22 Jun 2010
ENGLAND V SLOVENIA WORLD CUP 2010
So here we go again. The last few days since the abject performance against Algeria and the disappointment of the draw against the USA have felt like groundhog days for so many England fans. The Media are having a field day, as they are no doubt in France, Italy and to a lesser extent Germany.
Conspiracy theories abound, pantomime villains and heroes, real and imagined are booed, cheered or hissed at, depending on your perspective or point of view.
Cappello’s style of management, his rigid regime is at the heart of the players’ discontent, their boredom. Solve this and they play better. Or maybe it’s the tactics, the shape of the team is wrong, square pegs in round holes. Even the ball has got a look in and taken some stick.
It’s all great media coverage, which let’s face it, we all love.
But once this pantomime is all over, the real show must go on…there is a game of football to be played an won.
England’s position is very clear. They are now in the knockout stages of the World Cup. They have to win this game and every game from now on. No second chances and no excuses. They have all been used up.
It may well be that a change in playing personnel, tactics, of which the World and its Mother has a view, will make a difference. But, make no mistake, there is only one person who is going to make that decision and I’m pretty sure that he won’t be influenced by the face book campaign to have Joe Cole included in the team!!
Putting aside the poor performances so far, the arguments for different team selection, tactics, players being bored, fed up with the disciplinarian routine. It is all very simple, whoever Cappello selects, whatever team tactics he employs, the players have to take individual and collective responsibility for their performance against Slovenia. They have to show some personal and professional pride, deal with the pressure and expectation and demonstrate some old fashioned “bottle”.
That doesn’t mean to say they have to run around like lunatics, kicking everything that moves, please take note Mr. Rooney. Although some more disciplined passion and desire in their play would be good. No they have to take responsibility for doing their job, wherever they are chosen to play, to the best of their undoubted ability.
That means taking responsibility for being better than their immediate opposition player. To be better than them on the day. To win their own personal and private battle. If we can get seven or eight England players winning their own individual battles, than we will win the game comfortably.
Without highlighting the performance of any individual, one very interesting statistic emerged from the Algeria game that highlights the need for players to win their own personal battles against their opposite number and to perform the tasks that their positional job on the football pitch entails.
Ashley Cole is considered by many knowledgeable and influential people in the game to be one of, if not, the best attacking full backs in the game. Against Algeria, with only one forward playing against England and with Steven Gerrard coming inside for most of the game, leaving space wide. He had the perfect opportunity to get forward constantly. To make the Algerian right sided player defend. After all that is the strength of his game. It is all very well getting forward, but the main role of an attacking full back is to then deliver quality crosses into the box, for his team mates to attack. If they aren’t there to attack the crosses, then that isn’t his problem, he has supplied the ammunition, they have to fire the bullets, he has done his job.
The statistics compiled for the game against Algeria tell us that Ashley Cole did not deliver one single cross in the entire match. That is what I mean by players taking individual responsibility for their own performance, to do their job. If Ashley Cole can do his job, as we all know he can, win his battle, get forward and deliver crosses. If Wayne Rooney, or Peter Crouch or any of the attacking players can do their job, win their battle against their direct opponent and get on the end of the crosses. Job done!!
If that can happen, if seven or eight England players win their own battles, we win the Slovenia game. It is all back on. All of the last two weeks will be forgotten. Momentum will swing back, confidence and belief will flood back and maybe, just maybe we can all be optimistic and believe in the dream again.