The Sun has Set

Saturday is going to be a trying day for everyone English. England boasts the best domestic league in the world right now. They have some of the greatest players of this generation. Yet, it looks like they won’t be at the Euro ’08 Finals. It is really a shame that Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and the rest of the England squad will have to watch from the stands. Does it speak to the overall improved world talent or the mismanaged talent that England possesses? Will England ever seal the deal?

With the players, that England have in their current squad there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to find a way to succeed. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Watching the English National Team should be fun. At Euro ’04 it was fun. Michael Owen was eating people up; Rooney was announced to the World. It seems to me that anyone should be able to step in and run this team. I just don’t get it. I know I’m American so I my connection to the English team is purely as a fan. It blows my mind. I think if the US team had half the players they have in England there is no way we shouldn’t be at the final four of every major tournament in the world.

Why can’t England find a manager that has the stones to let his boys play? Steve McClaren had the deck stacked against him because Sven Goren Erickson had mismanaged the team. England coming into and going out of the World Cup didn’t look good. Rooney was hurt, Owen went down and there was a serious lack of confidence in the midfield. England wasn’t utilizing its talent pool to its fullest. Erickson let too many people sit on his bench. The tactically game England were engaging in was more fitting an underdog like Trinidad and Tobago. Sven has managed at a high level and he has won large competitions. Sven was not the man to run the English National Squad. Sven would have been the man to run the Brazilian Squad. Sven’s style of play dictates the need for a creative play-maker that drives play forward. England has creative play-makers in Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, Rooney, and Owen. None of these players are the creative flair needed for Sven’s style. England’s play-makers create

I understand that Paul Robinson isn’t the answer. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are the answer. Those two at playing central defense are about as close to unstoppable as you can find in soccer. Then you add on Ashley Cole and Micah Richards on the left and right respectively and the English back four is simply brilliant. Overall the English defense is stout. Paul Robinson isn’t great but he is at a bare minium an average international level keeper.

The midfield has amazing depth. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are both players you can build an entire team around. David Beckham might be on the decline, but he still has the ability and talent to play at the international level. Aaron Lenon is nipping at the heels of Beckham on the right side of the midfield. Wright-Philips and Joe Cole both have above average ability and talent and they both help to give England width. Owen Hargreaves is one of the best holding midfielders in the world. I am not a huge fan of the English left mid position Stewart Downing just hasn’t shown me enough yet. I know that Cole, Lampard, Lenon, and Wright-Philips have played on the left side but none of them are true left wings. I did however watch the under 21 match the other day for England and Theo Walcott looked pretty good playing on the left side. I really enjoy watching Arsenal play and Walcott has been impressing there a lot as of late. On a whole the English midfield is on a true world class level. Lamps and Gerrard has never found a way to play with one another. Gerrard in my opinion more of a bull dog who likes to take the ball forward to stress the defense. Lamps is a little more creative but probably not as gifted running with the ball. Lamps looks for the pass to break the game wide open, or for a creative give and go. Lamps runs are beautifully timed. The issue between Gerrard and Lamps in my eyes is Lamps tends to defer too much and once he starts to defer Gerrad’s natural instinct is to grab the bull by the horns and run with it. Instead of beautiful interplay, the two of them tend to counter-act each other. I would also say that England doesn’t tend let things build up enough. There is a tendency to push the ball up to the forwards too quickly. England should build pressure with their amazing midfielders, stretch out and break down the defense and then find that one ball to Rooney, Owen, or Crouch that cannot be coped with.

Michael Owen is again injured. It never seems to fail that once he’s been health for about three months something has to happen. Now, Owen is out for about a month. I keep reading all of the English press talking about how they need Owen and Rooney to have even a glimpse of a shot at Euro ’08. Crouch has talent and seems to have way more success at a national level then he does at the club level. Crouch isn’t about to break-down the Italian defense but he is going to force them to respect his height. Owen and Rooney don’t have that element. Crouch brings a different element to the game. It is however a shame that Owen is down injured. England do have options, Matt Derbyshire is lighting up the U-21 scene and Ashley Young hasn’t really been given his fair shot at the international level quite yet.

To me this squad still has more quality then any other team in their current qualifying group. I need to see something from them in their next few matches; something where McClaren opens up the midfield and allows for creative play. I can’t watch the long ball after long ball game anymore. Please open up the middle of the pitch; even if it means doing something like a 4-3-3. I could see Crouch, Rooney and Cole up top supported by Lamps, Gerrard and Hargreaves. Let’s see something.

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