The familiar and boringly repeated chorus of disapproval began after England ‘s withdrawal from the Euro. The media turns on the manager, saying that England struggled to ‘have a go’ and only a somewhat more informative point is made by the level-headed experts about the lack of ‘professional capacity’ in England.
A vague cliché, wheeled out endlessly after every underwhelming result, “Technique” still remains. We have begun to further examine our game since the advent of Sky Sports all those years ago and the concept has since been bandied around with frivolous ease, but it seems like we are essentially no further forward in pinning down a useful description. Until we do,’ Technique’ will remain an umbrella word for groupthink, of little real benefit to the growth of English football.
The warped technique interpretation of Andy Gray will constitute a sublime volley or a wonder goal of 30 yards in which the player ‘got his body over the ball’. Our perception has progressed slowly and now the view of Technical Skill by the so-called thinking man is broadly about spatial knowledge and near control; navigating your way out of tight situations by dancing the ball out of your feet and finding a team mate without losing possession-think of the complicated version of Tiki-Taka in Barcelona.
Rooney, Young, and Gerrard are definitely more than capable of close control and spatial awareness, suggesting that the concept of technique lies more in coaching and attitude than in communication and ability. Brendan Rogers’ Swansea, who played their Tiki-Taka brand with far fewer players than the aforementioned stars, illustrates this argument.
For a variety of reasons, England looked old fashioned to the Euros. In the deep position, they played Scott Parker as a ‘defensive destroyer’ while Italy played Pirlo as the deep lying midfielder. Obviously, not everyone has a Pirlo, but Germany had Schweinsteiger in the deep role, Spain Alonso, after that theme. The lack of a passing midfielder in England alongside Gerrard meant that careful passing moves could not be developed out of defense, while other teams could build play from the back, methodically checking the ball around the final third of the opposition.
Between Hart and Carroll, England’s most famous passing combination against Italy was. Hart is renowned for his distribution, much like a quarter back finding full back or midfielders with throws and delicate chips. Mancini had coached the long ball out of him, but then it came back to England. About why? Instead of holding the ball when any sort of counter attack had vanished, did Hodgson encourage him to play for territory?
Two wingers who were not particularly competent in engaging in the midfield passing game were also adopted by England. English football has an attitude in which we work the ball to the winger who is going to drive down the line and make a cross while the cavalry charge joins the midfield. It’s a match epitomized by determination, speed and strength. Fans want daily action and events, which makes the Premier League the most entertaining football franchise in the world, but to the detriment of the national team.
We could be stuck with an obsolete game plan before the English wish for incident and action resides. Losing the ball is a sin in Spain, while our turpitude in England dwells on the ball and moves sideways and backwards. Spain is often called dull, but in terms of international play, the team that holds the ball and organizes into several sets of complex passing triangles will usually win. One way is not necessarily better than the other. The stars of England need to swallow their individual desire for a wonder success and begin to play in three and four man movements that are coherent.