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Easy? Not For England

This article takes a look at the popular reasons given for England’s consistent failure on the International scene and examines if these reasons are at all accurate, aswell as detailing what steps should be taken in future. Firstly let’s start with the short-term issues and what may have gone wrong in South Africa (apart from the obvious, playing Heskey!).

433 Lions?

Unquestionably England’s core is made up of highly talented individuals that have each been key to numerous Premiership titles and strong Champions League campaigns. Given these facts in my mind there’s no significant obstacle behind why they can’t perform at International level if they are set-up within a formation and mentality that compliments their best attributes.

I’m a big believer in the 433 formation as opposed to a 442, so let’s draw up a list of reasons, for and against, why England might consider switching to a 433:
FOR
  • England’s 1st choice defence all play 433 at club level and know it inside-out
  • England’s 3 best attacking players Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard have excelled while playing within a 433 at club level as opposed to 442
  • 433 would allow an extra man in midfield thus better passing and more options when in possession leading to a potential for more pronounced and precise build-up play and less kick and rush long ball!
  • 433 allows Gerrard and Lampard to both operate centrally, while giving them licence to attack with a defensive minded midfielder shielding behind
  • Less pressure and reliance on Rooney for goals as the wingers, aswell as Gerrard and Lampard would be encouraged to get in scoring positions more frequently to support the sole focal point in attack
  • Would then mean no place for an underperforming Crouch, just Rooney
  • <Gives the wingers free rein to stay high up, allowing them to pressurise the defence when not in possession, cutting off their time and space to play from the back and makes best use of the speed of the wingers at England's disposal
  • AGAINST

    • Would take some adapting so may mean more short term pain at the expense of long term gain
    • Capello may be completely out of his favoured 442 comfort zone using it

    I’ve had this thought about the need to change to 433 for awhile now and I was going to post this right after the USA match. Unfortunately since then ITV, BBC and others have stolen my thunder alittle by hopping on the now overcrowded 433 bandwagon after the Algeria game. Oh well, I think we can bring some new points to the table none the less.

    As I stated within the bullet points above 7 of England’s starting 11 have excelled using 433 at club level, surely this statistic alone means it’s a no-brainer as it seems completely logical to me that it is the formation we should be using. Otherwise you are completely compromising the player’s abilities and roles performed at club level by picking them based on club form but then asking them to perform within a differing formation and role for England. It’s counter-productive, surely you build the team/tactics around the key players, it would be like going to Zidane yeah I’m aware you are a great attacking midfielder but you are playing right midfield for France as we’ve got Petit and Deschamps to play central so you will have to play right midfield OK?

    Or declaring to Gerrard and Lampard I know you are 2 of the World’s best goal scoring attacking midfielders within a 433 but can you sort of completely go against everything that makes you good and instead play left and centre midfield just as the equally talented Scholes had to endure and instead mess about meandering in the centre of the park not really showing any clear intent to attack and completely compromising and stifling both your attacking abilities that are so evident at club level.

    In-fact on Scholes, that is the crux of the problem right there, we have one of the best technical midfielders in the World, one of the few players that could rival Xavi and Iniesta yet England instead of building the team around such a player as Spain and others would have done we ask him to play left midfield and force his hand in retiring way before his time. An absolute tragedy.

    433
    Within a 433 Gerrard could adopt the more reserved centre midfield role as he did so successfully while Liverpool played under Houllier. From this position in a deep playmaker role, Gerrard is afforded more time and space to dictate the play and scour the possibilities, making best use of his long passing and still affording him the chance to shoot from range. Gerrard playing as a deep playmaker would leave Lampard free to replicate his Chelsea responsibilities making forays in and around the opposition box. Obviously I’m no Capello but the fact we aren’t playing our players in their best positions is unforgivable in my mind, I do not care how good Capello’s club record is, he’s clearly got it wrong in my book and for all the money he is paid for his supposed expertise, the performances in South Africa were unforgivable.

    Adopting 443 would also encourage a fluid passing game with the extra man in midfield which England have been sorely lacking for years. If you think of the best performing clubs/International teams of the last 3-4 years what’s the dominant tactic? The answer is a variation of 433, surely that fact alone tells you something, 422 is outdated, yesterday’s news, 433 is the tactic of choice for the elite.

    Is it not about time England broke free from the stereotypical rigid 44 f*cking 2 where everyone has to toe the line, conforming and compromising for the good of the team? Where’s the room for self expression, creativity and invention that are so pivotal to success?

    We have to adapt and be open to change especially now when the norm isn’t working, yet England in particular seem more hesitant to do this than most. As a consequence England are World football’s underachievers, and have been ever since the 1950’s at least.

    England Are The Best In The World At Something…Failing

    Midway through the World Cup Beckenbauer came out and said France are 2010’s underachievers (after drawing to Uruguay and losing to Mexico) well that was before he had time to fully assess the inept England showing, as they hadn’t played their three group games at the time. Uruguay and Mexico are far better teams than those in England’s group and despite the problems within the French squad they can at least take comfort from the fact they were good just a few years ago having won World Cup 98, Euro 2000 and finished finalists in World Cup 2006.

    In comparison what have England got to show for themselves throughout their whole history? With the exception of World Cup Italia 90, the only time England have given a tournament showing of any note has been courtesy of home advantage, the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96.

    This is the pivotal stat right here, England (Currently ranked 8th in the World) have won just two of their last 19 matches against teams in the current top 9 of FIFA’s World Rankings. How can we expect to compete in major tournaments with a record like that? Despite the fact we have a handful of quality individuals we aren’t as good a team as Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Holland, Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, and maybe even Russia, Croatia, Ivory Coast, Ghana etc.

    The only major national team that are comparable to England in-terms of chronic underachievement is Holland. Who have won the 1988 Euros, finished World Cup runner-up in 74 and 78 (while giving Cruyff and the radical tactical framework of Total football to the World) and more recently World Cup 2010 runners-up. In-fact Cruyff and the total football philosophy have played a big part in Barcelona and Spain’s recent success.

    Obviously the media and fans do not help England’s cause to succeed by proclaiming we will win the cup every 2 years, and talking the players up despite the fact they have never translated their club form with any regularity to England. The public pressure on Rooney right now especially is immense as it is literally all about him, he and everyone else knows no-one else will score regularly so he HAS to. I think it really got to him as shown by Rooney’s complete lack of control and awareness v The USA but even more so v Algeria where it was as if a hypnotist had convinced him he wasn’t Wayne Rooney but actually Emile Heskey’s less skillful brother.  I would go as far as to say Rooney was the worst England player v Algeria and that’s quite an accolade as he had alot of competition for that award! It was the worst performance I’ve ever seen from him right at the point where we needed him most, although I don’t completely blame him as I would feel dejected playing alongside Heskey.

    Frequent Reasons Given Why England Fail

    Since England’s World Cup 2010 failure pundits, “experts” and fans have all had their say on what they think is wrong with the current team and the reasons for past failures:

    Wolly With The Brolly?



    Reason 1: Bad managers
    I would state you can rule out the managers as the underlying problem. England have had exceptional managers of varying characters and philosophies who have excelled in club management so logic dictates they can’t be the reoccurring theme.

    Reason 2: The players aren’t good enough
    What????!!!!  With the exception of Spain’s squad this is way off the mark. The England team has also be blessed with undoubted World class individual players at club/Champions League level so lack of talent is not the main issue. As these players have been as good as their counterparts for their clubs. Ashley Cole, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and maybe Terry would all get a look-in if you were compiling a World elite squad. So there’s the nucleus of an excellent team there without question.

    Reason 3: Too Many Foreigners in The Premiership Disrupting Youth
    I don’t buy this theory because the way I  view it is if the players are good enough they will get in the first team,  simple as that.  Also, surely the foreign players will help improve England’s players by giving them first-hand experience of their style and differing skills and methods. Before the influx of foreign players and the creation of The Premiership England were just as bad then so that would conclude foreign players aren’t the overriding factor. Also, youngsters get sent out on loan when in their late teens meaning their development does not really suffer.

    Reason 4: Coaching
    This is one area I would agree is a significant problem, as it’s very apparent England’s players are not as composed and inventive in general when in possession compared to the other major International teams. Also there is too much focus on strength, pace and height and not technique.


    Reason 5: Penalties
    Admittedly England do have a very poor penalty shoot-out record in major tournaments which has meant they have been knocked out perhaps prematurely, but equally so do other nations Italy and Holland to name two.

    Reason 6: No Winter Break
    This is definitely a factor in my mind as witnessed by all the Premiership’s stars failing to perform at the World Cup, evidently tired and not up to their usual standards. I see no reason why the Carling Cup could not be scraped (as it’s predominately a competition for reserves and youngsters anyway and pretty much just the FA Cup repackaged) and the Premiership fixtures re-ordered to make space for a winter break.

    Reason 7: Too Much Fan & Media Pressure
    Do you not think the Brazilian, Argentinian, Dutch, Italian, French, German and Spanish press and fans are just as optimistic and expectant as the British press? Well they are and their players just accept it as part and parcel of the game and get on with it. Besides the same pressure is apparent at club level with the fans expecting teams and players to perform in the big domestic and European games every week so it’s nothing new. The other major football nations face the same pressures and they seem to cope better than us, I believe the English players just have the wrong mentality.

    England Players Behaving Badly

    There is a lack of professionalism from a core set of the current England players with binge drinking, late nights and sleeping around the regular offences splashed across the tabloids. It’s not hard to imagine this lack of professionalism then leaks into their football and a lack of team structure and ethic within the manager’s tactical framework.

    Obviously I’m generalizing hugely but foreign players tend to steer clear of excessive drinking and getting caught out by the paparazzi are on the whole less rebellious (well for the exception of the World Cup 2010 France squad).  Comparatively they tend to be more reserved, respecting and adhering to the tactical instructions of footballing authority. They see their job as a footballer exactly that a job that deserves 100% commitment and focus. England’s immature attitude has been evident right from Beckham and Rooney”s World Cup red cards for descent right at the precise moments we needed them most.

    It’s continued more recently in South Africa with England’s players complaining of being bored, we’ll have a jolly lads holiday and play abit of football when we’re not by the pool, err guys it’s not a lad’s holiday, you’re there doing a job trying to win a World Cup! Being restricted to a 5 star hotel and all the trimmings for 2/3 weeks is a hugely testing sacrifice that has to be made unfortunately.  Terry complaining to the press about Capello’s methods also shows a complete lack of respect for authority and a lack of willingness to follow the manager’s decisions. All this disagreement then translates to a fragmented team on the pitch.

    Previously the player’s WAGS were allowed to join the England camp at tournaments, again this shows the wrong mentality, why were they ever allowed? This complete lack of focus and concentration on the prize is absurd, it’s as if the players want as many distractions as possible in-order to sabotage their own performance.
    Here’s Capello’s opinion on the effect of the British drinking culture on players: http://www.sportinglife.com/football/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=soccer/10/11/13/SOCCER_England_Capello.html

    Problems & Solutions

    One of the underlying reasons I would give for England’s constant failings would be the quality and quantity of youth coaching.
    Firstly England has less qualified coaches than the other major football nations, secondly our youth spend less time training, and thirdly the coaching relies too heavily on strength, pace, focusing too heavily on winning and kick and rush football as opposed to developing player’s natural skill, technique and self improvement. This win at all costs and hoof the ball philosophy does not allow composed technical creative footballers to develop especially the smaller ones that are the stars of other nations like Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Aimar, Saviola.

    Also adding to the problem is England’s high pressing game (a staple of The Premiership and England team) is not workable in the hot summer temperatures of World Cups and European Championships., or when up against the possession based game of the Europeans and South Americans. On this note apparently when Beckham arrived at Real Madrid the other players nicknamed him Forest Gump as they were puzzled as to why he was running about the pitch everywhere and tiring himself out, they suggested there is no reason to run around like that instead just conserve his energy and occupy a solid defensive position.

    Equally there is an inferiority complex which runs right through youth, senior players and coaching staff as English clubs turn to foreigners time after time instead of nurturing and producing English playing and coaching talent. We are now seeing the consequences of that, with a unperforming national team, no adequate English manager to take over the England team and foreign players dominating the top youth and 1st teams across the Premiership.

    Solutions:

    Trevor Brooking offers possible solutions: http://www.sportinglife.com/football/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=soccer/10/07/04/SOCCER_England_Brooking.html&TEAMHD=soccer
    Chief Executive of the F.A. Premier League Richard Scudamore describes the new youth setup proposed to keep in-line with the youth training in Spain, Holland and Germany: http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11095_6293560,00.html

    England gave football to the World in the late 1800s and now the World play it better than we do. Right from the beginnings of the game England favoured a physical, long passes thoughtless approach, instead of short passing, retaining possession, subtlety, innovation and technique. This primitive close mindedness meant while the rest of the World excelled with their differing approaches England got left behind the times. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like we’re suffering from the same issues now nearly 100 years later!
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    Barcelona are the envy of the footballing World, their brand of high line defence, relentless pressing and audacious attacking is unrivalled, the most beauteous spectacle of the beautiful game. Couple that with a World Class first team nucleus born and bred from their highly acclaimed youth academy that is also unparalleled and I would argue they are undisputably the best club in the World.

    The club’s structure off the pitch also manages to emulate and sustain the superior standards set on it. They are light-years ahead of the competition with regards to their whole club infrastructure, one that many English Premiership teams could benefit immensely in replicating. Barcelona have a Worldwide membership scheme (one of the largest in the World of its kind) where millions of fans are registered members and with that status receive unique benefits.  They are actively seen as a core component in deciding the club’s direction, members are not ony free to express their opinion on club matters, with the club happy to offer various outlets as sounding boards but they actually listen and response to feedback which then effects decisions at the top level of the club.  Presidential elections are held every four years for presidency of the club and the members are allocated a vote for who they think is the ideal candidate.  All this means the club is unlike those in England and the rest of Europe in the fact it can never be sold to an outside party or foreign billionaire sugar daddy and if the fans don’t like the guy in-charge they can choose to exhibit their power and elect a new president every four years and vote on a change of directors every two years, leading to very much a democratic form.

    Some might argue that that’s all great but football is like any other business, it’s about making money, well Barca are also one of the richest clubs in the World. To compound matters further they do all this without ever receiving any money from shirt sponsorship, in-fact they currently choose to do the exact opposite and instead pay the charity UNICEF to sponsor them!  Can they do no wrong?

    Barcelona’s structure differs from Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid etc. Who may have success backed by mammoth transfer spending but in comparison any win is a hollow win as they have exclusively bought the success by allowing millionaire business men to make the club their plaything. Manchester City haven’t bought well and with all their spending ripped out the beating heart of the club by allowing their talented youth products to become bit-part players . This is a hefty price to pay, especially given their failure to achieve the minimum pre-season objective of 4th place in the Premiership.  Stephen Ireland who was fantastic the season before last has been completely overlooked since Mancini arrived. Fellow youth player Wright Phillips who has always been good value and the club’s creative force has also been displaced by new signing Johnson. Youth defender Richards is solid and has shown huge promise also outed. Youth striker Daniel Sturridge who is a very promising player was also let go off without being given enough game-time and has since gone to Chelsea who also continue to ostracise him.  Chelsea and Real Madrid are just laughable clubs really, like something out of a football manager game, you lose something when your club have little or no youth or club identity and just import in player after player after player. With the club now being dictated by some random foreigner , a club that used to be a local traditional club, where fans had a voice.

    I hate everything about Chelsea in particular, the players arrogant attitude on the pitch, Drogba’s diving, Terry and co. harassment of referees, and Ashley Cole and Terry’s antic off the pitch. They are rightfully champions and I usually would adore any team that wins and plays/scores as they have done this season but I just feel nothing but contempt for them really, as they are such an easily hateable team. Given the players character, the smugness of the average Chelsea fan and the way they have acquired their wealth and trophies. It’s not honourable they have not won by playing on a level playing field and by fair means. They have won purely because a random billionaire chose them over another club, it all feels so soulless.

    Barca’s is the surely the pure ethical way to run a club, they have a more pronounced club identity/unit than any other club, don’ t poach the stars of tomorrow like so many others but create and mould them in their own image. Highlighted more recently by promoting ex-player and Barcelona Guardiola from B team to first team manager, Pique’s immensely impressively return and Fabregas’s clear desire to return home after deciding to depart Barcelona’s academy at 16 in favour of Arsenal’s fast tracking system for talented foreign youth. This kind of relationship with Barcelona’s graduates is testament to the bond. No pre-madonnas, no egos, no me! me! me! like some *cough* Real Madrid/Ronaldo*cough* they all play as one knitted compact web that attack as one, press as one and defend as one. They are taught to be humble, and play as a team, expressive themselves and be tactically and technically aware. If you analyse the first team games this is exactly what you see, and it is enstilled right through every level of playing and coaching staff, blue prints handed down by Barca’s dream team of the 90’s marshalled by Johan Cruyff. They don’t just want to win they want to entertain and be universally accepted as the best irrespective of results.  It runs so much deeper than your average player-club connection they don’t just enjoy being at a club environment they almost feel an obligation to go back and an affinity to stay.  This family like relationship is further highlighted by the Catalan identity embomied by the club motto mes que un club (more than just a club) which amplifies the fans viewpoint on what Barcelona means to them. It is a way of life, a Catalan philosophy that differs from the rest of Spain and is the mirror image of Barcelona’s arch rivals Real Madrid style. Barca are the Luke Skywalker to Real Madrid’s Darth Vader.

    Even Barca’s kits for next season look like World beaters, love these new designs and unique colours:
    Barcelona 2010-11 away kit
    Barcelona 2010-11 Home Kit
    Barcelona 2010-11 Goalkeeper Kit
    Jose Mourinho
    Fortune, good luck and knife-edge decisions are as much of a decider in the outcome of games as any tactical or technical ability.  To start with everyone is praising the tactical genius of Mourinho and yes Inter defended extremely well considering they were away to a free scoring Barca and a man down for 60 minutes blah blah blah, but as I’m sure the always modest Jose will tell you himself luck had just as big a part to play in Inter’s aggregate Champions League Semi win as any managerial genius. There’s not many things I detest more than show offs and attention seekers. Well Mourinho is not only both of them but his arrogance post beating Barca is very much misplaced .
    Barca’s 1-0 2nd leg win would have been enough if either of these 3 key decisions were to have rightfully gone Barca’s way, it should be Barca in the final right now.
    1. Milito’s definite offside goal in the 1st leg
    2. Bojan’s missed point-blank header unmarked from a few yards out in the 2nd leg
    3. The wrongly awarded hand-ball decision against Toure just prior to Bojan’s clear goal in the 2nd leg, it was either not handball, or ball to hand as the Inter defender smashed it at him from a yard away and Toure’s hand was in a very natural position, tucked into his chest.
    Mourinho is a very adept manager but Inter are so much better equipped than the rest of Serie A that there is no skill or merit in winning Italian league titles with them and lets not exaggerate things he got VERY lucky to beat Barca and has a very average overall Champions League record after his win with Porto in 2004.
    Mourinho’s obviously more tactically astute than most, but you have to ask yourself whether it’s a good advert for football when these defensive tactics (with literally no desire at all to attack) overcome the expansive football of Barca, albeit with a large dose of luck.
    Some of the more recent examples I can remember of luck playing a pivotal role within The Champions League include:
    • Barca’s win away to Chelsea last season after the ref dismissed two clear-cut penalty claims
    • Terry slipping a fraction before his crucial decisive penalty v Man Utd in the final
    Yes you want great players and managers at your club in-order to achieve but given the choice I’d rather be lucky than good and Morinho’s fortunate in the fact he seems to have both angles covered!

    Dimitar Berbatov Smoking

    I’m a Spurs fan and a big admirer of creative, flamboyant players such as Berbatov. They are my favourite type of player, as everything just seems so effortless.  It’s very sad to see a player who showed such invention and expression at Spurs not even seem like the same player at Manchester United.

    I also find it very lazy and idiotic that the press and United fans repeatedly slam Berbatov for his lack of drive and sustained performances. Although last season he had a very similar goals/assists to Rooney’s. This season I believe Berbatov is a prisoner of Rooney’s shift into United’s starring role following Ronaldo’s departure

    I would argue Berbatov has already proved under the right circumstances  that he can and will perform within the Premiership at a lesser team than United so his talent is unquestionable. He not only scored 20+ a season but created openings  and consistenty assisted for his team mates and was Spur’s main attacking outlet instigating most of their penetrating offensive plays.

    Whenever I watch United play it is so apparent the team look to Rooney whenever possible Berbatov isn’t even an option, also compounding that fact is at Spurs Berbatov was the playmaker, the main man, everything went through him, he came deep to receive the ball and dictated things, often not arriving in the box until late, most of his destructive play was done outside the area, he was free to do as he wished.

    Whereas at United he is on a leash in many regards as he’s no longer the showmaster, his team-mates understandably don’t hold him on a pedestal and he is expected to stay upfront and play his back to goal, even though all those factors are clearly not making the best use of his attributes.

    I would loosely compare it to having someone like Bergkamp, Cantona or Zola in your team and telling them to stay upfront  and not get involved in the build-up play. Completely wasting their creative talents.

    I totally understand why Rooney is the star man and everything goes through him at United but with that Berbatov’s talents are going to waste and are not going to come to the fore.

    Related Posts:

    Why Barcelona Are The World’s Best On & Off The Field

    Why Heskey shouldn’t be in the England Squad and other more deserving players credentials assessed



    Why don’t more clubs play sexy like Barca?



    Why the offside rules are broken and favour the attacking team




    Bringing Sexy Back!

    cruyff1

    Johan Cruyff “There is no greater medal than to be acclaimed for your style”

    I fail to understand why teams don’t encourage attacking football and aim to entertain, by bringing in expressive flair players and making the game a true spectacle, as there are only a handful of trophies to be won every season, so only a few teams are ever going to win anything.

    So why not attack, entertain and let the players be free rein and liberated to enjoy their football and play as they would wish. That way the fans will be happy, as will the players.

    The problem in this country is English players aren’t coached to be creative and have flair, they are encouraged to boot it hard and long, and with that be fast and strong.

    Which brings me on to my next point, why are British youngsters technically inferior and lack the flair of the rest of Europe and South America? One definitive reason for this is the fact English coaches favour physical attributes as opposed to technical ability when assessing youth players. For example Shaun Wright Phillips was rejected after going on trial with Nottingham Forest as they thought he was too small and would never make it.

    Whereas Ajax, Porto, Sporting Lisbon, River Plate, Sao Paulo, Barcelona, Claire Fontaine and the other world class youth academies offer an opposing view encouraging technical grace and agility rather than pace and brutality. A club like River Plate or Barcelona do not discriminate against the smaller player, in-fact they often base their teams around the diminutive players e.g. Xavi, Iniesta, Bojan at Barca and Aimar, Saviola who started at River Plate. They prefer to assess purely on natural ability and do-not see the smaller stature as a weakness or hurdle that can’t be overcome by the development of their raw talent. In-fact Barcelona were willing to invest in an unproven 13 year old Messi paying for his necessary growth hormone treatment, his previous club Newell’s Old Boys were not willing to make the £500 per month investment.

    Within Britain youngsters are taught to play long ball football and win at all costs. Abroad youth football isn’t about winning or how fast or strong you are it’s about personal development and improving technical and tactical ability. These coaching methods encourage creative “no.10” players to flourish that comparatively the English game has lacked.

    The England football team has suffered from a dearth of left footed and technically adept players over recent years, and has failed to win a major International trophy since 1966. British training methods and coaches don’t encourage skillful or inventive players, the few who have slipped through the net have been more by accident than design. Hoddle and Le Tissier were outstanding creative flair players who were largely outcast from the England team as they were seen as luxury players, that don’t fit into the team structure. Whereas abroad they embrace these inventive mavericks and build the team around their abilities, not ostracize them for being unique. Further highlighting the flawed English viewpoint that favours physical attributes, those players that tow the line and fit within the narrow minded and rigid English 4-4-2 formations and playing styles.

    Barca have shown the way, beautiful football and winning aren’t mutually exclusive, you can be both.

    At the end of the day football is meant to be a form of entertainment, escapism from mundane everyday life.

    Let’s entertain!

    div>

    Related Posts:

    Why Barcelona Are The World’s Best On & Off The Field

    The brillance of Xavi and other playmakers

    Why Berbatov is great and theories on why he has flopped at Man Utd

    Why Heskey shouldn’t be in the England Squad and other more deserving players credentials assessed



    Why don’t more clubs play sexy like Barca?



    Why the offside rules are broken and favour the attacking team



    footballer_offside431x300

    This issue has been my biggest bug-bear since it was introduced, I know Terry’s goal today is not the clearest example of why the offside rule is b@llocks,  but it is possibly the most high profile and obviously fresh in people’s thinking. (in-fact it may not have been offside at all, but that would ruin my whole argument!).

    So, to the question. When is an attacking player who is ahead of the last defender not classed as offside? This issue is more grey and blurred than that infamous  Manchester United grey tiled kit.

    Quite clearly even if Drogba never touched the ball after Terry’s header, he is interfering with play as Van Der Sar is obviously conscience of his presence and uncertain whether he will make contact with the ball. Without Drogba there, Van Der Sar mind is free to concentrate on the trajectory and placement of Terry’s header without anticipating another touch. Allowing him more time to potentially save the shot.

    To exagarate my stance on the issue i’ll paraphrasing one my favourite quotes on the subject: ” The only way a player cannot be interfering with play is if he’s not on the field”

    I find it absolutely illogical and absurd that this rule change to offsides has been introduced. I think it’s sensible to suggest that even if a player does not interfere with play he should still be classed as offside because his position on the pitch (whether in an offside position or not) the opposition defence are conscience of him. So it effects how they behave when defending.

    I’m all for giving attackers the advantage but a defender’s game is hard enough without them having to play offside, then still stay alert within a second phase of play just incase the guy who is offside leaves the ball (making him inactive) leading to the potential of any other player arriving from an onside position. It makes a mockery of the whole game.

    In future I will add in more video examples of clear faults in the relation to the offside rule, if and when I manage to find them:

    As it shows at 1.23 on the video below the striker who competes for the ball in the air and Gallas the eventual scorer are both offside when the ball is played.  It is irrelevant whether they touch the ball, they are influencing play. Gallas has an advantage once Henry passes it by starting in an offside position, as he is slightly ahead of the defenders to the goal, meaning  he can get in and score. The only way Gallas would not have that advantage is if the defenders moved back to play Gallas onside but that would not make defensive sense at all. Surely it is logical to suggest as soon as Gallas or the player competing for the ball in the air attempt to get the bal the play should be called offside? (Obviously i’m ignoring the 2 hand-balls as i’m arguing against the offside rule, but add the 2 hand-balls and that’s 4 reasons why that goal should not have been given, talk about luck of the Irish hey!)

    Here’s a more recent clear offside goal that was given because Van Persie was judged to be inactive because he did not touch the ball despite the fact he played a crucial part in deceiving the goalkeeper.

    Xavi

    Playmakers are undoubtably my favourite type of players, and are the primary reason for my love of football.  Nothing resonates with me more than when a player opens up a team with a defence splitting pass, that bends around the defence straight into the path of the on-coming striker. Or that body feint that bamboozles the defender leaving just enough space to off-load a shot onto goal.

    They refuse to give up possession, they are always composed when in control of the ball, and they are never fazed by hounding defenders.

    Considering England are one of the most advanced football nations, I always find it confusing why we fail to create many flair playmakers. Is it because of English coaching focused towards strength and pace rather than technique, why do other nations seem to produce them players at will?  Lampard and Gerrard are great goal scorers but they lack the flair and invention that I enjoy seeing, they are more ruthless and workman like.

    Some of my fav playmakers past and present would be:

    1. Bergkamp

    2. Zola

    3. Cruyff

    4. Arshavin

    5. Zidane

    6. Berbatov

    7. Scholes

    8. Ronaldinho

    9. Xavi

    Everyone  shouts from the rooftops about Messi and Iniesta but the real conductor at Barca is Xavi, he allows the others to take the glory while he plays in the shadows, releasing gem after gem.

    In-fact he had a staggering 29 assists last season, and was the main man on the field behind one of the greatest teams in modern history, if not all-time.

    His decision-making, vision and passing accuracy are unrivalled in World football.

    A dedicated Youtube video of all of Xavi’s assists in 08/09 is here:

    Let’s hear it for the playmaker…

    • Always playing the game 3 moves ahead of the opposition.
    • Can visualise a potential opening or passing opportunity in the blink of an eye.
    • Unlike the scorer, he does not flaunt and scream after that pinpoint precise pass that leads to a goal,  but is quiet, modest yet at the same time deadly.
    • Dictates the whole game creating openings for team-mates to exploit, and goals to be scored.
    • Cruyff  “Football is a mindgame, you play with your brain”. Playmakers are the Einsteins of football they see things others don’t, think faster and more abstract allowing them to perform acts others wouldn’t even contemplate
    • They are the beauty behind the beautiful game.