Well that was an enjoyable international break, wasn’t it? A pointless friendly defeat in Germany and gaining 3 points against a team who aren’t even in the top 100 of the world rankings.
I suppose one good thing came out of the international break, at least West Ham didn’t lose. Small mercies and all that.
So what have we actually learnt from these 2 England games? Not much I’m afraid. Qualification to the World Cup in Russia is almost a certainty. Personally, I think this is a good thing, as I cannot stand a World Cup without England. At least for the 3 group games, there is some sort of interest. I also like Gareth Southgate as a manager, he seems very honest and passionate about the cause and at the moment a player’s reputation doesn’t mean an automatic place in the starting eleven.
Fast forward 15 months to the World Cup in Russia, we all know what to expect. Firstly we would have all endured 6 months of so called football experts dissecting the teams in our group, you can hear them now ‘this team will be tough to beat and they are probably our toughest match’, ‘this team will be no walk over but England will be disappointed if they don’t come away with 3 points’ etc.
Then we will have the next stage of dissection – ‘Oh England have been drawn in a group which means they will be doing a lot of travelling, not ideal for Gareth Southgate’s preparation’, ‘this city is notorious for its hooliganism, a fact which will not please the FA’.
As the World Cup approaches, we will then get to the fantasy football manager stage – Who will the manager pick for his squad? Will this player recover from injury in time? Who will be at the top of the stairs for the photo outside the plane as it leaves for Russia?
Stage 3 is the ‘Let’s take a look at where the players will be staying and who will be rooming with who?’ Can’t wait!!
The next stage is normally the ‘with 5 days until England kick off their World Cup campaign, the fans have started to arrive and are all behaving themselves’, followed by ‘with only 3 days to go, the first hint of trouble has occurred but England supports were innocent bystanders.’
After the threat that England will be kicked out of the tournament if their supports are involved in any more trouble, the football will begin. England will scrap a 1-0 win against the Cook Islands (everyone will then believe we are going to win the World Cup), they will then draw their next game against Australia (this is when we are told there are no easy games in international football) and finally England will need at least a draw to qualify for the last 16. By the time the schedule reaches the Quarter Finals, the England squad will be sunning themselves in the Caribbean pretending that it really hurts to go out in the 2nd round and they truly believed this was their tournament.
Of course, there will be the after tournament inquest where the FA will tell us that things need to change and we have a talented young squad who will be ready for the Euros in 2020.
My point is this, nothing fundamentally has changed or will change from the embarrassment of losing to Iceland to the World Cup next year. Nothing ever will unless we change our philosophy in this country.
Why are we so obsessed with what formation we are going to play? Are the Germans, Spanish, French, Brazilians or Argentinians this obsessed? No, they are not. They play the same formation game in, game out. They play the same system from the youth level all the way through to senior level. By the time their youngsters make their international debut, they know exactly how they should be playing and what they have to do. There may be a small tweak here and there but nothing as drastic as what we do. Until we establish a system that is played through all levels we cannot expect to compete with the big countries.
When you watch the top teams in international football play, all of their players are comfortable on the ball and know even before they have received a pass, what they are going to do with the ball once they have it. How many England players can you think of that have that ability and composure?
Another point, is why are we so preoccupied with the other teams in our group? I’m not that naïve to know that you have to be tactically aware but it always seems to me that we have lost before a ball is kicked. This was for all to see when Greg Dyke mimicked slashing his throat just after the draw had been made for the last World Cup – thanks for the vote of confidence Greg! I’m sure the other countries don’t get as fixated as we do with who is in their group.
My point is this, unless the FA and those who run the game in England actually take the action they say they are going to take every time we get knocked out of a tournament, then we are never going to get even close to a Semi-Final, let alone win a trophy. Changing a manager is a start but the problem with English football goes much deeper than that. For all I can see nothing much has changed we froze against Iceland.