There are a multitude of issues affecting the national game which Hodgson needs to address.

 

So England go out again at the quarter final stage on penalties. It is becoming a case of déjà vu and there is clearly a mental block when England face penalties. Many questions are being asked as to why England are not able to progress further, in the past the manager has been questioned and for a short period after a tournament the players are questioned, our grassroots game and youth coaching is criticised also. What is clear, is that there are a multitude of issues affecting the national game which need addressing.

Firstly the question to ask is are our players good enough? Perhaps we have thought too much of them, based on a media which feels the need to hyperbole every English player and proclaims how every tournament is going to be “the one”. The past two tournaments have shown that we are not that good; one we couldn’t qualify for and the other were we humiliated in; by Algeria as much as by Germany. This time we have performed well when looking at the results, yet the style of play, the opportunities presented for the opposition in all three games and the clear lack of quality on the ball of all the players, indicates that there is something severely wrong with England as a national side.

People say the English league is the best in the world, and perhaps it provides high entertainment, yet I do not believe it provides the grace, poise, high quality and tactical efficiency which is required for the top levels of football. This is especially true of the majority of English players, who are credited for their hard work, determination and steal, yet lambasted for trying to pass the ball in their defensive third. Creativity is squashed at the top level as much as in youth levels and many English players are mere robots, passing or clearing the ball in a mechanisitc style. The majority of English players worry more about having possession of the ball than not having it, because it means they cannot make mistakes, surely a mentality where it is better to work hard and chase the ball than have possession of it, is rather ludicrous? Against Italy we had neither, Pirlo was afforded time and space to run the game.

The sad fact is that our reliance on a generation which has won nothing has resulted in a future which lacks depth and experience.

Hodgson's project

The role of the manager is more than coaching the national side, he should be the man who brings all levels together, from grassroots to the senior side. He needs to inspire a nation, which I don’t believe Sven or Fabio did. Hodgson was brought in because he represented what the FA look for in a coach of the national side, respectful, honest and obedient. The FA do not want mavericks, hence why Clough never got the job, yet I do believe Hodgson did an excellent job this summer considering the injuries, drop outs and short period he had.

People who believe Redknapp would have done better are crazy, the key to this tournament for all sides has been a strong defence, for the minimal time Hodgson had with these players, he got them organised and compact, ugly words perhaps, yet I recall Mancini doing the same thing with Man City, Mourinho with Chelsea, Inter and Madrid and Low at Germany, all great coaches who saw the necessity of developing a side defensively first and then adding in attacking components to complement the stable foundation.

Redknapp builds from the front, on attack and thus would have been too exposed this tournament, we will never know, yet I believe the FA made the right choice. Were Hodgson’s tactics too strict and rigid, of course, yet it got them to a penalty shootout in the quarter finals, not a bad achievement.

He will need to do more in the coming four years to put together a side strong defensively and lethal on the counter attack. The German model will be a perfect start, Low adapted Klinsmann’s vision of a fast paced 4-4-2 with the more effective 4-2-3-1 formation, it is with this style that Hodgson should lay down for England also. We are a counter attacking nation, we possess speed and skill in our attacking players, along with defensive solidity, we cannot play like Spain, yet we can play like Germany, and the coming years and decades we should look to develop a model based on Germany, developing strong, talented ball playing defenders, fast wing backs, disciplined and composed midfielders, and creative forwards able to play anywhere across the front, this needs to be our blueprint and vision.

Our youth lacks experience

The point of this article is to explain that England will not win anything in the coming years, Hodgson should not be judged on his trophies, but on his ability to lay down a new style as mentioned above and oversee a transitional period for England. Not winning is not a bad thing, yet seeing progress is essential.

The media and fans need to stop obsessing about winning every tournament, we need to understand our players are not good enough at this time. If we become realistic about the issues needed to address then perhaps we can put in place foundations for the future which give us a better standing for the future. At this time we are in a stage of transition; players need to move on and young players need to be given experience and time to improve.

For youth players, a key opportunity to gain experience and knowledge of international football is through tournaments. Last summer in the Under 21 tournament England were a mockery, and it was a key indicator that we simply do not value players gaining experience. Pearce was adamant that young players should have gone to the Under 21 Euro’s yet too many dropped out. This is not conducive to a winning side; players should be playing throughout their age groups to experience tournament play and the feeling of a big games. Spain took World Cup winners Juan Mata and Javi Martinez to the Under 21’s, unlike some English players they did not reject calls from their country, these players did not feel superior to this level and came back victorious, giving Spain more silverware and importantly experience of tournament football.

It shows an arrogance in our nation which is founded on nothing that some players feel above the Under 21’s, that it is viewed as inferior. Spain's Cesc Fabregas and Germanys Mesut Ozil all gained their first experience of international tournaments at Under-21 level. Were these experiences key to their rise to their levels of quality? It certainly would have helped.

With the Olympics taking place this summer and a GB side being entered, I hope that players like Chamberlain, Henderson, Sinclair, Gardner, Cleverly and Sturridge all go and represent GB, it will be essential for England’s development if these players, who for me will be part of England this next decade, gain experience of this kind of event.  Players such as Argentina's Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero represented their country in the 2008 Olympics, it was an honour for them, they won gold and they are now two of the best in the world. I cannot stress the importance we need to place on having our youth participate in this events.

Experience is the key ingredient

And so looking at the new generation it is worrying to see such lack of experience and caps. This is why we cannot expect so much too soon, they must be given time to adapt and improve. People talking of a partnership in defence between Jones and Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge and add into the mix the potential of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere and the future may look promising, yet is very unproven.

In England we have relied on the same players time and time again. The key players of the past 8 years have been Ashley Cole (98 caps), Terry (77), Ferdinand (81), Lampard (90), Gerrard (96) and  Rooney (76) and possibly Defoe (48). This totals 566 caps; that is a lot of experience. Yet as important as that is, it has won us nothing. Looking at this list perhaps Cole and Rooney are the only two who we can consider for the 2014 World Cup.

This being said, Hogdson needs to gradually bleed through new players, Lescott and Cahill in defence for instance.We must try something new with a new breed of players. We are lagging behind Germany and Spain in terms of experience and this new generation must be given the next five years to gain this essential experience.

Germany and Spain are the best two teams in Europe and possibly the world right now. So it is interesting to compare the experience that players in their squad who are under 25 have. If we are talking teams capable of being successful for the coming 6 years then players under 25 will be around more likely in that time.

When analysing the Under 25’s in the German, Spanish and English squads makes for interesting reading.

 

GERMANY

SPAIN

ENGLAND

 

Neuer (31),

Pique (45)

Hart (22)

 

Hummels (18)

Ramos (90)

Richards (12)

 

Badstuber (24)

Fabregas (67)

Jones (5)

 

Boateng (24)

Mata (18)

Smalling (2)

 

Khedira (31)

Busquets (43)

Walcott (21)

 

Ozil (37)

Pedro (16)

Adam Johnson (9)

 

Schurrle (16)

Martinez (8)

Welbeck (9)

 

Muller (31)

Jordi Alba (9)

Wilshere(5)

 

Kroos (29)

Thiago (3)

Sturridge (1)

 

Gotze (15)

Muniain (1)

Rodwell (2)

 

Reus (7)

Adrian (2)

Lennon (19),

 

Bender (7)

 

Walker (2)

     

Henderson (5)

 

Total 270 caps

Total 302 caps

Cleverley (0)

     

Chamberlain (5)

     

Carroll (7)

       
     

Total 126 caps

This list is not conclusive and is not an indication of a starting XI, however it is interesting to see the players who you would consider to be part of the national side for the next two tournaments. Is it a worry to you that of our potential young players have such little experience of international football compared to the top two European nations. England are far behind the experience of the same players in these other two countries. Gaining experience of tournaments and competitive matches, not just friendlies, is a major factor in improving players and teams in order to win things, Hodgson must begin to give these players experience in the next four years

What is needed to improve the situation

The Premier League is simply the richest, and through these riches foreign owners and players arrive to reap the rewards of the league. I have no problem with foreign players coming over to play in England, the best ones like Cantana, Bergkamp, Zola and Henry brought class and taught England a different way of playing. I am sure many English players have enjoyed playing with these foreign players, yet take them away and put those English together, and we see a team devoid of creativity, guile and confidence.

However in the past decade there has been an influx in foreign talent arriving, some of it good, yet a lot of it average. This is my concern, and the reason why  England is simply not producing players good enough for international football.

The amount of English players playing in the Premier League is 38%, compared to Italy, Germany and Spain who have over 60% of domestic players playing in their leagues. Are these three sides better than England nationally, yes, all three are in the semi final of the Euro’s, they have all been in a World Cup or Euro final in the past decade also. England are far behind these sides, simply the national side has been sacrificed for the good and riches of club football. Can it be changed? Possibly, yet it will be very difficult.

I believe the FIFA 6+5 should be implemented properly, so that home grown actually means domestic player and not just developed in England for three years. This is where Wenger has managed to get by on a loophole which has restricted his ability and need to play English players, he believes they are not as good as other foreign players. Now this may be possibly true, yet if Arsenal’s academy is as good as is made out, why are they not bringing through more players?

The same of Chelsea and soon to be Man City. The issue is that at 16, when these clubs can bring in foreign talent, they neglect the English lads for Spanish and Portuguese players. Is this right? Absolutely not. Other nations do not do this, they do not go scouting 15-17 year olds like English clubs do, the impact on the players social development as well as football development appears ignored, and of the one Cesc Fabregas’s who come through, how many of these young foreigners are being left behind, their careers ruined? I understand football is a tough environment, yet surely these young Spanish, Portuguese players would be better suited learning and developing at home? For the good of English players and the national side, more needs to be done to prevent English sides poaching young talent from abroad, which will allow more English talent to be given the chance to develop and progress from 15-21 years of age.

I believe in the success of coaching and of development. I do not believe that money solves everything, especially top down projects. The Premier League needs to do more and it is essential to change the 6+5 rule to enable more English players to gain more experience. We put too much on foreign players and neglect our own players, we release our own players too early, send them out on loan to quickly and prevent their development. Why? Because there are no rules which require clubs to play them. The Germans and Spanish are proud of developing their own and their rules indicate that. Both countries have over 60% of players in their top league who are able to play for their national side, in England it is 38%.

No change, no success

Without change I cannot see England winning things in the next 20 years. I believe it is essential to give the new generation of players the required caps and experience to develop. They need to be playing Champions League as well international football in order to excel. We need to see the value in playing for all levels of the national side and put more into winning tournaments at 17’s, 19’s and 21’s. If we rely on those players that we have done before then we will not improve, success will  not come and all we do is be in the same place again in 5 years time.

Hodgson understands what is required, his remit is to develop and nurture a new generation for England, the golden generation has come and past without any success, only over hype and disappointment. We do have some talent coming through, yet it will require the clubs, the FA and the Premier League to work together, to be stricter with the rules, because there is a serious issue which has plagued the English game for decades, unless something is done soon, Hodgson and the his successors will not have the talent to choose from and England will continue to be nothing but a top eight side at best. 

We are an impatient nation who want success and wealth yet are not willing to put in the time to accomplish our goals. We then blame everything but ourselves for our failings. We need to change this mentality and understand that a project takes time and perseverance, it requires patience and most importanty it requires people to believe in it. If we are serious about developing players and improving our national side we need to give Hodgson and his project time. 

 

Disagree with what I say or wish to discuss further, leave a comment below.