A few thoughts on England

So much for all that. Expectations may have been lowered, but we did expect more than that.

My view is that we’ve mainly seen the usual randomness inherent in football in action. There seem to be 4-5 good teams, 4-5 bad ones, and everyone else is largely in the lap of the gods. We do like to shape our narrative based on endings, but if you’d been shown both England games with the goal incidents removed I’m not sure you’d have been desperately angry overall.

This misses the point, of course: England did concede four goals, and did so in a very soft manner. We Fulham fans are experts in spotting soft underbellies, and here is was for all to see: lack of pressure around the D; players in wide areas given lots of time; forwards peeling off to the back post; calamitous mistakes. Everything England did, Fulham had done many times this season.

This said, if we started from scratch and played the games again I’m not at all convinced England would lose both. You can’t judge anything in two games between evenly matched teams, not really.

But it did highlight flaws in our thinking and our current approach to player development. What English talent that does break through all seems to be the rampaging bulldog kind: Wilshire, Rooney, Barkley, Shaw. All terrific athletes who don’t half give it something. Less obvious are the thinkers, the glue players who make their teammates look better.

In this sense, England’s back four and shield was an embarrassment. Glen Johnson has his moments as a forward but his form in the World Cup was basically awful. Jagielka and Cahill both seem like junior partners to a better centre-back we don’t have. Leighton Baines has that lovely left foot, but Ashley Cole shuts down his flank.

Gerrard and Henderson feels like 2/3 of a good idea, but as others have mentioned, probably needed an extra man to work effectively. We don’t have that extra man.

Further forward we looked alright, I thought. Rooney was shackled by opponents for obvious reasons and generally did his bit. He’s not the star we had perhaps dreamed he might become, but he is very, very good, and in that sense Wayne Rooney is the least of England’s worries. Sturridge is a fabulous player who needed more help. Sterling impressed me. I don’t mind Danny Welbeck, although perhaps Adam Lallana might have brought a little more guile.

So there we are. Hodgson’s heroes were not to be. They came, they saw, they went home early.

8 thoughts on “A few thoughts on England

  1. You’re right, it was remarkably like watching Fulham 2013-14. And the kind of player missing was a lot like Danny Murphy, or of course Paul Scholes — who was in England teams which did that bit better at World Cups. If Hodgson had pale imitations to pick from even, he’d have done so.

    Your silence is eloquent/audible on the guy who killed England’s faint hopes about 20 hours later.

    I dunno. There he was a candidate for MOM, classy as anything and doing his share of pressing too. Could this be the same guy I finally gave up on after 120 minutes playing behind the (in theory) striker at mighty Burton Albion, visibly trying, but constantly dispossessed and making no impression? One had `Bryan’ on his back and the other, `Ruiz, B.’ so maybe that’s it. Other more logical reasons come to mind but it’s all academic now.

    In the pantheon of expensive disappointments, Marlet and AJ were nevertheless prem-suited players. Mitroglou’s virtues are unguessable at the time of writing. Bryan occupies a niche all of his own. However, yours was a post about England, so I digress.

    1. Whoscored had him as a close second to Berbatov a season ago as our best player. Last year Mark Maunders said he had tried to play through a bad back and struggled. Like every other Fulham player.

      Ruiz tried to pass forwards into good areas and sometimes it didn’t work. He could dilly dally. He lost the ball about once a game more than others iirc, which is 38 counterattacks for our opponents over a season so not nothing.

      If he looked a bit aimless in defence I suggest this was a coaching issue: Costa Rica seem to defend well as a team and as noted the other day, he is their captain, so clearly the manager doesn’t feel he is counterproductive or – that stupid phrase – a luxury in a hard working team.

      He is a really good player.

      We can either embrace that or try to make money on him. Either is fine, if disappointing. It feels like Fulham wastes his talents.

      1. Talents never denied by the majority I think (just the small minority obsessed by hairstyle and so on), and — as the WC confirms — slow neither of body or mind when there are options on offensively and a schema to fit into when out of possession.

        He is too good for the Championship, so it has to be cash-in. And hope that the hour we saw from Chris David, *the* highlight of last season (much as I rate Woodrow and share the excitement about Roberts) — hope that was a glimpse of what’s to come. If so, there is creative life after Murphy, Ruiz, Diarra, and we can wish best of luck to Bryan as paths diverge.

  2. But don’t we need players who are “too good” for the Championship in order to not be there for too long.

    Hope Ruiz B stays, but can’t see it. One year left to run and he won’t want to agree an extension.

    1. Your second para is effectively what I meant. The first para’s true too, but realistic targets won’t have that reputation (it will need to emerge), or else a prem club would want them and they’d want prem wages. Which is another way of saying iit was *so* much easier to stay in the prem than it will be to bounce back.

  3. People need to get over Baines/Cole. Cole hasn’t been a top player for three years, Baines was one of the best left backs in the Premier League (pretty close between him, Evra and Clichy) and definitely the best English left back (though Shaw might surpass him fairly soon). 33-year-old Ashley Cole had no more business playing at the 2014 World Cup than 33-year-old Scott Parker.

    1. Really disagree here. Evra – who wasn’tbas good as Cole to begon with – has fallen further and Clichy can’t shut down a flank like Cole can.

      Baines sets up an awful lot of goals but has been defensively iffy. He had an awful tpurnamemt so it is naturap to wonder about the player overlooked.

      1. Cole just doesn’t shut down his side like he used to, though. You seem to like the stats on whoscored.com; look at what they have to say about Cole over the last three years. Baines makes just as much impact defensively (very similar numbers in tackles, interceptions, clearances) and on top of that is excellent going forward.

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