Posts tagged ‘Gerrard’

Name One EPL Player That Had a Good World Cup

I have been on record (prior to the World Cup, so not an excuse) as saying that one of the reasons England struggle in World Cups and Euro Championships is that the players are physically worn out from a season in the English Premier League.  Note, I said “one” of the reasons.  There are other factors that cause England’s below par performances in major championships.  But I want to focus on the effects the EPL season has on players.

first, we have to realize that the EPL is simply more physical, in terms of the amount of running, speed of play and the physical challenges, than other leagues.

The cold and wet weather should also be added to the equation.  Let me explain.  Spain and Italy for example have a warmer climate.  In England, the players often practice and play in temperatures slightly above freezing and it wet and windy conditions.  This means they have to run around like crazy just to keep warm.  Practicing in Spain or Italy when it is a nice 60F, is a different matter.  It’s much more comfortable and less taxing on the players.

So the climate is a factor.  It means more running around in practices and games than in a warmer climate.

Then compare the pace of an EPL game to that of one from Spain or Italy.  It’s as different as night and day.  The EPL games are incredibly fast and furious from the first minute to the last.  An Italian or Spanish game seem to be made up a slow build up followed by lightning fast play for a few seconds when near or in the penalty area.

The bottom line is I don’t think anyone can argue that the EPL takes a more physical toll on players than other leagues.

I also want to add to the equation, that there is a cumulative effect.  A 22 year old player will be less effected by this than a 28 or 30 year old.  Gerrard is a good example of this.  He has been a shadow of his former self this season and I would argue that the cumulative effect of the EPL has taken its toll and we are likely to not see him at his best again.  Rooney could be right on the beginning stages of this.

Yes other countries have players in the EPL, but practically all of England’s squad were EPL players.

But to attempt to further prove my theory, let me ask this question.

Name me one player who plays in the EPL, who had a good World Cup?  Torres, Rooney, Fabregas, Gerrard, are all superstar players, but didn’t perform.  Yes previous injuries were a factor in some of them, but that goes to my point about the EPL being physical as injuries are part of this.

The best example I can think of is Dirk Kyut and the best that can be said for him was that he had a “decent” World Cup.

If you can think of anyone else, post it in the Comments section.

So how can players like Forlan, who struggled at Man U, all of a sudden become a stud in the World Cup?  I don’t know, but I do think it wouldn’t have happened if he was still playing in the EPL.

England’s Slow Road To Failure

Today is an article by guest blogger, Alex Mason.  Mason is the Director of Coaching for Omaha F.C.

England’s slow road to failure

With so many experts, coaches, fans, and critics all trying to understand the downfall of the English game, I wanted to add some thoughts.

Without a doubt the game was modernized by the English, with new laws and a professional approach to the game saw growth around the world in the late 1890s, this made it the world’s game. I will say this again it became the world’s game, no more claims of “it is our game”. For us Brits we find it very hard to understand how the rest of the world caught us and with no hesitation lapped us, bit like the Famous British Ford Escort trying to keep up with the Porsche or Ferrari we all knew adding a go fast stripe did not change the outcome of the race, Coming second was a habit we all laughed about.

In 1981 I took the English FA Preliminary badge, I was told to study a Coaching education book by the famous Charles Hughes, this book had great detailed Techniques and Tactical approaches to the beautiful game, sadly the Book was already at the end of its second decade. My soccer teachers would laugh that not much had changed, So let’s looks at the game during that time, at least 5 world cup Tournaments had been played, countless European cups and all other events where the game was digested and taught back to the rest of the world, remember England did win the world cup in 66, sorry for the single claim to the worlds game.

Did the English game become stationary when the rest of the world were teaching themselves new Systems of play and formations that evolved beyond the WM formation and the 4-4-2

When we look at the late sixties and seventies, the British team’s were very successful, Celtic, Man UTD, Nott’s Forest and Liverpool, all of these teams had hardly any foreign players, but all of these teams had great  Scottish players who were very dominant within the English game! Was the change occurring on our own door step!

The influx of foreign players to the English premier League changed the game in modern times, the foreign player no longer worried about the damp winters as the high wages kept them lovely and warm. The only players feeling the cold was the young English players trying to compete against the new stars, This influx of players almost destroyed the “Academies” as we grew to know them, Everton, Liverpool, West ham, Spurs, Derby County were all recognized as great producers of young stars we all watched in the early days of the Premier League, I did say the early days, here I am today a diehard Arsenal fan with the embarrassing fact Arsenal’s only English player Theo Walcott did not make the England Squad, some of you will remember the Arsenal team that had Seamen, Bould, Winterburn, Dixon, Adams, Merson, Parlour, Smith, Wright, nine players all from one team all starting for England ! The answer is starting to come through, we (Brits) for the love of the game have turned to the rest of the world for our enjoyment, we smile with excitement of this upcoming final between Holland & Spain, was there the same excitement from the world when England played Algeria!

How frustrating to see Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard and co argue with each other, while the US was all marching to one drum beat. How exciting this is for American soccer.

So in one sentence, England has to reinvent the game they once created, the problem is every other country is now perfecting theirs!

It’s a funny old Game

Alex Mason
Omaha FC

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.

England – Delusions of Grandeur

Okay, I must admit, the England v USA game went pretty much as I expected.  England playing poorly, USA playing better than many give them credit for and England finding a way to self destruct.

As I said last week, England seem to only have one world class player (in form, which rules out Gerrard) in Wayne Rooney and even he didn’t really do that much.  That’s not enough to rightfully expect to have a good World Cup.  And to make it worse, England is relying on bit part players and hoping they produces something special that they are only capable of producing every blue moon.  Shaun Wright-Philips is a classic example.  He is capable of producing something special, but only every now and again.  The majority of the time, he under performs.

Lennon is another example.  He is capable of taking on players and providing good service, but rarely does it.  And when he is given a chance at a shot, he seems to prefer to defer and look for the pass, which to me shows a lack of confidence.

Then we have other players who are simply not good enough.  Heskey for example is a solid front player, but doesn’t have the class needed to start for England.  Everyone was saying that if only he had scored the shot saved by Tim Howard, England would have won.  But that is the point.  He isn’t good enough to put the ball into the corner.  He is only good enough to shoot it blindly right at the keeper.  If he was good enough to score those type of chances regularly, he would at least be starting for Aston Villa, and he’s not.

Carragher, used to be an excellent defender.  But there is a reason he tried to retire from international football.  He knows he’s not the player he used to be.  It was shocking to see Altidore beat him physically the way he did.

So when you add it all up – Goalkeeper problems, a wobbly back line, a below par Gerrard, inability for Gerrard and Lampard to play well together, relying on bit part players like Wright-Philips, Lennon, etc. and forwards who are not good enough to start for their club teams (Heskey), then it all points to little or no chance for England yet again.

And that is why I find it strange, the delusions of grandeur that most English fans have.  I just don’t share it.

But let’s not take away from USA’s performance.  They played well.  At one point in the first half, they dominated possession 59 – 41%.  They looked good with their passing, Donavon was excellent, Altidore was an handful at times and Tim Howard was excellent.  I don’t think they have the quality to expect too much against the stronger teams though, but they are definitely capable of upsetting any team in this World Cup on their day.

Now to the teams who are capable of winning.  From those that have played up to now, Germany and Holland look the best.  Germany played exceptionally well, but it’s hard to judge because of the poor Australian team they faced.  Holland on the other hand, looked impressively well organized and clinical against a pretty good Danish team.

I’m looking forward to seeing Brazil and Italy play and then I might make a prediction of who will win.

Who Would Be Your First Pick?

Since I was kid, I have always enjoyed playing the game of choosing who you would pick as the first player in your team.  Not for the kick about game but when picking a team of the best players in the world…or for the England team.

So let me get right to it.  The first player I would pick for my team would be Wayne Rooney.  He’s got great ability, is as strong as an ox, has a great work ethic, can score goals and can make other players around him better.  All this adds up to a great player and great teammate.

Up until his sub par season this year, Gerrard was always in the same conversation as Rooney.  Sometimes I couldn’t choose between the two.

Does this mean I think Rooney is best player in the world if he is my number one choice?  Not necessarily, but I do think he could be the best player in the world, it depends on what attributes you value in a player.  He should definitely be in the discussion.

Of course, good arguments could be made for players like Ronaldo, Messi and others, and maybe I just value certain attributes over others, but I would rather coach a player like Rooney and have him as a teammate than Ronaldo or Messi.

So who would be your first pick?  Does it matter what position they play?  What attributes are important to you?

Special Atmosphere/Pressure For Playoff Games

I am writing this as I watch the Man City v Tottenham game.  It’s 2.15 pm here in the Midwest and it’s a good job I got most of my work done earlier in the day as I’m not getting much done right now.  I thought I would write about the distinct pressure and atmosphere of this game and other playoff games throughout the various leagues.

Apart from occasional instances over the decades, this kind of atmosphere and pressure is pretty new and something I first noticed when the English leagues moved to a playoff format to decide the final promotion places.

Why is the atmosphere and pressure different than let’s say a cup final or the Champions League final?  Obviously in those games, there is an enormous pressure to win and become the “Champions”.  However, for those that lose in those finals, the loss is not that great.  Afterall, they have enjoyed a great run getting to the final.  They have it on their record that they reached the final and enjoy the build up to the final.

But the playoff are totally different and I love them.  For the record, I have only seen the playoff games for 2-3 years on TV, then for some reason they stopped showing them here in the U.S. about 4-5 years ago.  But just loved watching them.  In fact, I would prefer to watch the games from League One, looking for promotion to the Championship, instead of an EPL game…They were just more exciting.

What makes them different?  It’s the all or nothing aspect and there is so much on the line.  The loser gets nothing or worse…gets relegated and the winners set themselves up for next season and in the process usually a ton load of money as well.  For instance, in this Man City v Spurs game, the winner finishes in 4th place in the EPL.  This qualifies them for Champions League play next season.  This is huge.  Not only for the players…and all top level players want to play Champions League soccer…just ask Torres, Gerrard and other Liverpool players how they feel about missing out next season.  But it will also give the team somewhere in the region of an additional $40 million in revenue.

So unlike a cup final where the loser at least can claim some semblance of success from a good cup run, the losers of a playoff game are absolutely distraught and can take nothing from losing.  This makes the pressure immense for the players and leads to some pretty intense and fast paced games.  I suppose the best way I could describe the games is to say that they are played as if both teams are losing 1-0 and it’s the last five minutes of a cup final.  Every tackle is critical, every header is important and it appears that every challenge is a last gasp stretch.

Just watching the Man City v Spurs game, and it’s only the first 20 minutes, but every corner is defended as though it was the last minute with more than a hint of panic.  Makes for a great game.

One thing I would like to see brought back to the playoffs is a four team playoff for the last relegation spot.  One reason is this makes the season more interesting because even teams in the middle of the league table are usually only a few points above the team who are sixth from bottom and in the last playoff spot.  But for some reason, the atmosphere at those games was even more intense.

Now all I need for some cable channel to start carrying the playoff games again.  For now though, I will make do with this special one-off game of Man City v Spurs.

Thoughts On the Last Week of the EPL

Well, the final week of the EPL season is upon us and here are some random thoughts.

Even though the Championship will be decided with the final games (Chelsea and Man U), I don’t feel any real suspense.  Unless there is a major disaster, Chelsea should have no problem with Wigan.  This makes Man U’s game irrelevant.  Of course, Chelsea could choke with the pressure but that is highly unlikely.

The better game is for fourth place between Man City and Tottenham.  This is huge for both clubs with a prize of Champions League football next season on the line.  Probably more of the pressure will be on Man City as they are at home and with all the money they have spent, not making the Champions League would be a major setback.  Really looking forward to that game.

Is this the beginning of the end for Liverpool?  They have always been regarded as one of the “big four”, but over the past few years, have really struggled to compete for the top spot.  Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been in with a chance of the title at some point, but not Liverpool.  They also seem to lack the investment that the other three clubs have and along with some really poor buys by Rafa, they have steadily declined over the past few years to a 7th place finish.  I wonder if they will get back to being one of the “big four”?

How to players like Torres and Gerrard feel not playing Champions League football next season?  My guess is Torres will end up somewhere else, although there are few clubs that have the money to buy him and pay him.  I’m not sure what Gerrard will do unless something happens like Mourinho going to Real Madrid and putting in a offer for him.

So with relegation settled and the FA Cup not being what it used to, I will start looking forward to the World Cup after the week is done.