.
Forgetting that Roy Hodgson and co completely failed to deal with the opposition’s danger men (twice), the problems with the current side go far deeper.
Fans could be forgiven for getting their hopes up over this squad. There aren’t many bad picks, the majority of the players all had great seasons domestically, and the passing of the old guard to the bright young things that have the country’s future at their feet came as a most pleasant surprise. With expectations low, we were finally able to get excited about the squad we were taking to Brazil.
However, despite some exciting attacking intent in parts, it’s all still so predictable. It’s unfair to assume that things would be so different stylistically from two years ago, especially with Roy Hodgson in charge, that England would suddenly be thrust to the forefront of the world’s stage, but we do expect some kind of progression.
England were undone by their own game, the long ball. Route one. Call it what you will. But a weak back line wasn’t the side’s only problem, the problem was their movement. The problem is they have none. Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all great direct dribblers, but when facing a team intent on defending and shutting them out, they have no ideas. This happened against Italy once they had scored their second, and it happened for most of the game against Uruguay for the better part of the 90 minutes. Movement just isn’t in our nature, it’s not taught to youngsters and nurtured in them as they grow older. Having heat, passion, and good dribbling is simply not enough.
This is down to our attitude to football as a whole. We no longer play on the street, and the FA coaching manual is still 15 years behind that of the Dutch or the French, and a new crop of players won’t solve this if they’re all being taught the same way.
So what do we learn from all of this? It’s hard to tell. After the tournament is over England will lose Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, two players who have failed to deliver in an England shirt, but leaders for the rest of the squad to look up to nonetheless. How is a young team supposed to learn from someone, or look for guidance when they are only surrounded by their peers?
With a relatively comfortable European Championship qualifying campaign on the horizon there will be ample opportunity to hand more responsibility to the younger members of the squad, which is great, but that won’t help the side at the tournament proper when Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are your most experienced players. Your senior pros should have bags full of experience at the top of the table and in European club competition too, and though Cahill has that, he’s just simply not going to inspire anybody.
Wayne Rooney you say? The same Wayne Rooney that has been roundly criticised for not being the world class mega star everyone had built him up to be at Manchester United and England? Not likely either.
So, as England’s involvement in the latest tournament hangs by a thread, we can now ponder that there is in fact no change at all. It would be unreasonable to expect change overnight, the Spanish will tell you that, but what’s the use of building a centre of excellence like St George’s Park when it’s not going to be used properly?