England – Just Not Good Enough

I don’t want this to turn into a “England” blog, but once they are knocked out of the World Cup, that will be that, so I might as well say what I want to say now while I have the chance.

In the cold light of day, and after sleeping on it, I have to say that not only was the result one of the worst in years for England, but the performance was as bad as any I can remember in decades.  Yes we have lost games in the past against inferior opponents.  There have been too many times we haven’t qualified for the World Cup and the Euro Championships, but this game was different.

It was different because not only did England not beat an Algerian team that has only won 1 of 7 games leading up to this game, but the most shocking thing to me, (and this seems to be taking second place to the result) is that we were outplayed by Algeria.  They outworked us, they had more and better goal chances and even though England had the edge in possession, Algeria seemed to control much of the game.

Now I know the stats say that England outshot Algeria by 15-13, but take a look at the game and you will see that many of England’s shots were harmless efforts from well outside the box.  When you break it down to times where each team looked threatening, England were left wanting.  Poor ESPN had to really struggle to come up with a couple of lame clips they used as a poor excuse for England’s highlights.

I can remember bad results in the past.  The 2006 World Cup is a good example.  I don’t think England put together one good performance…just managing to scrape a result against inferior opponents until they ran into a Portugal team that was depleted of many of their starters due to previous yellow and red cards.  But I can’t really remember a time when England were actually outplayed by an inferior opponent.

Algeria’s only win in the last 7 games was a 1-0 win over the tiny United Arabe Emirates.  3-0 losses to Ireland and Serbia were other efforts.

So how did England get to this point?  Well I have written in the past few weeks about some of the reasons England don’t do well at World Cups.  The main one being, our players are pretty worn out after playing a hectic season in the most physical league in the world (EPL).  But although that is a factor, you have to look deeper than that.

The bottom line is, we just don’t seem to have the quality of players we once had.  Let’s break it down.

Players at or close to their peak - Rooney, Lampard, Johnson and Terry.

Players who are past their best – Gerrard, Carragher and Cole.

Players who wouldn’t get in the team in the past because they weren’t good enough - James, Lennon, Wright-Phillips and Heskey.

Gareth Barry kind of fits into all three categories.

So we only have four players who are good international players that are close to their peak.  Rooney is probably fatigued from the EPL season and accumulation of seasons.  Lampard never really performs well for England.  Johnson is okay and Terry is doing okay but personal problems might be affecting him somewhat.  So even our four quality players aren’t at their best.

Gerrard, Carragher and Cole are all quality players but have seen better days.  Gerrard is one of my favorite players but cumulative seasons in the EPL are taking their toll and this past season was well below par for him.  I’m afraid, he is finished as the powerful player he was.  Carragher shouldn’t even be in the squad and the fact that he is shows the lack of talent available to choose from.  Cole is simply filling space without being a weakness.

The others are simply not good enough.  Heskey for example has scored just 7 goals in 60 international games for England and can’t even keep a regular spot in the Aston Villa team.  Compare that to the likes of Linekar, Mariner or Shearer.  It’s not even close.

So on reflection, even if we had our better players on form and playing well, we still would have a tough time matching up against the stronger teams in South Africa.  No, I think the bottom line is we just don’t have the quality of players we are used to.  And I think we need to accept that and make things easier on ourselves as fans and reduce our crazy expectations.

4 Comments

  1. Andy says:

    Totally agree with you Mike.

    Our “world class” players compete in club teams that have players from around the globe that are technically better than those that make up the England team. With the possible exception of Gerrard our other “world class” players have yet to prove that on the World stage…..and what do we do with Gerrard play him with someone he cant play with or push him out wide?

    In its current set up the current England team would be a top six team in the EPL, certainly would struggle to make a Champions League place….when what you would expect is for it to be one of the title contenders.

    The some of the players also seem tactically inept….for example Algeria effectively forming a circle around their half of the pitch…and we have Lennon continually cutting into that area rather than trying to get around the outside.

    I agree with Danny Baker (fellow Millwall fan and Tv pundit or sorts) we are playing to poorly at the moment to go out, we will start to get better – the country will start to believe again and then we will get knocked out!

  2. The Coach says:

    Forget the field players – many who keep getting picked on reputation rather than ability…

    I can’t believe that England does not have a single international quality goal keeper. Considering how many divisions English football has, they keep having to roll out David James. And you know what – he actually IS the best current choice.

    Even the ‘football-isn’t-even-our national sport’ countries have better keepers (USA, Australia and New Zealand for example).

  3. JPolito says:

    It looks like you are right. I really thought England was going to get their act together. From the arm chair it seems all so simple. England does have good players, has a good coach, has good resources, so what gives? Who knows really? It obviously has escaped Capello and for that matter Terry et. al. But if you think the problem is limited to England, look at Italy vs. New Zealand. Another “outrage” if you are not a kiwi. How can a world champion, with prominent players, established coach, lose to a club with no-name players, some of which don’t even play for a pro club, a country with no domestic professional league? So maybe England isn’t *that* bad!?!?

    Tactically, England was oblivious. It was no mystery Algeria would field 3 central defenders. So if you stick with a 4-4-2, how are you going to overcome the 2v3 in the final third? You have to get some wide players forward, and switch the play. Rooney and Heskey had little lateral movement. The wide midfield players (Lennon) kept going inside rather than staying wide. A. Cole made some good wide attacks, but that was about it. Overall, England looked confused and wanting to go home.

    I actually think Barry did a good job, covering the midfield and in particular 2 players well.

    England is just a train wreck. If you can’t pass, even when under little pressure (see Italy) then you obviously are going to crash and burn in the first round. England with Capello apparently wants to join Italy and get home to their families and start their holiday, rather than be bothered with the World Cup.

  4. Mike Saif says:

    The days of Clemence, Shilton, Banks are over I’m afraid. You are right. It’s embarrassing that we don’t have one decent GK.

    I’m not looking forward to tomorrows game.