Obviously the game from yesterday was more than just disappointing. It’s certainly proof (as if English supporters didn’t already have enough evidence from the past few decades) that mere patriotic fervour and an unwillingness to brook dissent over our prospects is enough to win things.
Sure, grit and determination count, and so do pride and passion. But you need more than that – clearly.
I’ll start off with the disallowed goal. Sure, it should have been given. Maybe the use of video replay would have been better (although I personally don’t like it, and am not going to change my mind simply because it’s us who lose out this tim). But it happened and the team should have taken it as a sign that we can score again – the German keeper was not that good and could have been beaten by more of the same. Also, by the time of that debateable decision, we were losing because of two soft goals, and it’s those (and the two from the second half) that exposed England’s frailties.
The basic problem for all of the goals was the positioning and pace of the defenders. Primarily of the centre-backs Terry and Upson. For every goal at least one of them was in the wrong place and both of them were unable to make up the ground lost. The third goal was the most stupid of all. Sure, we were chasing, but we all know that Lampard was going to go for a shot, not a chip into the area, so there’s no point in having so many players all the way upfield. When the ball hit the wall, it was simple for the Germans to break.
Not that the defence was the only problem. The midfield seemed to be unable to create anything, and were too easily sucked into the centre of the pitch, leaving the wings free. At the start they were quite good at keeping possession, but as time wore on they became more ragged. Lampard had the best of the attacking play, and Barry wasn’t too bad at hanging back. Milner was under-used on his wing, but Gerrard was simply headless all through the game.
As for the forward line, Rooney has had a very poor tournament and yet has been kept in the starting line-up for every game. Defoe was closed down and didn’t have enough support.
The annoying thing is that the game was there for the taking. Germany could have been contained with decent defensive tactics, and there were certainly vulnerabilities exposed from their group games.
But why were we so awful? Was the manager to blame? Well, we’ve had three managers recently all with different styles and each time the same results. I’m not sure that a new man will make any difference. Not that Capello didn’t make mistakes, but he also had problems with the hand he was dealt.
The players, generally, are not all good enough. I think Terry is overrated, and Gerrard is past his prime. Indeed, too many were on the wrong side of 30, and some prone to injury that made them a liability (does King have any cartilige left?). Still most of them are able to play for top Premiership sides and in the Champions League, so it’s not like they are all muppets. However, too few have any experience of playing for clubs outside England. I think that’s more of a problem than having a lot of foreign players here. It’s not as if these guys are being kept out of their club sides, or that it can hurt to play alongside and against some of the players who will be representing their countries in major competitions. But if we had players who were among the other top European clubs, they would have more knowledge of different styles of play.
Is having a larger top division (20 clubs, as opposed to 16 or 18 as in most major countries), with two domestic cups alongside causing more fatigue? Is a lack of a break halfway through the season a factor? Do the players in contention for the national side spend enough time training and practicing together? Do we encourage players with tactical nous or just select the ‘stars’ from the top domestic sides and hope that there’s a brain between them?
I don’t think just getting a new manager in would solve the problems England have. Roy Hodgson has been discussed as a possible candidate, but there’s one thing that would make it hard for him: he did well at Fulham, and the various European clubs and national sides, because he had the time to build a system and drill players into it. That’s what Capello was trying to do, and it may be that his system wasn’t right, or the wrong players were picked, but I doubt he had the opportunity to really impose his views and instil them.
Anyway, at least we did better than France.