England have work to do before Russia 2018

2012. That is the last time England reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament. They were beaten on penalties by Italy who went on to progress to the final before losing out to Spain. A lot has changed since Euro 2012. Roy Hodgson is no longer England manager, Steven Gerrard who captained England at Euro 2012 has retired from international football and moved to the US and current captain Wayne Rooney was dropped to the bench for England’s recent game against Slovenia by interim boss Gareth Southgate.

Two years later, England were competing at the World Cup in Brazil 2014. As usual, they were expected to get out of the group easily. Instead, they lost to Italy and Uruguay then drew 0-0 with Costa Rica. Before their uninspiring performances in Brazil, England had not been knocked out in the group stages since 1958 and it was the first time they had been eliminated after just two matches.

Euro 2016 did not end well either. England progressed from the group this time, beating Wales and drawing with both Russia and Slovakia but they suffered what has been described as the most embarrassing defeat in their history when they lost 2-1 to Iceland. Yes, Iceland were a good team but England were supposed to be so much better. The shock defeat led to Roy Hodgson resigning minutes after the final whistle. To make matters even worse, hosts France beat Iceland 5-2 in the quarter-finals, showing England how it was done.

After Euro 2016, Sam Allardyce was appointed England manager describing it as “absolutely the best job in English football.” Fast forward 67 days and Allardyce had lost his job as England manager because of the Telegraph’s undercover investigation. Despite not wanting to take the job in the summer, England U21s manager Gareth Southgate has found himself in temporary charge of the senior squad until the friendly against Spain in November.

England are now in the process of aiming to secure a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for a sixth consecutive time. They have played three matches so far, beating Slovakia and Malta before the recent goalless draw to Slovenia. Joe Hart was England’s best player when they faced Slovenia. Hart’s save in the top corner was magnificent and England would have lost the game had it not been for his stellar performance. Pep may not want him but he is still England’s number one.

Scotland are England’s next opponents in their bid to qualify for Russia 2018 and it should be an interesting clash when the two home nations meet at Wembley on the 11th of November.

In 2013, Frank Arnesen who was Director of Football at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, as well as Sporting Director at Hamburger SV, Metalist Kharkiv, and PAOK FC, said “The money is a big part of the problem in England because clubs go out and buy finished players instead of waiting. Young players need to make mistakes to get better, but managers think they can’t afford [for] that to happen. You see the squads, even in the smaller clubs, they get players from all over instead of bringing young players through.” Frank Arnesen makes a good point. Marcus Rashford is an exception to the rule. The youngster was put into Manchester United’s starting line-up after Martial was injured during the warm-up before United’s Europa League match against FC Midtjylland in February and the rest is history. He went on to score against Arsenal on his Premier League debut as well as becoming the youngest player to score on his England debut and he got a hat-trick on his England U21 debut. The young Mancunian has proved his quality and even though England should not pin all of their hopes on him, he is certainly a promising talent.

My issue is that England managers don’t bring him on early enough. Roy Hodgson took him to the Euro’s and Rashford only came on in the 73rd minute against Wales and then the 86th minute against Iceland. Sam Allardyce didn’t even include Marcus Rashford in the squad for his sole game in charge against Slovakia and Gareth Southgate threw Marcus Rashford on with eight minutes to spare in the match against Slovenia. England have many talented youngsters but Marcus Rashford is the man of the moment despite not starting any of England’s three World Cup qualifiers. His youthful exuberance makes him tricky to deal with and he is always making clever runs in behind the defence whether he is playing down the middle or on the left or the right.

England’s Under 21 squad is full of talented players such as James Ward-Prowse, Tammy Abraham, Nathan Redmond and Demarai Gray. While there is little chance of England doing a Germany and having a complete overhaul of the squad, more of the Under 21s should be given a chance in the first team.

In Germany, most of the players in the Bundesliga are homegrown talents giving Joachim Low plenty of choice when he picks the squad for the German national team, whereas English players are in the minority in the Premier League. The four German teams in this season’s Champions League have 49 German players in total compared to the four English clubs which consist of just 23 English players. English clubs have plenty of English talent to choose from but unless they start doing so instead of buying the finished article, the England national team will suffer as a result.

These changes cannot happen overnight but Russia 2018 is under two years away and smalls steps can and should be made to improve the England national team. The players always look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders when playing for their country. If they could play even half as well for their country and they do for their clubs, England could make it past the last 16.



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