Since Chelsea won the champions league which was only recently English teams have been seen to be struggling against the larger sides in Europe but why? For a large period of time English teams dominated the European stage on occasion hosting the four teams in the semi finals. The sudden deterioration of the top quality European sides has come as a shock to a large number of people yet the expectation to succeed has continued and is this perhaps an outdated opinion.
Having watched English teams truly struggle for the past few years I have wondered why have we taken steps back when we were once so dominant and struck fear into the hearts of the opposing teams. Some people may question the quality of teams as a whole having gone down. For me this point can not be argued because as a nation we are one of the biggest traders being involved in high valued transfers every market, so the quality does exist. This then makes us question the maturity and experience of English clubs. Manchester City have one of the oldest starting line ups on average in the competition at around 27 years of age so that shows significant playing experience. Despite the premier league being arguably the most exciting league to watch because of all the goals, we must ask why there is such a large amount of goals being scored every game.
As a nation we have lost appreciation and respect for the art of defending. Having grown up watching the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in their prime, I have become accustomed to that solid centre back who is dependable and will make game saving tackles or clearances. Looking at the sides in the champions league this year across Europe the defensive qualities of the top teams is exceedingly better than ours. Lets take each of our four teams as an example of defensive immaturity. Arsenal have a world cup winner in Mertesacker who is lacking pace and any form of coordination when running back to his own goal. We then look at Chelsea who undoubtedly have the best defence in the Barclays Premier League yet have had to play a youngster called Zouma in place of an experience centre back like Cahill who was superb last year but, has struggled this year. Liverpool this year have finally managed to resolve the defensive frailties from last year now that they no longer have a Champions league campaign that saw no real leadership or desire to defend. As for Manchester City supposedly there best player and captain Vincent Kompany has been a mere shadow of himself.
While the defensive frailties still exist English teams will not progress far into the tournaments being heavily dependent on the attacking prowess they possess because simply other teams beat them on that basis as well.
All the rumours are pointing towards quite a youthful attacking force to feature against Italy possible because of the age of the Italian defenders who are ageing. Cheillini will not have the legs to match one of several players; Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Oxlade Chamberlain and Ross Barkley to name a few who would render the Italian defence cuckoo. The list of players previous are examples of the youthful nature of the squad proving England’s reliance on the old faithful is dissolving which can only benefit English football for the future. Realistically I can’t see any changes to the England back five including; Joe Hart in net, Glen Johnson at Right Back, Leighton Baines at Left Back and pairing at the back Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. This back five has been very solid and has built up a good understanding so hopefully this will stand us in good stead in our defensive duties.
Now for the holding midfield, we obviously have the certainty of Steven Gerrard captaining the side hoping to overtake David Beckham’s record appearances for an outfield player for England. Now the difficulty comes when deciding his partner, Lampard could add an attacking threat with his good goal scoring record for England or the more likely Jordan Henderson with his box to box antics causing more havoc for Prandelli’s side to contend with.
In front of the Liverpool pair I have really struggled with deciding who should play and in what position wide or central, another issue that came to mind is does Rooney actually deserve a spot on merit. My decision is as so; Rooney through the middle because the boys alongside him will need his composure and experience to help guide them through a game of this magnitude and importance. I have been a big critic of Rooney this year saying he should be the man to step and lead United through this tough time but actually looking at his record he has come up with 15 goals mainly playing as a CAM which can only be commended. If Rooney is to ever put to rest the whispers of his national team record then Brazil would be the time to put it behind him. Alongside him Raheem Sterling but despite his age and lack of game time in an England shirt he can really, really frighten the Italy Right Back into making numerous mistakes leading to England scoring. On the other side it would be difficult to say no to Adam Lallana as he has been consistently good throughout his England career, stepping into the centre of the field running at the defence causing them to back track and lose attention of the on running players. Inevitable Daniel Sturridge must start he has shown he is an out and out scoring, creating chances at will for example Peru where he curled the ball majestically into the top corner from a unlikely position.