Reason 327 as to Why England are Mince Right Now

via web reports, blogs and podcasts, the ire of the average england fan after the loss to spain is on full display.  it is aimed most commonly at steve mcclaren with the occasional shot at phil neville (hasn’t he suffered enough by being in the shadow of gary?) and the FA.  the complaint aimed is simple – why are we not getting world class results with world class players?

there are countless ways to answer this question – youth development, conditioning, tactical mistakes – all valid and all needing to be addressed, but i think there is one simpler issue that will make inroads to solving some bigger problems – intelligent team selection.

of all the continental habits that need to be taken up, this would be priority number one.  too often players are selected on reputation and club status, with less importance placed on performance and actual team needs.   this is the root of england’s ineffectiveness. 

underperforming stars are chosen before over-performing journeymen.  this breeds complacency and entitlement as well as choking the vibrancy from the team.  without honest competition for playing time, motivation to succeed starts to disappear.  maintaining a level of competition in the squad is the only way to improve performances.   injuries notwithstanding, there shouldn’t be a single position in the england squad that is not open to be taken by someone else.  yet under mcclaren just as under sven, there are particular players (lampard, ferdinand, cole, gerrard) essentially given complete immunity.

this player immunity, in addition to creating complacency, floods the team with certain skill sets, while starving it of others.  there are players that possibly have the skill that could improve the overall effectiveness of the team.  there are always constant shouts for giving young players there shot.  when played, their general inexperience often shines through.  the players who need to be given a shot are the older league playerswith lots of top flight experience.  perhaps they may not be the “future” of england, but in playing well currently, they are the “present.”  denny landzaat is a fine example.  not a world beater (as evidenced by his playing for wigan) but he served a purpose in van basten’s starting eleven.  he was a journeyman player in the dutch league and didn’t get his start for the dutch team until he was almost thirty, but he was effective.

if one looks around the english league, there are good players (dare i say…utility players) with the skills that the current star studded england team lack as a whole.  

i don’t claim to be a brilliant manager or tactician, but take for example gavin mccann and scott parker.  two overlooked players who are the current leading english tacklers.   their ball winning skills amongst english players are second to none this season.  relative to the amount of tackling, they have a low rate for conceding fouls (less or equal to twice the fouls conceded for twice the tackles made by lampard and gerrard). 

mccann and parker were given 1 and 3 caps, respectively, at the age of 23.  now at the age of 29 and 26, they have 6 and 4 years of top flight experience since they made their appearance.  experience, utility and performance…concepts that should play into national selection

the failure of the gerrard/lampard midfield stands testament to the need to adjust team selection to skills required.  if you are going to have a central midfield of two players, they cannot display the same skill set.  granted, you need both midfielders to be balanced –  creating options and not enabling your opposition to control the midfield by marking out a role/skill specific player, but every head chef needs a sous-chef.  a skilled midfielder can perform both roles, but favor one in particular.  

england needs a midfielder who can push forward when his partner is pinned back, but instinctively drops back the rest of the time. having to central midfielders who instinctively move forward is disastrous.

potentially in mccann and parker you have too players who can stifle opposition play in the midfield allowing for forward progress to be made for an attacking midfield partner.  whether they both possess the ability to go forward (parker has more potential in that respect) i don’t know.  problem is, neither does mcclaren, because, despite their potential, he doesn’t even pick them.

this is all without getting into my hero, joey barton, who was only given 16 minutes to prove his international worth.

this should not be taken as an attempt to demand that particular players be called on, but that the manner in which players are selected be changed.  currently, the same bunch are constantly picked, only to be replaced by inexperienced young players who end up taking huge dents to their confidence.  currently, good eligible players with lots of utility and top flight experience languish in the nether regions of international football, because they lack star power.  currently, that system isn’t working.


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