Since I last wrote I have had the misfortune to sit through two pathetic performances from the teams that mean so much to me-one being live, Leicester City Vs Watford and the other, thankfully, on television-England Vs Germany. Yes, for those that remember me saying my allegiance lay with Northern Ireland, I was being fickle, I am English and will always follow England. For my views on the Leicester game, see my match report at http://www.watford.vitalfootball/matchrep.asp?a=80322 This week however, I am going to deliver my verdict on the England game last week and pinpoint the reasons why England were defeated.
The key to being the manager of a successful team is to pick the right team for the occasion, picking round pegs in round holes to use the common phrasing. This is something that McClaren promised when he first took the job. Since then he has failed spectacularly in this department as he continues to play players out of position. One of the best examples from the Germany game was Gareth Barry. Last season the Villa skipper was superb on the left-hand side of midfield. Did he get a call-up? Eventually. This season he is rightfully included in McClaren`s first squad of the season. He starts on the bench, second in the pecking order to Joe Cole who had at that time made just two appearances. Why? A question only McClaren can answer.
Another superb example is Shaun Wright Phillips. Although he figured more last season he was still not as his best, he is however a good player and is certainly heading back to becoming a regular fixture for England. Why though, in a meaningless friendly is he played on the left? Why, in a meaningless friendly is David Beckham played ahead of him?
So, moving on, the substitutions were terrible. But continuing on the personnel theme, why were David Beckham and Peter Crouch included in the squad for the game? Beckham has had no pre-season having left Real Madrid with and injury. When he arrives in L.A his ankle is in worse condition and he still manages to make two appearances plus one as a sub. Is this the way to treat somebody who is unfit to play? Certainly not. Consequently he is not in the right condition to play for England but because of his market, McClaren`s desperation and Beckham`s desire to reach his 100th cap, he plays-badly. In my mind at least it would have made sense to play Shaun Wright-Phillips from the start and on the right of midfield-his position!
Peter Crouch now. No disrespect, I think the man is a great footballer, ok, so he will never be Pele, he will never be in the same bracket of players, but, he is good finisher, will mix things up and always a great option. Sadly on a club basis, Steve McClaren isn`t always willing to give the big man his chance. However, on this occasion he does get his chance in the squad, in a game which is scheduled to prepare the players likely to face Israel. So, when Peter Crouch is suspended against the Israeli`s, is he in the squad, taking the place of someone who could play instead and get their chance to shine, say Dave Nugent?
Personnel? Check. Tactics. Now, if it is obvious to me, someone with no coaching/tactical experience, other than Football Manager, then it should be blatantly obvious to some badge covered, clued up coach like McClaren. Evidently it isn`t though. Let me let you in on a secret Steve, 'it`s the midfield`. I`ve covered the problems out wide, but the centre really needs sorting. It`s my principle belief that the centre of midfield is the pivot in any great side-not England. We have an embarrassment of riches in the centre yet the perfect combination, playing well together is yet to be found. McClaren had the right principle against the Germans with Carrick holding midfield and Lampard attacking. And, for the first twenty minutes it looked to be working. However, something knocked the midfield off balance-that I can`t identify, but after that they were never the same. With Beckham and Joe Cole playing so ineffectively, more onus than ever was put on Frank Lampard. Instead of coming out and proving his worth by playing well and getting the service to the forwards he played almost as a holding midfielder. Look at the tapes of the game on 'Youtube` or whatever; you will see 99% of the time Lampard and Carrick within 10 yards of one another, both lying very deep.
This was not an isolated example of a compact midfield as to be entirely honest the entire midfield looked like they were confined to a very small space. With Carrick and Lampard so deep the Germans had much of the pitch with which to work and bring the ball forward, virtually unchallenged. The winner from Pander (great goal, shame we never take a chance and have a pop) was a direct consequence of England pushing Germany out. With this idea in mind it isn`t hard to believe Pander was left back.
Personnel? Check. Tactics? Check. Player bashing now…
Paul Robinson-A lot has been written, said and speculated since his blunder for the first goal. In his defence, no-one including Bernd Schneider expected the ball to go where it did, but surely it is a basic rule of goalkeeping to cover your near post in a situation like that? I think Robinson needs a break or a boot up the proverbial, depending on which way you look at it. It`s time to give Carson/James/Kirkland/Foster (when fit) a chance, they have afterall earnt it.
David Beckham-The nation`s golden boy. I supported his dropping and I supported his recall. On both occasions it was deserved. However, with injury, lack of fitness and lack of pitch time, he shouldn`t have played. That was evident in his performance. And, if he is going to play like that after a transatlantic flight, his England career is over for my money.
Joe Cole-Far too greedy. With a lack of games this season, it`s a wonder he was picked. I would rather see a selfless young man like Gareth Barry get the left midfield berth.
Kieron Dyer-Although it isn`t his fault, why was he picked?! He has scarcely played for the Toon of late and certainly not warranted an England call up. He is past it for my money, the pace might be there in patches, but he doesn`t utilise it. He needs a few consistent games for the Hammers before he warrants another call up. And, as I write this, right on cue Mr Dyer leaves the field on a stretcher in the Carling Cup!
Hopefully things will pick up against Israel and Russia, it is of course worth noting the amount of injuries McClaren had to deal with, but then, on the flip side Jochium Loew had just as many.
Finally, I would like to pass my condolences to the families, friends and teammates of Ray Jones and Puerta, two fit and healthy young men, both of whom dying in tragic circumstances. I also wish Clive Clarke all the best after his collapse versus Forest. It puts our woes in perspective when lives are at danger. Efficiency
Keep the faith,