At Wembley on Wednesday night, England had to settle for a point against Ukraine in Group H, after Frank Lampard’s late penalty salvaged a 1-1 draw at Wembley. This draw put Roy Hodgson’s side level on four points with Poland and Montenegro. However, although drawing one game to Ukraine, a decent side, isn’t a travesty;It showed cracks.
Although England, at times, kept the ball well, every England player, bar a few, seemed uneasy in possession. Some may put it down to nerves, but even experienced players in the England team did it. As well as England appearing to be uneasy in possession, instead of playing passes comfortably to their team-mates feet like Ukraine did with ease, they played the pass into the vague direction they thought a player would be, or in the vague direction of a player they were attempting to pass to. It doesn’t help, either, that when the English players did move for the ball, it wasn’t before their team-mate had recieved the pass, but it was only as their team-mate was looking for a pass.
The reason that after a few passes the English centre-backs had to resort to kicking it upfield is because there was very little movement between Hodgson’s strict formation, and when there was movement, it wasn’t so that their team-mate already had a pass when they recieved it, but when a team-mate had to wait for a pass.
It says something about England going forward against Ukraine that their biggest threat was the right-back Glen Johnson cutting in on his weaker foot! However, with the introduction of Welbeck and Sturridge there was a bit move movement in the front lines, it was just a pity Welbeck couldn’t seem to hit a barn door that night, although he did earn the penalty.
I believe, the main reason that England are so long ball orientated, and uneasy in possession is because of the English youth systems. I know, you have probably seen this a thousand times before, but it is remains true: In Spain, as well as countries like Japan (who have a superb youth system,) the teenagers there don’t begin to even think about playing on full size pitches until the are at least 16. Therefore, instead of jumping up to full size pitches at the young age of 12-ish in this country, they play on smaller pitches with seven aside. This develops players’ technique dramatically as they have to learn to play in tight spaces, and they get more of the ball.
Although the English FA are looking to follow in the footsteps of countries like Spain and Japan, the FA have been yet to show any real intent on emulating the reigning World Cup and European Cup winners. Even Jack Wilshere, a supremely talented technical player, was schooled under Arsene Wenger.
The lesson to be learnt from our national team is to stop the ‘GET RID’ shout thrown about every Sunday morning, and try and make England’s focus on developing technically talented players, rather than strong, quick players, who will excel as teens playing on massive pitches.
Although late, the changes made by the English FA are the first step towards progression in this country, but they must be accompanied by a change in culture and mentality. England’s youngsters must be taught that technique is vital and possession is king, rather than the best player being the one with the longest kick, or the strongest physique. Winning should not be considered everything, developing as players will then mean they can go onto win. Only then will England eventually develop a national side capable of competing with the very best, but it could take time.