There has been a lot written about the state of English football. We know that England have failed to play with any type of attacking verve in the last 3 major tournaments. It’s a shame really. Amongst other factors, its no surprise when you know that only 36% of the players in the premier league are English. The next graphic shows the origins of players in the Premier League as of the start of the 2013/14 season. The 36% value drops drastically if you take only the starting 11 players into account.
Due to poor coaching and organization, England have wasted the talents of their golden generation. Beckham, Scholes, Lampard, Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and many more should all have done better on the international stage. What they needed was a coach with some sense of adventure and dynamism. For a while it seemed like they had it with Sven Goran Ericsson but the Swede couldn’t quite pull it together. People will say that English football doesn’t have an identity, but it really does. Look at the way Manchester United typically play. Ignoring the gaping hole in United’s centre midfield, United play a swashbuckling attacking game that is reliant on sensational wing play and two intelligent attacking players. All the players are comfortable on the ball and capable of playing with a grit and tenacity when required.
It is possible to play with attacking flair that is particularly English. A style that involves passing ability and superior athletic ability. In order to bring it all together the country needs the right mix of talent and management. I’m not going to discuss the changes to the academy structure or special programs that the FA need to implement. All I’m saying is that England can compete here and now with a few simple changes.
The first is right at the top. Roy Hodgson is as nice as they come but he’s unimaginative and unwilling to take risks. English fans will tolerate a loss now and then if they see that their team entertains. This is why the FA missed a great chance to advance English football when they did not offer the job to Harry Redknapp.
Harry’s teams have never been boring to watch. He’s always been an advocate of beautiful football and as we saw him do with Tottenham, he proved that he can take average players to the crunch stages of European football.
Harry has also helped develop the careers of some of England’s best technical players over the last decade. Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and ball playing defender Rio Ferdinand to name a few. If technique is what England crave there’s no better manager at developing and exhibiting that in England than Harry. As a leading light in the domestic game, Harry would command the respect of the entire dressing room. He allows his players to express themselves and never parks the bus. Most importantly he’d get the best out of Wayne Rooney. The last two managers have played Rooney as a lone striker. At United he did this well because frankly he trains with those guys everyday, there’s a better understanding. For England, Rooney is better in a withdrawn role where he can influence the game with his tenacity and passing range. Internationally Rooney is starved of the ball and is left looking lost. Harry seems to understand that he needs to play behind a striker (my pick is Daniel Sturridge) where he can fully express himself. Harry also loves himself a deep lying play maker and in Jack Wilshere England have a true gem.
We all know that player development in England is way behind Spain, France, Germany and Holland. That’s going to be the case until the FA gets its act together. There are a few players however who look like they could become fantastic players for England and could challenge for a World Cup spot and future England stars if they are developed in the right way. Tom Ince, Wilfrid Zaha, Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Phil Jones are the most obvious names right now. If given enough first team play they could prove to be world beaters.
Here’s my England team to cause a stir at the 2014 Brazil World Cup (if England make it)
This line up gives England a solid midfield base with Wilshere and Carrick both protecting the defense. Wilshere has tenacity, close passing and dynamism. Carrick’s ability to intercept and distribute will protect the defense and begin attacks. Walcott’s blistering pace and Zaha’s trickery will cause full backs nightmares and open up space for Rooney while Sturridge focuses on being a goal threat himself.
God save the Queen I guess.