Their golden generation couldn’t do it. And the stable of up-and-comers seemed like down-and-outers. With so many “superstars” injured, Don Fabio opted for a ragtag band of old and new as England took on France, a team that is basically following the same philosophy, as it rebuilds after imploding at the World Cup. But it was Laurent Blanc’s program that seemed to work. France bossed the Three Lions and won 2-1.
I’ve often taken exception with England managers picking teams because of the crest on their club shirts instead of their form. Capello claimed he would chose players for the latter… but it always seemed that he just adheres to the same old faces.
Then I saw this article in the Guardian. According to the analysts at football stats crunchers Opta, Capello is close to the money in his choices.
Here’s the Opta line-up (assuming a 4-4-2):
GK: Ben Foster (Birmingham City); Joe Hart (Manchester City)
LB: Ashley Cole (Chelsea); Leighton Baines (Everton)
CBs: John Terry (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United); Phil Jagielka (Everton), Gary Cahill (Bolton)
RB: Luke Young (Aston Villa); Micah Richards (Manchester City)
LM: James Milner (Manchester City); Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)
CMs: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Kevin Nolan (Newcastle United); Paul Scholes (Manchester United), Scott Parker (West Ham United)
RM: Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa); Joey Barton (Newcastle United) (?!?)
Forwards: Andy Carrol (Newcastle United), Danny Welbeck (Sunderland); Darren Bent (Sunderland), Luke Varney (Blackpool)
Young and Scholes are retired… but almost everyone else has been picked by Capello in the last year or so. Compare this list with the popular Actim Index:
GK: Hart; Foster
LB: Cole, Liam Ridgwell (Birmingham City)
CBs: Terry, Scott Dann (Birmingham City); Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Roger Johnson (Birmingham City)
RB: No English RBs listed in Top 100
LM: Downing; Ashley Young (Aston Villa)
CMs: Nolan, Gerrard; Scholes, Gareth Barry (Manchester City)
RM: Albrighton, Barton (again, not sure if he really is on the right but let’s keep it even)
Forwards: Carroll, Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers); Peter Crouch (Tottenham Hotspur). There were only three English forwards in the Top 100.
The most noticeable differences in the two line-ups were in defence. But the Actim Index is telling. Is the same-old-same-old of Terry/Ferdinand working? What about picking members of a Birmingham defence that was almost impenetrable at St. Andrews?
The Actim doesn’t think much of English goalkeepers. Not that there are that many of them: picking a third keeper using Actim is an issue (Gilks? Robinson?). That — and the lack of rankings for right back and forward — should come as no surprise to regular watchers of the side. All of these areas have been problems over the last five years.
The thing that sticks out the most in both lists is the actual ranking of English players compared to foreigners. Simply put, the England players are outclassed. Big money in the Premier Leagues — and big price tag for Englanders — has led clubs to look elsewhere. Not only are they buying foreign superstars, but teams are buying young prospects from overseas… most of whom don’t bring big attitudes, big posses… and big problems (Ladism, Alcoholism… name your -ism).
It remains to be seen if new homegrown rules for both UEFA and the Prem will help or hurt England’s development. But in the meantime, it could be slim pickings for whatever man assumes the mantle of manager.