Four Gaps England Still Need to Fill.

 

England qualified for Euro 2012 on Friday night in familiar unconvincing circumstances. Despite the second half meltdown, there have been some encouraging signs for England this qualifying campaign. The main one being the settled formation in the 4-2-3-1 and the emergence of a solid core featuring Joe Hart, Terry and Cahill, Scott Parker and Rooney and Young. Despite this however, the starting line-up is far from settled for next summer. There are still issues that need to be addressed and gaps to be filled…

 

Right -Back.

The last four England matches have featured three different right-backs; Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Each have offered something positive and something negative to the side. The two J’s offer adventure and options going forward. Johnson, however has continually forgotten to actually defend in an England shirt. Similarly, Jones does not look as natural at right-back as he does at centre-back, often caught out by any purposeful wing play. Smalling on the other hand, looks like the safest option. Not spectacular and not obviously flawed. For this exact reason we should probably steer clear; for too long we have gone with the safe option, choosing stability over potential has too often been the English way. Too often when looking for goal we have had a Gary Neville or a Stuart Downing on the pitch. We need all the adventure we can get. Kyle Walker is also another exciting player, who has yet to have his defensive credentials called into question. If his good form continues for Spurs he may well be wearing the white of England as well by the summer.

 

Parker’s Midfield Partner. 

Parker must be an automatic starter by now. He has been the perfect link between defense and attack, keeping his passing simple and accurate while still covering ground and breaking up play. To be honest, it is a sad indictment of English football it has taken this long for Parker to earn his place. Since he started dominating opposition midfields at Charlton average and sub-average midfielders’ such as Joey Barton, Jordan Henderson, Michael Carrick, Nicky Butt and Jermaine Jenas have been placed ahead of Parker. The gap here for England only really exists due to doubts over Jack Wilshere’s fitness. Wilshere was one of the best midfielders in the premiership last year and gave world-class performances in the home matches against Man Utd and Barca. If Wilshere does fail to recapture his fitness and best form this season however then Capello will have a problem. Does Barry really deserve another chance at the highest international level after being schooled so comprehensively in South Africa? Does Gerrard work as a sitting midfielder? (no) Does Lampard work as a sitting midfielder? (NO). Is Carrick really that shit? (YES!)

The Wings.

This is an exciting problem for England. For the first time in a while England have a wealth of wingers playing for the top clubs. Adam Johnson at Man City, Ashley Young at Man Utd, Theo Walcott at Arsenal and Stuart Downing at Liverpool. While normally central players Gabriel Agbonlahor and Danny Wellbeck can also play out wide. Adam Johnson has often made things happen for England in his appearances mainly as a substitute. His directness and dribbling can often inject some much needed energy into the side. Unfortunately, he plays for the same club as David Silva and Samir Nasri and thus may not get enough game time to justify a starting berth for England. Walcott still flirts with being both brilliantly effective and comprehensively useless. His performane over the two halves in Montenegro typifies this perfectly. Downing is another one of those who is just too plain, too clean-cut and too English. Ashley Young is the only clear and obvious selection choice at this point, a strong contender for player of the season so far.

The Central Front Two.

Capello’s current system of 4 – 2 – 3  - 1 requires one striker to play deep, as a trequartista who is involved with the midfield, and one who plays off the defence, high up the field and is ready to put away the chances the creative trio behind him creates. Rooney playing deep and Bent playing high seems to be the choice Capello is favouring at the moment, but doubts still linger. For one, Rooney will be absent for the first two matches of Euro 2012 due to his latest act of brainlessness. Is there a fitting replacement for this position, or will England have to revert to two strikers up front? If so, who should play? It has to be between Daniel Strurridge and Danny Wellbeck. Anyone who suggests to you that Andy Carroll, Kevin Davies, Bobby Zamora or Jay Bothroyd are viable options is someone whose opinion you can disregard forever. Wellbeck and Sturridge have both proven this season that they possess the skill, intelligence and dynamism  to play and score amongst the best players at the highest level. As long as he keeps his phenomenal consistency up, Bent will probably still get the nod to start. But Capello has a big decision to make on the group of strikers he takes with him. Wellbeck and Sturridge would be progressive choices, exciting young strikers you can actually play. To take the lumps like Carroll or Zamora would be a depressing indictment of his belief in the teams capabilities. Crouch and Defoe meanwhile have had their chance, let’s not repeat the same mistake.

 

My Personal Choice for Euro 2012:

GK: Hart.

 

RB: Richards.

LB: Cole.

CB: Terry.

CB: Smalling.

 

CM: Parker.

CM: Wilshere.

 

RW: Walcott.

LW: Young.

CF (no.10): Rooney.

Striker (no.9): Bent.

Subs: A Johnson, Barry, Jones, Lescott, Lampard, Sturridge, Stockdale.

Joe Hall

 

08

10 2011

Match-Day Photos 1.

A few photos from recent Charlton matches;

 

Hottest Ticket in Town.

 

Leaving the Valley.

 

The Journey.

 

Pre-Match Drinks.

 

Three Points.

 

"I Just Want to Play."

 

Some Charlton Lads Who Forced Me to Take a Photo of Them.

 

Charlie & Ross.

 

04

10 2011

Kicking and Screening. The ‘Other’ London Film Festival.

 

Kicking and screening is a film festival taking place over the last week throughout London, the world’s first ever football film festival. Unfortunately for myself, university commitments (it’s best to not miss your first lectures of the year) have meant I haven’t been in London, and thus haven’t been able to get to as many of the films as I would have liked. Nearly every film on the line-up tempted me into purchasing a ticket, each with their own unique and interesting football story to tell. On one night you can gain an insight into the world champions, and on another an intimate portrait of an American plying his trade in England.

I chose to see “The Other Chelsea” by Jakob Preuss. The film brings you into Donetsk, the industrial capital of Ukraine, and home to Mircea Lucescu’s Shakhtar Donetsk. Over the course of one Shakhtar European campaign, we come to know a number of natives of Donetsk. We follow the opposing fortunes of Sasha, a 55 year old worker on the coal mines, for whom football is a welcome relief from a tough economic reality, and Kolya a 30 year old politician with ambition, drive and lots of money. The film explores how closely football and politics live together in Ukrainian society. Every victory for the orange of Shakhtar is a victory for the blue party in Ukraine, more popular in the East than the orange revolutionaries of Kyiv.

The film was successful in portraying how important a football club can be for a particular region. Whether it is local or national pride, the career of a politician or the passion of a fan; the results of Shakhtar have far-reaching consequences. At times though, I did feel that the film could have engaged more with the actual team. Players only briefly appear on screen with a fleeting photograph, and a quick glimpse of a name. The important work of Lucescu is not mentioned once. There is little mention of how this team achieves success, just that they do. We see fans bemoan the number of Brazilians in the team; “Fernandinho is good….but no more Brazilians!” However, we never know why this is, who these players really are, and what affect they have on the team. It would have been interesting to know more about why the fans felt this way, the mixed sense of pride they have for a team that wins, but does not contain many Ukrainians, or Russians, or Poles….

These may only be the grievances of an over-eager football fan however. The film still feels fresh, and certainly holds your attention throughout. Director Preuss manages to capture the banality and surrealistic nature of his subjects’ lives. At one point Kolya talks about the merits of cold porridge, before an appearance on national TV. If not for anything else, “The Other Chelsea” is worth seeking out for the vivid portraits it paints of its characters.

Each film at Kicking and Screening, however, is accompanied by a short film and an introduction from a guest speaker. For ten pounds, you are unlikely to find better value-for-money at any other cinema in London this week. “The Other Chelsea” was accompanied by a short called Sivian. The film is simply one very, very passionate Hapoel Tel Aviv fan. In five minutes we see one woman scream, cry, laugh, shout, sing, gasp and pray. Jonathan Wilson, author of Inverting the Pyramid and editor of The Blizzard, introduced the main event itself. I was particularly pleased about this as it was his writing on Shakhtar that got me interested in the film to begin with. The introduction set up the film nicely, and I could have probably listened Wilson talk about the merits of Shakhtar’s Brazilian recruitment and youth system for a while longer.

If you missed it, I would seriously suggest you seek out a film from the festival and look out for it next year. Football and film are beginning to occupy more and more of the same space, Kicking and Screening has highlighted this more clearly than ever before.

 

29

09 2011

Video of the Week.

The title says it all..

24

09 2011

The Next….

… Javier Pastore; Eran Zahavi scores 15 seconds into his Palermo debut.

23

09 2011

Carling > The FA.

The Carling Cup is easy to dismiss. Big clubs field their youth teams. Arsenal field their youth team. Neil Warnock praised his team for losing their second round tie. On Wednesday Football365′s article on Six Ways to Save The Carling Cup…And One to Put it Out of its Misery summed up the commonly accepted idea that the Carling Cup is universally despised.

But is the League Cup any less inspiring nowadays than the FA Cup? In the last few years, I have begun to warm towards the competition named after the world’s worst lager. I have found the energetic and exciting players often deployed in the competition far more enjoyable to watch than the uninspired veterans that often fill out the FA Cup teams. Chelsea’s squad last night was a perfect example. Players like McEachran, Lukaku and Romeau are much vaunted talents, who I have been eager to see in action. These players are exciting, full of potential and hunger. Far more interesting than the players we have seen line up over, and over again before.

In fact, the Carling Cup for me now pretty much matches the FA Cup in all areas. Admittedly, the early stages of the Carling Cup draw such poor attendances, the atmosphere suffers. Once teams reach the quarter finals, crowds often swell. Still playing their matches under floodlights, the atmosphere is undoubtedly better than an afternoon kick off. Proof of this can be seen in the ties between City and Utd in both competitions over the last two years. Both of the Carling Cup semi final ties were pulsating and thrilling. The atmosphere in the Old Trafford leg was so infectious you could feel it on your sofa. The tie at Wembley last year however, was a drab affair in contrast.

Furthermore, the Carling Cup matches are genuine knockout games, there will be a winner and loser decided on the night. The prospect of penalties adds excitement to any occasion. The FA Cup’s replay system is antiquated, the high-intensity of the modern game and the congested fixture list means that the competition can be a huge drain on players and managers, let alone fans for whom a replay is the most unsatisfying of outcomes.

I’m not saying the Carling Cup is everyone’s favourite competition. And, admittedly, I chose Valencia and Barca over Liverpool and Brighton last night. But if I had to choose between it and the FA Cup, I’d take Mickey Mouse every time. Besides, that would mean less ITV coverage of football. That is something we can all agree would be a good thing.

- Joe

22

09 2011

Away Goals Rule.

The well-executed away goal is one of the most exhilarating moments in football. From a player’s perspective it is obviously important as an against-the-odds vindication of the team’s efforts. But for fans, it can be a moment of sheer joy. But what makes a great away goal? It’s not just the quality, in fact, the quality isn’t so important. It’s the context. It’s the silencing of the vast majority of the stadium. It’s the unhinged celebrations, the all too rare sense that players and fans are working for the same cause together, most evidently displayed in the embraces between teams and fans that seem to take place more often away than at home. I love the great away goal. Expect it to become a feature of this site.

Unfortunately, this weekend’s football did not offer the best selection. I have gone for Leon Best’s goal at Villa Park. The goal itself is woeful, the kind that any world class striker would be embarrassed to score. But Leon doesn’t care, neither do his teammates and neither do the fans. Look at his grin at 0:28 and observe the mentalists killing themselves to touch him at 0:40. Good away goal.

(apologies for the “commentary”.)

 

20

09 2011