A radical proposition…

It’s rapidly becoming an article of faith in the English press — and I use that advisedly because most of the papers in the UK are English, the fine examples of the Scotsman and the Daily Herald notwithstanding — that Sven Goran Eriksson was a wasted experiment.

The case against is that once he had stabilized the qualification effort for Japan / Korea 2002, it was a series of poor decisions, bad coaching, and iffy results derived from strange tactical decisions and a propensity to try and defend 1 – 0 leads. All true.

However, here’s a radical proposition: what if in fact that was the best set of results that was going to happen? Consider the following:

— The English press has routinely pointed out that on the ground, the England players are not known as tactical geniuses; when things go wrong, there’s a real tendency to go for the long ball

— The English midfield is stacked, but they can be much of a muchness

— Lampard (when in form) and Gerrard are too similar in style, for instance, and they are weak on the left as a team, A. Cole notwithstanding.

— The English defense is not bad but again prone to fits of inconsistency, especially Rio Ferdinand, and they are not effective at ball distribution on the counter-attack, even when there’s someone with pace or the ability to string a pass together.

— Beckham’s crossing ability has become less pertinent as he has slowed down; the trouble that Aaron Lennon caused when in for Beckham showed the extent to which pace for position really makes a difference.

But all of these are small-scale issues: English players tend to be fast but tactically naive, and have one approach (attack) at one speed (fast). The England team tends to be troubled by teams who play a short-passing game and mark the English close. I think back to Scotland beating England in the last game played at Wembley and even though it was almost a different generation of players, it’s instructive: Scotland were not more gifted athletes, but for once they played the game their way and it worked.

So that begs the question: could anyone else have done it better? I am not so sure. And apparently I’m not the only one, as this very blunt article from the Daily Telegraph demonstrates.

And in turn that makes me wonder: would Scolari have been a good fit? His Portuguese team may have been cynical and a bit boring in hanging on for tight wins, but they had good ball skills and the ability to play into space — could Scolari really have worked with English players? Aside from his willingness to leave out stars who are out of form, I am not at all sure.

I remain convinced that Hiddink would have been a better match to the English team’s temperament for that reason.

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6 Responses

  1. Absolutely convinced Scholari would not have been a good choice… after watching the France and England games, I’m really not impressed with him. Agree about Hiddink. We need somebody who’d have the bollocks to drop the likes of Beckham when they’re failing to perform, and who’ll play to England’s strengths. Eriksson wasn’t that man, but neither is Scholari, I don’t think.

  2. Oh, but completely disagree that eriksson was the best that could have happened. I could have done a better job than that bodger did.

  3. Kaimac: Actually that’s identified the potential flaw in the argument — I meant to write “the best set of results” but even having changed it: if I am proposing that Hiddink could do better, then I am inherently saying that Eriksson can’t have produced the best set of results possible. Damn.

    And I am quite certain that you could have done a better job. I suspect that if I were to teach my four-year-old how to draw a 4-4-2 formation, she could have had at least as much success as Eriksson.

  4. Interesting angle, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. Sven was just awful tactically and always has been.

    England could have done so much better if they had played a 4-4-2 and used either Stevie G or Lampard with a holding midfielder (Carrick), rather than both without one, or playing 4-5-1 which completely minimizes the effect of your best player (Rooneh).

    People are talking about how Theo Walcott must feel, since he didn’t even see the field, not even in a meaningless match against Sweden when Owen was injured and Rooney was subbed for a midfielder. But I’m more interested in how Jermain Defore must feel…

    Sven is a tactical dolt, and I pity whatever team hires him next.

  5. Jermain Defoe must not know whether to laugh or to cry.

    I hear Juventus has an opening. I think Sven might be suited to Serie C. Perhaps the Italian magistrate could mandate his hiring, just for spite.

  6. Agreed.

    As far as Juve getting relegated, I’ll believe it when I see it – too much power methinks, and millions fo Euros of TV contracts and other marketing & sponsorshipcontracts that would all have to be totally reworked.

    My prediction is that they will be stripped of the 2 scudettos but not relegated, and also banned from CL for a year or two, and that’s it. A glorified slap on the wrist. Milan and the others will just get the CL ban.

    I’ll be like Rooneh – “gobsmacked” if Juve actually get sent down to Serie B, let alone Serie C.

    I’m not saying it’s right, because it isn’t. But it’s seems like the current perception is a bit naive -like assuming John Gotti will be found guilty just because he is on trial (at least the fiirst 5 times, that is).

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