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Is English Football Inferior?

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Is English Football Inferior?

Postby JT » Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:01 pm

Talking primarily about the national team. I know, I know, its all relative. But I'm tired of the English national team 'underachieving' or whatever. You just knew they would lose to Italy. The home of modern football, with maybe the best domestic league in the world, they should be beating Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. more than 10% of the time. Throw on top of that the perception that the EPL quality is due primarily to the foreign players, Arsene Wenger quotes about the quality of English players, etc. Why? Is this a cultural thing?
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Re: Is English Football Inferior?

Postby Hans the German Butler » Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:48 pm

The problem is technical. From when they're young the most powerful kids with the best shots or hardest tackling are picked out and put on predominantly fitness based training regimes. Technical skills like close control, one-touch passing, tactical movement and game intelligence are greatly overlooked. EPL is one of the best because of the mix of the foreign quality and the British spirit. At national team level we can only improve by re-configuring the coaching principles from the ground up. Getting kids playing on age-appropriate pitches and encouraging the kids with good technique to hone it.
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Re: Is English Football Inferior?

Postby JT » Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:54 pm

Hans the German Butler wrote:The problem is technical. From when they're young the most powerful kids with the best shots or hardest tackling are picked out and put on predominantly fitness based training regimes. Technical skills like close control, one-touch passing, tactical movement and game intelligence are greatly overlooked. EPL is one of the best because of the mix of the foreign quality and the British spirit. At national team level we can only improve by re-configuring the coaching principles from the ground up. Getting kids playing on age-appropriate pitches and encouraging the kids with good technique to hone it.


Yes, but I remember reading the same diagnosis and prescriptions back in the 80's. Is it so culturally ingrained that efforts to make it all better haven't done that much? I have always thought that the EPL quality (and excitement) is primarily due to the best and most skillful players from around the world playing within an English template of speed and directness. That is close to what you said. Also, do you think the Italian dominance in possession in yesterday's game is due primarily to deliberate tactics or to technical inferiority?
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Re: Is English Football Inferior?

Postby Hans the German Butler » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:30 am

JT wrote:Yes, but I remember reading the same diagnosis and prescriptions back in the 80's. Is it so culturally ingrained that efforts to make it all better haven't done that much? I have always thought that the EPL quality (and excitement) is primarily due to the best and most skillful players from around the world playing within an English template of speed and directness. That is close to what you said. Also, do you think the Italian dominance in possession in yesterday's game is due primarily to deliberate tactics or to technical inferiority?


Part of the problem is the fans, part of it the media and for the last 40 years the FA. Up until this tournament a lot of fans have had a sense of expectation bordering on entitlement regarding the national team winning trophies. The media has fuelled this at times with talk of 'golden generations' and you only have to look at pre-tournament odds on England with the bookmakers to see that it had all gotten a bit unrealistic. Against that backdrop the game's administrators and the national team coaches have to be seen to be 'delivering' - which traditionally has meant quarter-final of a major tournament as a minimum expectation. Along the way England have had some notable performances - WC86 - knocked out by a goal that should never have been against the tournament winners. The 86 squad was good enough to win the tournament. 1990, out in the semis on penalties after having outplayed the Germans, who went on to win. Euro 96 out in the semis on penalties against the Germans, who again went on to win after having had chances to have won the game in both normal and extra time. The failures have resulted in managers being hounded out of their posts.

Up until the last couple of years the thinking at the top level of the English game has been very short term. All "qualify for major tournaments and do ok when we get there" with little focus on the grass roots of the game. The EPL clubs are partly to blame because there is little financial trickle down to support the new generations coming through. Things do finally seem to be starting to change however. The FA has opened a huge technical training centre at Burton and is investing massively in getting young, tactically and technically aware coaches into the youth set-up to start coaching kids from 7/8 years old and up in playing a form of football that in ten to fifteen years time will be the way every England team will play, from the U17s up to the full squad. Developments in the EPL may help too with young coaches like Brendan Rogers, Roberto Martinez and potentially Andre Villas Boas (Tottenham) coaching tactical and technical quality at some of the clubs.

On the match against Italy specifically, it was a combination of the two things you mention. Italy were technically better than probably all but one or two of the English players. Against that backdrop the tactics employed were about defending in two closed banks and compressing the lines between to try to prevent the opposition from playing. The stats show that in terms of tackles and blocks England were way ahead of every other team at the tournament. The side effect of that was in an inability to retain the ball. They were not sent out with a brief not to retain it, it's just that when you're set up like England were, your lines are too close together and so passing out becomes more intricate and therefore more difficult for less technically capable players to pull off, so too often the long 'out' ball was played to Milner/Young on the flanks or Welbeck in the centre, who with poor close control, could not retain possession. This invites more pressure and makes the resort to the 'out' ball a more likely outcome, further exacerbating the problem.
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Re: Is English Football Inferior?

Postby Moon-Crane » Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:25 pm

To skim over the surface of the point.

Yes, the evidence points to a technical inferiority in the ability of English players. Is it worse from a spectator point fo view? I'd certainly argue that. Which game was the better viewing of the Euros. Spain v Italy or Sweden v England? Two even teams who are decent enough but are both technically flawed appear to be more entertaining viewing. When you are outplayed by a superior opposition you do look awful, though.

Spain are seen as the darling example of 'the beautiful game'. I'd defy anyone not to be bored watching them play 20 passes for the sake of it when 5 would do to get through, say, Eire. How could a 4-0 win appear so flat? I actually get frustrated watching Spain work their way nicely though the opposition half with short sharp passes, only to to hit it out wide, knock it back, and start the same build up all over again. That's maybe an 'English problem', though? Others seem to love it - at international level anyway. It's certainly effective for possession and your opta stats. It's even winning the big competitions in recent years. Is it a style to drag in the audiences? Probably not. Spain are an extreme, though.

It's all in the balance that needs to be achieved. I guess the success of the Premier League shows that teams can play successful, exciting, football. It's not the most bought and watched league in the world for nothing; above the more technical leagues of Spain and Italy and Germany. We just need to produce a bundle of English players to do for the England team what various top overseas players do for their English club teams.

It's not a million miles away. Hans appears to cover some reasons above for why we're behind.
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