Too many wide boys?
By Corey Kenny
Why England needs to change for success
England haven’t won a thing, reached a final or been favourites for a major football tournament for 46 years. I wanted to find out why and although I haven’t come to a football epiphany, I believe I’ve found a fundamental problem with the mentality our kids are brought up with.
If you watched an episode of Monday Night Football at the end of August, you would’ve had the pleasure to watch a very insightful Gary Neville provide a real detailed analysis of how football has evolved in the Premier League. Now I certainly didn’t like Gary Neville when he wore a Man Utd jersey but ever since he’s hung up his boots and become a Sky Sports pundit he has certainly grown on me as a tactician.
That aside, he spoke about how the ‘Get that chalk on your boots lad’ winger has been transformed into a new modern day winger that plays between the lines of the CB and FB. These players were often described as luxury players but, I prefer roaming midfielder.
These are the creative sparks in the team, that are often acute in size but carry the burden of providing the ammunition to an often one man strike force. These are the players Spain have become famous for producing and they have won by playing with these types of footballers.
However, England have continuously produced the same type of wide man over and over again; one who is fast, gets to the by-line and crosses the ball into the dreaded ‘danger zone.’ These kinds of players have been spread throughout England eras and have never produced trophies in 46 years.
Let’s clear one thing up before I continue, I am talking about wide men, not central midfielders where the likes of Gerrard, Gazza and Scholes have carried a certain technical tag over their careers.
I may be wrong but, the only exceptions to a typical English winger over the years are David Beckham and Joe Cole. Beckham was still an out and out winger, he would hug the touchline, take a touch and whip it in to whoever was in the box. What he lacked in pace he made up for in unbelievable crossing accuracy. The fit Joe Cole was a brilliant technical footballer, he would roam around the pitch like the Spaniard and unfortunately injury stopped him becoming a real English talent for years.
Take a look at the best ‘hug the touchline’ wide men in the league: Bale, Walcott, Lennon, Johnson, Young, Valencia, Sinclair, Moses, Dyer, Milner, Wright-Phillips, Maclean, Downing (jokes aside), Bertrand and I’ll include the up and coming Raheem Sterling.
Now take a look at the best ‘roaming midfielders:’ David Silva, Nasri, Kagawa, Mata, Hazard, Ben Arfa, Taraabt, Cazorla, Van der Vaart and Dempsey.
Does anybody else notice the damning difference between the two? Every single one of the out and out wingers is English (or British to bring Gareth Bale into this) apart from Antonio Valencia. Okay Moses chose to play for Nigeria but he was raised the English way, Further on, there is not one English roaming midfielder.
This is the epidemic English football is facing, somebody more important than myself needs to notice this and make a difference, starting with the youth teams over a field on a cold, raining Sunday morning.
There are two players that I didn’t include on the list. Jack Wilshere first of all - he’s been likened to Spanish players time and time again but, I believe he is much more of a box to box midfielder, contributing with his superb tackling and awareness for the game and doubling up in the final third with his quick feet, eye for a pass and I’m sure he will learn to find the back of the net as soon as he returns. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long to see the 5foot7 light up the E******s again.
The other player is another young English midfielder plying his trade in North London N5. His name is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. ‘The Ox’ sets himself apart from other players because nobody is really sure what his best position is as of yet. He has had many fine performances as a typical English winger, using his pace and strength to cause problems from wide. However, I have been equally impressed with the few performances I’ve seen him play in central midfield. His footballing intelligence shows maturity beyond his tender age and he could play the roaming midfield role I speak about if he gets the chance. I am sure he will become an Arsenal and England legend, he just needs to find what position his name will be in on the PFA team of the year in year out.
So, although there are players coming through the system, I don’t think any of these are the Silvas and Matas of this world and until somebody breaks the mould, I can’t see the England trophy drought ending anytime soon. We may have invented football, but football has changed and our invention is going to slip away from us unless we produce what we are missing.
5th October 2012
User Comment and Reaction
User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.
Aziz Ibrahim 9:30am 5th Oct 2012
As long as the only two English roaming midfielders are top class and with the Guinners, I don't need any others in any other team - LOL ... - Post No. 29294
chris dee 9:49am 5th Oct 2012
What an 'interesting 'article,if you are interested in solving England problems in a club fanzine. It just confirms that The Gooner has become as boring,predictable,sanitised and run of the mill as the matchday programme if this the best they can offer. Still waiting for the editor to answer the insults,bile,vitriol and hatred aimed at our club daily by Adrian Durham and his little sir echo Darren Gough on Talksport. - Post No. 29295
henry 11:19am 5th Oct 2012
Tin hat on.But is the Ox all he is cracked up to be or is he a Walcott mark 2.The hype surrounding him after a doazen games has been too much.In fact this season he has been lets be honest poor.How many young players have we built up over the last 6 years.Even Wilshire is hailed as the returning hero after playing just one season - Post No. 29298
John Gooner 13:22pm 5th Oct 2012
I believe that there will be one more (part-english) roaming midfield master in years to come - Jon Toral. Just watch his performances for the under-18's; the man was educated in the Barcelona way and will be eligible for England. Food for thought! - Post No. 29300
baldy red 14:07pm 5th Oct 2012
I think as well you will find lots of our children growing up playing football on full size pitches 11 aside whereas in other european countries eg spain the team size and more importantly the pitch size remain smaller encouraging better ball retention from a younger age.Having said that i do believe this is in the pipeline to be rectified though typically years behind the rest of europe. - Post No. 29301
Gooner Goal! 19:49pm 5th Oct 2012
@chris dee... The "Daily Arsenal" snipes at us by Adrian Durham on TalkSport are likely to continue just as long as A. Gooners react to them B. We don't win something and C. Wenger remains. I don't think you can really expect a reaction here to something that is a daily event every Monday to Friday. However, if you feel that strong about it perhaps you could get something on here or in the magazine... - Post No. 29303
Pete the Gooner 19:56pm 5th Oct 2012
@Chris Dee - I tell you what mate, I'm a lot more interested in reading about England, particularly when it involves Arsenal players, than I am in hearing about Talksport. Perhaps, like me, the editor doesn't listen to Talksport and therefore doesn't hear the insults, bile, vitriol and hatred you have mentioned. I gave up tuning in years ago and am very pleased I did judging by how upset people seem to get about it. If you think it's a major issue, then why don't you write something and send it in. - Post No. 29304
Peter Wain 23:10pm 5th Oct 2012
Personally I take no notice of a vindicative small minded mealy mouth idiot like Andy Durham. The fact the he is sports presenter is a joke in itself. The easiest thing is not to listen and you will not miss his programme anyway. darren Gough is a worst presenter thanza fast bowler and he was a rubbish one of those. - Post No. 29305
GG89 14:51pm 6th Oct 2012
Urmmmm.... the fulbacks in the premiership are sub standard hence the out and out wingers.... except for Cashley Hole (I spit on the ground).... The English way is to bomb forward and whack in a cross for the big man... That´s never going to win the WC or EC at any level and never has... Nothings going to change with WOy H.... Of England had 5 of the pixie JWs then things might change like it has done for our Spanish friends. - Post No. 29306
5th December 2013
Online Ed: Arsenal take all three points v un-Tigerish Hull