COS columnist Tom Smith believes ‘Cult of the Personality Football’ is still in full flow at Wembley under Fabio Capello.
The England national team is a massive opportunity, a massive opportunity that is continually getting missed. It can actually be a freer expression of the style and talent of English football than anything seen in the Premier League. The format of International football allows the England setup to break free of the constraints and normalities of an overly commercial driven game. However, last night was another opportunity missed. Gerrard will take all the headlines for his two goals but this would do nothing more than provide further fuel to the problems at the heart of the English game.
In the South Africa post mortems the TV, tabloid and broadsheets more erudite commentators made much of England’s technical inadequacies and ineptitudes in possession. A new dawn on the horizon was promised, maybe not in the on-field talent straight away, this of course takes time to nurture, but certainly in the reporting and commentary. No more given-praise for the ‘big names’ and a new set of yardsticks laid down. Well not on last nights showing.
It was Gerrard who gave the ball away for the Hungary goal, yet Dawson was on the end of Clive Tyldesley’s blame. What happened to the Spanish lesson of possession is king? Gerrard was guilty of some downright shameful greedy schoolboy play last night, doing his best impression of David Beckham in his England pomp or Cristiano Ronaldo (certainly looks like he is trying to pull of the same haircut). Taking every free kick, constantly demanding the ball from the back four, even though he is often neither best placed or talented enough to do so, and then the final insult, hitting it somewhere between 40 and 70 yards in what’s often called the Hollywood pass.
Before he gave the ball away for the Hungary goal, he was responsible for breaking down the previous phase of England possession by trying to find the impressive Bobby Zamora with a pass that was never on. The praise lauded on Gerrard will not help him out next time when he believes even more in his own divinity, if anything they will hinder him, Liverpool and England. It will further give him the authority to attempt to run the game, a task he is simply not capable of.
Let me clarify, Gearrard is an excellent player and one of the standout English players of our this generation. However, a complete engine room midfielder, he most definitely is not. His goals illustrate what he does best – ‘bursting into the box’ and getting forward with composure in front of goal. He is the epitome of the attacking midfielder, ideal for the free role behind the striker. The near exact same is true of Frank Lampard, who was anonymous last night and again in the Charity Shield. Both are luxury players afforded for only the best clubs in the country where they can pick up their 20+ goals a season and leave the engine room maintenance to Essien and Mascherano (and Makalalee and Alonso in years gone by).
Watching Paul Scholes roll back the years on Sunday it shows how the English midfielder can go either way, Lampard and Gerrard 32 and 30 are still capable of the ‘bursting into the box’ side of their games while Scholes, 35, hasn’t hit double figures since the 2004-05 season. However his passing is arguably better than its ever been. Having the talent and ability to do both would certainly be amazing and Gerrard and Lampard simply do not have it.
The first half midfield trio of Barry, Gerrard and Lampard was a turgid example of bad tactical football. Neither have the complete abilities as an individual and collectively they don’t work either. Gerrard should be employed where he is better equipped in a solely offensive role behind a combination of Rooney and Zamora.
England should be regarded as nothing more than a national academy side, playing the best young talent, regardless of them holding down regular places at club level, if we wait for Richard Scudermore to help out, we’ll be waiting until hell freezes over. The best performances came from Gibbs, Zamora, Young, Johnson and Walcott. With the likes of Wilshire, Cleverley, Gosling, and Rodwell all crying out for a run in a new dawn England side, there is no space for the old regime, least not in friendly’s and qualifiers against poor opposition.