Saturday, 20 March 2010

Football This Week

I have decided to stick with the formula of covering several different topics that have arisen in the footballing world this week due to the lack of an individual story that caught my eye. So here are my opinions of some of this week's big football events... and a brief comment on the England Rugby Team:

Beckham's injury: Having torn his achilles in the final minutes of AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo Beckham's season has come to an abrupt end. Many have said that this has done Capello and England a favour but as I discussed last week I personally believed that Becks still had a role to play in the squad and as such I feel the injury blow does dent the quality of our squad, even if he was only ever going to be a fringe player. There has been great debate over whether or not we should care and regardless of whether or not you feel he should have made the squad it you still ought to care on a personal level. It is a sad way for one of the England's greatest footballers of his generation to end, as it surely must, his international career. In other news Defoe is now out with a hamstring injury and joins Spurs team mate Aaron Lennon on the sidelines and these are certainly still bigger problems ahead of the World Cup.

Dowie: The ugliest man in football returns to the Premiership as the new Hull City boss. You would have to assume that he was a last resort. Names such as Mark Hughes and Alan Curbishley had been linked with the job and yet Dowie get the position, he must have got it on his looks. He has only survived 15 game spells as Charlton and QPR as well getting Crystal Palace relegated and also being part of the Newcastle set-up that saw them drop to the Championship at the back end of last season. He seems far from the logical choice and it will be very interesting if he can defy what many, including myself, will be Hull's fate this season – relegation.

Fulham – From one very average manager to one of the best in the country, Roy Hodgson. He continued his outstanding work at Fulham with one of, if not the, result of the season. To come back from a 4-1 deficit against Juventus to win 5-4 on aggregate stunned the footballing world and deserved a mention in this week's big events. Zamora is once again getting shouts of an England call up and if he maintains his current form it would be tough to argue with them, especially after Defoe's lay off. The Cottagers have now been drawn against Wolfsburg in the next round and even though the German side are a quality outfit Hodgson and his men should not fear any side after the feat they accomplished on Thursday night.


England's Six Nations: Watching England grind out a draw against Scotland last weekend was the final straw. Martin Johnson needs to go. Rumours had it that if he failed to get 3 wins in the this year's tournament he would get the boot . With two wins thus far and a very tough game against France (in which you would expect them to be rolled over) he looks sure to fall short of his target. He has finally introduced many of the changes that many were hoping were implemented before the first ball was kicked and despite shifting the personnel he will inevitably continue to favour caution and conservatism in everything his does with the team. Finger pointing can be directed at Borthwick or Wilkinson but the criticisms placed on them really must lie with Johnson. The lack of passion and direction throughout the team is a result of Johnson's tactical naivety and inexperience that has manifested itself in an uninspiring and lacklustre six nations from England. There is a part of me that hopes that England get hammered in Paris tonight if that is what is needed for the RFU to take the necessary action and get rid of Johnson. Yet one can easily predict that the reality of the situation is that Martin will be given a run into next year's World Cup, even though his time as manager thus far does not warrant such generosity.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...


  1. Just a word on Martin Johnson... he has to go. End of. The rest of the games that England have heading into a World Cup year include, France, Australia (tour), Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Heading into a World Cup year, England will potentially win 1 out of 8 games. And I don't expect Samoa to simply roll over. The future under Johnson looks bleak.

  2. Defoe has said he will only be out for 10 days or so. Even if it is longer I wouldn't call it a serious problem as he is only going to be a fringe player if Rooney stays fit. With regards to Beckham, it might be something lost but that is one position where we have strength in depth with Walcott, Joe Cole, Milner, Young all being adaquate replacements. There would be something to gain by picking any one of these 4.

  3. Jack, on balance you are right that there are decent replacements on the right wing but Beckham's injury is still a blow in terms of his experience and quality as well as just from a sentimental point of view.

    Dan, I still believe that Johnson needs to go despite the fact that England's performance against France did show signs of improvement. He seemed to have finally listened to his critics and the team played more expansive and passionate rugby, for the first twenty minutes at least. Yet I believe this came more out of the enthusiasm the debutants brought to the team and England's ability to motivate themselves for the big games, which is why we seem to be able to put a run together in the World Cup's. Johnson will inevitably stay to the World Cup even though he has not delivered in his time as manager but lets just hope that he learns from this year's Six Nations and makes the personnel and tactical changes that are required. Dan I would like to know what you think post-France game, did it do anything to change your opinion??

  4. Martin Johnson will still be in charge for the World Cup... that's for sure and there were encouraging signs on saturday, but there are still changes he needs to make. Foden and Ashton must stay, Wilkinson must not start, and the forwards need to link up with the backs... it's as if they have never met each other before!! The work is clearly there to be done, but with the prospect of only one win for the rest of the year, it does not look promising...

    Stats from the Times today:

    - Offloads: England 30 (Last), Wales 60 (First)
    - Line breaks 15 (4th)
    - Tries scored 6 (4th)
    - Tries conceded 5 (1st)
    - Turnovers won 7 (Last)

    The numbers tell a story in itself... 7 turnovers won in 5 games is absolutely dire, and shows a lack of dynamism from the back 3 in particular. Nick Easter has lost his way and James Haskell is inconsistent. Line breaks is another poor statistic and the buck must land with Wilkinson's positioning at first receiver and Flutey's absence in the entire tournament.

    The signs were there on saturday and just for once, Brian Moore's commentary managed to annoy me more than the English rugby. I think Foden and Ashton will continue to improve and will be stars of the future, but there are personnel changes that still need to be made. Once Johnson figures that out then England can improve.

  5. The stats are certainly very revealing mainly in the offloads and line breaks that show the lack of attacking prowess that the team possess. Turnovers, like you say, show a back row that is struggling for form and perhaps just from quality. I disagree that the blame for the line break need lie entirely with Wilko. I would say that he was probably just aware that those outside him dictated them to play like that and thus would rather blame poor coaching and a lack of direct running from the backs. Nevertheless, it would seem that Wilkinson's reign at 10 may have come to an end and even though I don't like to point the figure at him.

    Foden and Ashton are stars for the future but they are two players with bright futures surrounded by others, mainly the forwards, who may not. The forwards could be successful if, and only if, they learn to provide quick ball and, as you say, start to link up with the backs. As I say, all we can do now is hope. Hope that Johnson learns from a poor tournament and can defy his many critics and through changes in tactics and mentality give us an England team that is not so painful and fustrating to watch!


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