Does England lack talent?
October 26, 2010 2 Comments
They are the words that I have learnt to live with over the last few months ‘The England team is rubbish and the young English players lack talent’ and the shortlist for the Ballon d’or seems to reiterate this. The shortlist which was realeased earlier today shows that not one English player has been nominated for the award. For me the most notable nominees are; Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller. The two German youngsters have particularly caught my eye because it was just over a year ago that a German U21 side lined up against an England U21 side including James Milner, Theo Walcott, Adam Johnson in the Euro U21 championships final. So why is it that Ozil and Muller appear to have the world at their feet and the young English players are blasted by the public as useless? And, why have Spain and Germany succeeded where England appear to have failed?
It would be wrong to blog on this topic without considering the number of English players in the premier league. Less than 40% of the players in the Premier League are English, this compared to 77% of the players in La Liga being Spanish and 53% of the players playing in the Bundesliga being German. Looking at Spain in particular it would be easy to draw a comparison between their recent success and the number of Spanish players playing in La Liga. However if you look in more detail, 8 of the Spanish players that played in the World Cup final have come through the Barcelona youth set-up. You could then argue that it is a case of quality not quantity that has lead to the Spanish team’s success. Barcelona who have concentrated heavily on bringing through young Spanish talent have reaped the rewards and consequently so has the Spanish national side. But if you look past Barcelona there is only Real Madrid who can compete on a European level and if you look at Real Madrids starting line up there are only 3 Spanish players…. leading me to believe that the quantity of Spanish players in la liga is not the primary reason for Spains success…..
A couple of weeks back I watched a documentary with Gary Lineker. He visited the Barcelona youth academy and spoke to former Spanish international goalkeeper and now youth coach Andonini Zubizaretta. The interview focused on Spain’s and Barcelona’s lack of success before their recent flourish. Zubizaretta highlighted the fact that whilst Johan Cruyff (the master of total football) managed the Barcelona team he identified a lack of young Spanish talent coming through the ranks. Consequently Cruyff changed the focus of the club to bring through young Spanish talent playing attractive, possession football. The documentary then went on to compare the mentality of these young Spanish players to the mentality of the young English players. The general gist was that English players want to win and will do anything to win, as a result the strongest players make it through the system. In Spain it’s quite different, they focus on the way the team plays and not the result, consequently the more technically gifted players make it through the system regardless of strength and size. Therefore is could be argued that it is the system that has lead to the Spanish success and the lack of English success.
Personally I don’t think there is a lack of English talent, players such as Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham have
succeeded for top European clubs and the new generation of talent coming through such as Adam Johnson, Walcott, Wilshere and Rooney (ok he’s a bit older) definitely have ‘ability’. For me its down to the system that the England national side play that hinders the success of the national side and consequently the perception of English players. This brings me back to Germany, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller… in 2004 Jurgen Klinsman took over a poor looking German national side. What he did was identify how Germany wanted to play football, he decided they wanted an organised team that played quick attacking football, much like the top teams do in the Premier League. He set a formation of 4-5-1 using attacking wingers to support the striker and then implemented this formation across all German sides (including the youth sides). Joachim Low the Germany manager, who was also Klinsmans Assistant, kept the 4-5-1 formation and as a result the young talent coming through has fit straight into the first team meaning the German side has a good mix of experience and youth all playing on the same page!
If English players are to be seen as the world’s best and if the England National team is going to succeed I feel we need to do what the Germans and the Spanish have done. Identify a style of play that suits in England, and then implement that style across all levels. England will never play football like Spain or Brazil but we can play like Germany. We need to take on a similar system and then use a combination of the up and coming talent and the more experienced internationals.
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