2310: England: Would Sven have playe
by : Sean OMeara
With England’s latest forlorn performance has come widespread condemnation of the England boss, Swede, Sven Goran Eriksson.
Is all of this criticism justified, or should the manager be left to his own devices? Should the nation take more note of his England career competitive results record, or should they be duly bothered by the performances turned in?
It cannot be denied that the recent 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland was both a poor result and a very poor performance.
The performance against Wales the weekend prior was not the greatest, won in the end by a deflected Joe Cole goal.
This was of course preceded by a dismal friendly performance against Denmark.
It should though be remembered that Eriksson is not known for taking his friendlies seriously and that he made multiple changes at the break against the Danes. The eleven that played out the first forty five minutes had played reasonably well and had not conceded.
The most worrying aspect of all of this, for England’s supporters, players and FA alike, is his persistence to field players out of position.
The former Gothenburg, Benfica, Roma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Lazio manager has at his disposal a marvellous array of talent and yet does not seem to be able to get any of them to play to their best as a part of his England side.
His determination to pick particular players, when there is no place for them in the eleven is frustrating to the limit.
David Beckham’s time as a first choice in the England side is surely up. He has been a great captain, but how can anyone justify not playing the young Shaun Wright-Phillips on England’s right-hand side?
Eriksson would seem to agree, recently fielding the Chelsea winger more and more. Trouble is, the Swede also persists in retaining the services of Beckham.
There is no place in the England side for both Wright-Phillips and Beckham if Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are both played in central midfield.
The latest farcical selection saw a position of quarter-back created for the Real Madrid midfielder. This selection saw three central midfielders played, which is hardly unheard of as formations go, but Eriksson insisted on also fielding his two first choice strikers; Owen and Rooney, along with a traditional back four.
This selection saw Rooney occupying the vacant ‘troublesome’ left side midfield position. This was of course laughable.
The upshot then, of all of this, is Beckham shoe-horned into a plentifully stocked central area and the finest attacking player in the Premiership pushed out wide left to balance up the mid section, and the vertically and horizontally challenged Owen foraging for scraps alone up front.
This is craziness fielded on a football pitch.
Everyone in the country knows the best eleven for England at present (injury permitting), but Sven has a best twelve in his head that he just can’t seem to overcome.
Robinson, Cole, Ferdinand, Terry and Neville are a clear first choice back line. Owen and Rooney are an equally clear first choice front two.
In the middle, Lampard, Gerrard, and Wright-Phillips should be accompanied by one of Downing, Bridge or Barry in the ‘troublesome’ left side position.
It is wrong to select your best eleven English players and then attempt to fudge them into some kind of a recognisable formation. The best left sided English player should be played on the left side. End of story.
You are never ever going to get the best out of any player if he is not played in his favoured position.
Would Pele have gone onto to be recognised as the best player in the world ever, if he had been played between the sticks?
But there is a second area of concern.
It is the lack of passion instilled by the current England manager.
The catatonic Swede, rests unmoved at what he sees. His is unmoved by poor play as he is unmoved by good.
Now this would not matter if it did not spill over onto the pitch. But it does.
The lack of understanding in the England eleven is apparent. This, when coupled with a muted disapproval of the tactical approach the manager is asking his players to employ and little or no gusto when it comes to England and what they hope to achieve, is critically damaging to the England set up.
Eriksson’s tactical nous is allegedly held in high regard in club footballing circles and no doubt the systems he attempts to employ would work, were suitable players employed in them.
However, in club football, there is one distinct difference. Money permitting, a manager can bring into the club the appropriate playing personnel to allow the manifestation of his best laid plans.
As an England manager, he has what he has; the best English players.
The England manager should pick a system for which he has the players available and stick to it. If this means no place for his captain, then so be it – but do not build a team and a system around a player that the England set-up no longer needs.
In Gerrard, Lampard, Neville and Terry, Eriksson has four potential captains at his disposal, should he choose to drop his present one.
Of course, the FA cannot afford to sack their man and he will not quit, so England’s progress to Germany 2006 is likely to be fairly unimpressive and their eventual exit from the competition at the hands of the first decent side they meet, equally so.
13 September 2005