It can’t be argued that English football has been in decline in recent years when it comes to the national team, but one thing which needs to be focused on are instead of rebuilding for the present, rebuilding for the future, and two men at the centre of that have to be John Stones and Raheem Sterling.
Stones has the qualities to become a world class centre half under Pep Guardiola. For his age he reads the game well and is a good tackler, but there is still room for improvement. He is the only English defender we have had with attributes on the ball and take a chance since Rio Ferdinand’s emergence. However, due to his price tag and British media and British pundits having a limited mindset that defenders shouldn’t take chances and play with the ball, Stones is often criticised much more than he should be for the way he plays. Guardiola has said previously that he doesn’t mind if his players make mistakes because they will learn from them, and this has already applied to Stones. Playing out of the back is heavily encouraged abroad in countries such as Spain and Germany, and they are the last two world champions, so they must be doing something right. Everton manager Ronald Koeman said on Monday Night Football last season when talking about the Dutch style of play back when he was a player, how he loves centre halves to transition the game and bring the ball out, and its why the Dutch were so good. Nowadays whenever someone such as Gerard Pique or Jerome Boateng does it they are praised, yet when John Stones has the confidence to bring the ball out from the back he is criticised? This negativity is why England don’t get anywhere, as too many ‘football experts’ disagree with how they think others should play. There is no doubt Stones needs to improve defensively, but looking at the current crop of English centre halves he stands out as the best in my opinion. Chris Smalling is very inconsistent, Phil Jagielka is ageing and Gary Cahill simply isn’t good enough and is often a liability, which is why when Kurt Zouma is fit he plays ahead of him at club level. Stones is the way forward, only a fool would disagree.
John Stones is Englands best centre back, and will improve even more under Guardiola
Sterling is inconsistent and his decision making is letting him down. He has had a good start this season for City but there is definitely more he can offer and areas to improve, one of those being his finishing. He missed a great opportunity for England against Scotland, similar to one he missed against Wales in the Euro’s. His sheer pace and agility always make him a threat however, and he is at his best when he plays on the right flank. When he is on the left, he is too predictable and defenders know he is very one footed, and they know he is going to cut in, so they force him out wide. This is why he gets criticised so much, when he plays on the left, but when he plays on the right, at times it is almost as if he is a new player. He has more freedom and can either go down the right or cut in whilst being on his stronger foot, and as we have seen this season, draws fouls and wins penalties when playing on the right. This season, he is only two goals less of what he had for the whole of last season, and has already matched his number of assists and he is using his pace much more. Looking at the current young England wingers, he is a much better player than Wilfried Zaha is, who is massively inconsistent and over rated, Andros Townsend is a Championship quality player, Jesse Lingard has no way near as much potential and Marcus Rashford is better as a striker. Looking at those options, Sterling who hasn’t reached the age of 23 yet has huge talent and potential, and if England are to ever achieve something, then he must become a regular for England, and become a better overall player. He is the future of English football alongside Stones, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli. What doesn’t help Sterling is the media, The Sun in particular, publishing pointless and negative articles about Sterling, where whatever he does he is criticised unfairly. It isn’t his fault he gets paid more than he should, so why is it a problem ? The English media need to get behind all of the England players if England are to achieve anything, looking abroad to Germany, their players are never criticised as much as ours are, and Germany are now world champions. England have a bright pool of talent, and Sterling is right at the centre of it.
Sterling has received far too much unfair criticism in past seasons from the media, mostly The Sun.
This article was written by Ben Tipper. Twitter – @bentippermcfc
Featured Image Credit: Wonker