For England and the FA, it is time to choose which way to go

By Walter Broeckx

In the last decades we have seen that the more technical ability and skill you have in your  team the more chance you have of winning something. You also need other things but without these first two key points you are hardly going to win anything these days.

If we take the last world champions: Italy, Brazil, France, they all had a game that was based on their technical ability. I know Italy played boring football in the last world cup but they had great technique and skill. Among other things.

If we take the last European champions: Spain, Greece, France, Germany all the teams had great technique and skill. And I know that Greece was a disgrace for their very defensive football during the tournament but they also had players who could pass the ball around a bit.

I think the last time that a team won anything important in world or European football not based on technical skill, it was Denmark in 1992.  They came out of nothing as they only were allowed in because of the fact that Yugoslavia was in a civil war and they had a game that was based on their great running capability and not that much on their technical skills.

For years Arsène Wenger has been bringing skill in to the English game. And yes some pundits acknowledge this and give him a very small round of applause. The answer of many teams has been : kick them to pieces and they took this literally as we all have seen in the last seasons. And then those same pundits applaud those kicking teams and say that Arsenal don’t like it that way. Well no football player likes it that way, you don’t have to be an Arsenal player to not like it. I think no other player likes it when he sees his leg hanging off after some crazy tackle or challenge.

But the pundits like it as it prevents that crazy nutty French professor from succeeding at The Arsenal. The FA lets the kicking go one as they also don’t like it that much when that French bloke wins another title. And the other English clubs see that they can stop Arsenal from playing their attractive brand of football and nick some points of them by kicking them to pieces.

But in the rest of the world this approach of football has been a long forgotten memory. Yes it happened in all countries at some stage. I remember the period when Maradonna was playing in Spain and when his legs where chopped to pieces by some extreme brutal tackles. It was a period that Spain won nothing at international level. I have seen the Italians with their dreadful tackles. And they won every now and then something based on their solid defensive football.

But in the last decade the football outside the EPL has changed and the kicking brigades have been punished for their approach and the teams don’t go to business like that anymore. In most of those countries such tactics are crucified in public and are banned from the most football fields by the refs. In England the pundits praise the likes of Stoke, Birmingham and other Blackburns and Boltons when they manage to take points away from us with their brutal tactics.

But Wenger is sticking to his brand off football because he knows that the world has changed. He knows that you don’t win things with running for 90 minutes on a field and kick the other team to pieces. In international football the rules are more strict and tackles where refs in the EPL even don’t give a foul are punished with yellow and red cards. But in England a part of the public opinion still praises this kind of intimidation football.

That England has to raise it standards is often heard the last 24 hours. It has to change it’s game to compete with the rest of the world. And I think this is the truth. England has to change it youth set up and has to start training their youth not on running for some 90 minutes from a very young age. No it has to learn to practice with the ball in the feet and pass it around. They should look at the countries that have been successful in recent years and try to make their kids play on technique and skill.

All the teams that are going trough to the next round in the world cup play on technique. Yes they can run but learning how to run long and fast is something that can be learned at later age. And when you look at the teams that go trough you can also see that there are a lot of teams that have won or  have come close in the finals of youth tournaments in recent years. Spain is a good example and also Germany is one. Argentina is also a fine example.

But this means that there will not be instant success. It is like the youth project from Arsenal and Wenger. It doesn’t bring you titles the first years. And the first signs on the wall are when your oldest youth team is starting to win things. The current Spanish selection won several prices when they became 17-20 years and now when they are senior players they are getting the rewards for their patient work. Germany also won the last youth title and will get its reward in the future.

The fact that Arsenal won the last titles in the EPL youth academy may not look a big deal for some fans. But to win it twice means that there is a system behind it and certainly if you take in account that the current winners were almost a complete new team if you compare it to the team that won the double the year before.

And if Arsenal can bring those young winners from the youth academy in the first team in the next seasons, we should see that Arsenal are doing the same that Spain has done and Germany is doing at international level: building a team from the youth up to the highest level based on a technique and skill.

And for those who worry about the English game: most of the players in the Arsenal youth teams were English and so if those kids become the players that Arsenal believe they can become it will mean that this bloody French manager will bring new life to the English team in a few years time. And bring it a team that can play on technique and skill and still will have the old English fighting spirit and heart.

The only thing that can stop this is the FA letting other teams kick the Arsenal youngsters to pieces by not instructing their refs to protect the skilful players more so that they can compete for England in the future. And who knows maybe the World cup in 2018 can be won by England with a team based on the English spine of Arsenal. A spine designed by Arsène Wenger and moulded by Liam Brady. It’s up to the FA and their refs in fact: are they going to protect skilful players or destroy them.


There’s an Untold world waiting outside.


16 Replies to “For England and the FA, it is time to choose which way to go”

  1. Great article and completely agree, the FA are a bunch of financially incompetant dinosaurs who won’t move with the game. Football has changed and the FA need to realise this and make the move. The last time Enlgand did well was rguably Euro 96 and so how are we 14 years from then with still no national football acadamy.

    The FA can keep sacking amanagers like there is no tomorrow but the problem goes much deeper than that and they know it. An overpriced stadium was the priority rather than developing the game ferom grass roots upwards. So can we really be suprised by the result on Sunday!?

  2. nice point of view, when the FA looking arsenal as a team with no english player, arsenal actually is building an English team under their senior squad. FA has to admit that walcott, gibbs, and wilshere are arsenal’s english player and they need their share of international football. a revolution is needed in the coaching departement as we need a manager who choose player based on their form, not on their fame, fans, price and clubs.

  3. Nice thought in the last para. The best of the future of england will come from Arsenal. With the likes of Wilshere, Gibbs, Afobe, Lansbury, Walcott. etc, the future england squad seems to be like the present Arsenal’s youth team. Will the FA still let bad tackles go unnoticed? I dont think so, especially when we see that long injuries always makes a player weaker than before. So FA wouldn’t want a weakened England team to play in 2018. We can already see what effect has injuries been on Walcott. So maybe FA should think twice for the protection of players who are technically superb but fragile.

  4. Prior to the England Germany match Jurgen Klinsmann gave an interview:

    “Our philosophy was always to play a fast-paced, attacking style of football. That is what we introduced to the German national team,” Klinsmann said. “We developed a team to start passing from the back, hitting balls to the strikers but keeping the ball on the ground. It is a process that has taken Germany six years to learn to play but England were playing that way six years ago.

    “Joachim and myself often went over to Premier League games and we tried to implement a style that really creates more speed and creativity. As a result, there is now a generation of German players coming through that has become used to that system and they are comfortable with it. The players have now grown into it and Joachim is continuing that by telling the players that they have to be proactive and highly energetic going forward, with one or two touches if possible. But we still want to create space for creative players like Mesut Ozil.”

    I would like to add to this:

    Will John Terry, ‘Captain, Leader & Legend’, be slaughtered for his positioning for three of the German goals? (Yes Upson is slowish, especially when his other CB partner keeps disappearing. Mistakes that would be unacceptable in a park game…)

    Oh no, there is that old letch, Redknapp cosying up to desperate old Aunty Beeb, around about the time of Terry and Lumpy’s botched ‘revolt’. The mind boggles.

    Will this player, who is now so punch drunk he cannot even run in a straight line (that is not a moral judgement, just a footballistic one…too many cortisone injections?), continue to receive the levels of protection from PL refs that players like Eduardo, Ramsey or Pedro Mendes and Johnny Foreigner do not receive?

  5. Walter, great piece; it agrees with what many people are saying in the more introspective and reasonable blogs about what England needs to do, long term, to improve the crop of English footballers: emulate and seek ways to develop Arsenal Academy types football skills development.

    However, I believe there is something that can also be done immediately and it is curbing the excesses of another culprit of in the poor progression of English footbali: that is, the EPL referees.

    They pander to the whims of the purveyors of vicious football tackles; they don’t protect goalkeepers enough in dead balls from corners and they are soft on English football “stars”, obliging their dives in the penalty box, obliging them with favorable decisions when they are involved in tackles in open plays or when they throw unwarranted tantrums…

    In so doing, they set them up to expect preferential treatment in international games and fail to get such. However, by then, they have become used to getting such handouts.

    I believe it is due for the EPL to ensure a cleaner game (in terms of player protection from crazy tackles and rugby-like football in corner kicks as well as equal treatment for all players on the playing field).

  6. To quote those Sp*ds that work for the BBC, when abusing AFC players (No, not Bendy, but Theo) :

    I guess John Terry, just doesn’t have a “Football Brain…”

  7. Here’s a scenario for you. Arsenal produce an entire team of technical and naturally gifted english players from their youth project who are all first team squad members. Arsene is then asked to manage the England team. He then picks a team made up almost exclusively of Arsenal players and promptly wins the World Cup.

    This brought to you by the Carlsburg dream machine.

  8. Acadamies?

    Who needs ’em?
    It is a fair question!

    I guess, that English cricket just miraculously caught up with the Aussie juggernaut this last weekend, a significant event, thanks to a wing, and a prayer…

    Flintoff, he was never coached by combination of the best availiable, Wasim Akram and David Llyod, forced to leave pies and chips behind (with some setbacks 🙂 ),…what did they know?

  9. Unforunately this has all happened before, Walter. I’ve listened to the media over the last two days and already the same pattern is developing: blame everything BUT the English. Its Capello’s fault; its the officials’ fault; its the fact that there’s no goal-line technology thats at fault.

    Once again they are failing to even consider that there is a need to look at the medium-to-long term situation and are instead looking for a quick-fix solution. Already I see people talking about how England could have a chance at the next World Cup (with Harry Redknapp no less!). Well here’s a news flash: no matter what England do right now there is NO CHANCE of winning the next World Cup.

    The sheer depth of England’s problems means they essentially have to first train the coaches before they even start thinking of the players. We are talking at least a decade and most likely much longer than that.

    The English football culture needs to move away from physicality (and leg-breakers) and focus on ball control and good movement and passing. It will take time to cultivate the mindset for this as the English are an overly proud people who simply cannot see their own flaws, never mind do something to change them.

    It is a relatively easy thing for the Premier League to simply order the referees to come down more harshly on bad tackles but the aforementioned attitude makes me doubt even that will happen. I will be happy to be proven wrong though.

    Certainly the young players coming through at the Arsenal will help the process, but even if every single one of them makes it into the Arsenal squad we cannot (and should not) provide a whole England team. England themselves need to take responsibility for their own footballing future and the whole nation needs to chip in if they are going to improve in the decades to come. That means coaches, players, parents, schools, government, and everyone else. One can only pray.

    Great article as always Walter.

  10. Walter, well said. Excellent article. It’s well past time for English football to evolve.

  11. Wasn’t that England side just departed from SA supposedly the “Golden Generation”? Hopefully the Gooner kids coming through, will prevent our seeing the “Tinplate Generation”.

  12. the “golden generation” is stepping down making space for the “gooner generation”. It will annoy the pundits to death! In the end it was not their Harry or their goldenboy oneill or SAF that brougth through the most important English playes of the next generation. It was the nutty professor from france. The ever so annoying, stubborn Wenger.

  13. Arsene Wenger will save the England side.

    Wllshere, Walcott, Eastmond and Gibbs will all be part of the 2012 qualifying. Lansbury and JET have every chance of being in the mix.

  14. I think it is fair to say the pundits and media dont like us. People will be asking questions now and start talking about wilshere & Gibbs products of arsenal,

    But wait give it 6 months back into premiership, with lampard scoring again and rooney then everyone will forget and there was nothing wrong with the ability of the players of England and we dont play kick and rush.

    AW will never be appreciated for what he has done for the english game, england will never change. England want to play a different game to the rest of the world

  15. I had Radio 5 live on only to listen to the Rant form Chris(I Played in France)waddle He has all the ansewers Not enought English players in the EPL “just look at Arsenal for excample : Well ok lets take a look. Theo Was’nt Selected then there’s Upson & Cole Where did they Start their carrier’s “Aresnal”
    The fact is the England are not’ good enought,the coaching is just not were it sould be for that level. THe FA would do well to look at the system devloped at Arsenal by Wenger the youth teams are made up of mostly English Players Scot’s Irish Ect all learning to Play Football with Class style and courage
    just watch the English press hang out those foreigners AT Arsenal

  16. So why is it Walter that the England U17s just won the European title with players mostly not from Arsenal? And why the U21s got the final, before being beaten by an excellent German side?

    I watched the U21 games and they didn’t kick anyone.

    So get your facts right about English football before you continue down your bigoted rituals, you ignorant Belgian twat.

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