On England’s Broken Hearts, Welbz and Futures in the Air

And then it was over. In an instant, the football gods turned their backs on a group of young men who exceeded expectations and generations of fans under the age of 35 now know the pain of losing a World Cup semi-final.

Being England, you dared to dream, especially after Kieran Trippier’s astonishing free-kick five minutes into the game. Missed chances ultimately cost England dearly and I suspect in moments of quiet contemplation, Gareth Southgate will rue substituting Raheem Sterling in the same way Sir Alf did with Bobby Charlton. The impact the Manchester City striker carries with the XI showed in his absence.

The woodwork and naivety were their undoing and a vastly improved performance from Croatia from the second half onwards. Not for them any sign of exhaustion at playing 120 minutes and penalty shootouts in the past week. They deserve the plaudits for recovering from those exertions to reach the final. Will it be a step too far?

Dare I say it though, beyond the obvious of missing out on a World Cup final, there should be no regrets. They achieved a seemingly impossible task and made a nation – bar idiots who resent any show of pride in the nation due to their liberal angst – fall back in love with the England team.

No abject exit, no boorish behaviour lambasting fans who don’t appreciate crap performances 5000 miles from home. No ‘Golden Generation’ riven by club-fuelled fissures. Just 23 men with one aim: winning the World Cup through their best efforts.

Some will go on to better things, justifying high price tags; others return to the clubs with their heads held high. All will suffer the weekly vitriol of the Premier League.

But for six weeks, they did themselves, families, friends and a nation proud.

Walk Out The Door

To the delight of politicians and attention-deficient ‘celebrities’ around the globe, England’s failure was a moment to revel in. Top notch trolling from those whose own countrymen swilled around the pan of ignominy previously.

I particularly liked the US writer I’d never previously heard of who cited Germany (group stage), Australia (group stage), and of course, the United States of Trump (didn’t even bloody qualify from that group – ha!) as having the winning attitude England lacked.

It was a wretched summer for Danny Welbeck. He may feature in Saturday’s playoff against Belgium, but eleven minutes at the finals when it mattered was hardly worth getting on the plane for. That’s indicative of where his career is right now. At club level, he’s a bit-part player. He’s another who wanted to play centrally but found his skill set isn’t suited to it.

Now, with twelve months on his contract, he has a decision to make. Does he stay put, sitting on Arsenal’s bench or does he drop down a club level – Wolves, Everton, Southampton – and get regular football. Theo did that and hasn’t revived his England career but I dare say he’s more fulfilled as a person. I don’t know really, perhaps he curls up in a ball every day after training, sobbing bitter tears at his treatment. I don’t think so though.

The summer has been good so far for Arsenal. Unai Emery has the additions he wants before the selling cycle begins with only Aaron Ramsey’s situation having the potential to disrupt that. Nobody knows how negotiations are faring bar those involved so it’s hard to gauge if we’ll reach a point before 9th August when selling is a reality. The new management structure will be hard-pushed to sell that notion without a replacement lined up.

Two Become One

Like Welbeck, the future of other squad members is entwined with Ramsey’s. The assumption is that Emery will field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ramsey as one of the ‘2’. No change beyond the pressing game the Spaniard prefers. Alongside Torreira is my guess but you have Xhaka, Elneny and Maitland-Niles who can also play in the ‘2’, albeit with different styles.

I’d hazard a guess that Elneny is the most vulnerable to being sold. Xhaka just signed a new deal while AMN is highly thought of. That’s not to say the Egyptian isn’t, but he is very much third or fourth in line for the second midfield role.

Yet if Ramsey goes with no obvious replacement signed, the dynamic changes. We become a team where the ‘2’ are deep-lying and the attacking quartet are freed of their overt defensive shackles. While that’s an interesting prospect, you can see a gap easily forming between the attack and midfield. It’s why I believe Ramsey’s sale will only come about with a replacement identified. His box-to-box style bridges that gap, which is something we need.

These are interesting times. It’s widely accepted Ospina is leaving for Boca and Campbell is attracting Lazio’s attention. Not much else beyond speculative punts on Mustafi to Juventus, a move as baffling as it is trying to work out where the German fits in at Arsenal now.

Who else will leave is the question with a number of players previously on loan. Akpom is the most obvious of those coming to the end of their time at the club. Those are thoughts for another day for this one is a wrap.

’til Tomorrow.

55 thoughts on “On England’s Broken Hearts, Welbz and Futures in the Air

  1. I’ll leave this here for Dukey when he’s recovered from his hangover…

    Pete the Thirst:
    England just weren’t very good. A number of players were poor and there were few tactics from Uncle Gareth.

    Sterling – The new Walcott
    Stones – A defender that can’t defend
    Henderson – Passes like he has lead boots
    Lingard – What’s the point?
    Young – Battered by the Croatians all night

    After the first half the only tactic seemed to be to retreat deeper and hope for the best (or penalties)

  2. @YW I can appreciate that Sterling is fast and stretches the defence, but to compare him to Booby Charlton is pushing it a little.

    I expect he will become surplus to requirements at City now they have Mahrez. So glad Wenger didn’t manage to sign Sterling last year.

  3. Pete

    > I can appreciate that Sterling is fast and stretches the defence, but to compare him to Booby Charlton is pushing it a little.

    I didn’t. I compared his substitution and its’ impact to that of Sir Alf with ‘Booby’ Charlton. I forget some of you lot are whippersnappers and probably don’t know the tale of how England lost 3 – 2 to Germany in Leon in 1970…

  4. A lot of things could have happened differently and if Southgate can get his act together, he should be looking to strengthen the team’s deficiencies.

  5. Of course, but if you look at the low starting point when he took over, he’s already done that. My guess is that a fully-fit Oxlade-Chamberlain comes into the side, possibly Wilshere as well.

    People need to remember that there isn’t a stockpile of skilful English players right now. What we have is younger players who won trophies at Junior international levels beginning to break through to senior levels. When that happens – my guess in qualifiers for 2022 although some will make 2020 – he will have more talent to work with.

  6. YW,

    I wonder if Jack will get back in to England under Southgate. Even if he plays regularly as he did this season for us, he didn’t pick him. He seems to have something against Wilshere-character/attitude?- and the minor injury absence for the friendlies sealed it. It certainly seems like some creativity and carrying of the ball was lacking and needed to connect to the attackers more effectively. As a result Kane had little service, had to drop deep and disappeared in the midfield scrum often. But unless there are young players coming up, I don’t know if Jack will be called upon to perform this role. Maybe he flourishes at West sham but I thought he had a pretty decent season for us and was still passed over.

  7. Jack is the only creative source we have.

    We say he had a good season with us but he only made 12 PL starts and Southgate made it clear that is the competition he was judging people on. The Europa League meant nothing to him. The biggest doubt with Jack was whether he could stand the intensity of the knockout phase. The group stage was nicely spaced out but I guess GS believed he wouldn’t have lasted the 90 minutes or more in R16, QF and then SF.

    A good season with WHU will see JW back in the England squad.

  8. Hopefully Dukey gets a really delicious crumble—that used to cheer him up some years ago after a bad Arsenal loss.

    Cbob’s analysis seems spot on. For some reason sat back to soon and Croatia got a foothold in the game and started to play using their technique and seemingly endless sources of energy. I was especially impressed with Perisic—incredible energy even at 120’.

  9. YW,

    I certainly hope so. I am not sure why Southgate didn’t take Europe into account but if that is the reason he didn’t take Jack as opposed to other factors, there is a chance to rebuild his standing for 2020. England with Jack in CM would certainly make it more attractive to gooners too.

  10. Hopefully this means no Stones, Sterling, Delph, DeBruyne available when we play City. Maybe we will be lucky and also face Chelsea with no Hazard, Courtois, Cahill. Possibly the first two because they have left for Spain.

  11. Regarding US pundits and fans, I suffered a couple of days watching Fox broadcasts of the first knockout round of 16–not pretty. Shocking commentary. I was so glad in Canada the feed was some other English language broadcast with Ian Darke, Peter Drury and so forth.

    I don’t know how C survived. Must have turned the audio down. They really should give viewers an option to hear audio of stadium noise without commentary.

  12. A little before my time, but the folklore surrounding it has meant that YouTube has been used many times in the past.

    Wasn’t it more down to The Cat Bonetti letting a few howlers in? Charlton went off after Der Kaiser had scored to make it 2-1.

    I am genuinely interested for some insight into this game…YW, Nicky?

    A friend of mine watched Little Curly Alan Ball regularly at Arsenal in the 70s, said he was one of the best players he ever saw in the Red & White.


    > I can appreciate that Sterling is fast and stretches the defence, but to compare him to Booby Charlton is pushing it a little.

    I didn’t. I compared his substitution and its’ impact to that of Sir Alf with ‘Booby’ Charlton. I forget some of you lot are whippersnappers and probably don’t know the tale of how England lost 3 – 2 to Germany in Leon in 1970…

  13. Good stuff Yogi and I agree about Sterling, I know people are killing him but he was much more effective than Kane if I’m honest. It ultimately came down to the fact that Manzudiac took his chance and Kane didn’t but also, the Croatian side is filled with players who have and know how to win things and England simply don’t.

    The midfield I think will be settled and I know most will disagree but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Ramsey sold. I do disgaree though with Yogi that there would be a gap in the way Emery plays because Torriera is a player that knows how to link play but also sit at the same time.

  14. I would take Sterling not just for his movement but he works his socks off and runs at players and terrorizes defenders. If Sterling waz such a shit player Pep wouldn’t have counted on him despite buying Bernardo Silva last summer.

  15. Pete the Thirst,

    We were ahead 2-0 in that game and coasting it. Charlton and Beckenbauer were cancelling each other out in midfield. Then Charlton was substituted to save his legs for the next round.

    Beckenbauer then started running things and they had a goal machine upfront in Gerd Muller and we had a surprisingly dodgey keeping performance from Bonetti, usually reliable, who came in late to replace Gordon banks who had gone down with, according to legend, a ‘dodgy’ stomach.

    This at a World Cup where England, reigning Champions, remember, were subject to various dirty deeds off pitch. The most infamous of these was fitting up our Captain, Bobby Moore, for stealing a bracelt from a jewelers.

    It was widely expected that we would face Brazil in the Final.

  16. I’m not sure I would label Stirling as ‘effective’, surely that would mean he has to score at some point, or at least take responsibility and shoot rather than try to offload to someone else when in a good position. When your two strikers (I thought Kane was poor too) don’t trouble the opposition with the exception of set pieces then you will struggle which is what happened. As soon as we started passing back to Pickford I thought that we would be in trouble, you can’t just switch on and off from offensive mode when it suits, and we can’t play for a 1-0 when you have the likes of Stones and Walker in a back three.

  17. …and Alan Ball was an arrogant little fucker. I remember him goading some team at Highbury that we were thrashing by sitting on the ball and gesturing for them to come and get it. He was disruptive in the dressing room according to reports.

    He was never popular with the fans. Maybe because his arrival helped lead to the exit of Charlie George, the ‘darling’ of the North bank.

    Mind you, England could have done with him last night. Or Charlton, or Bell or any one of many excellent English midfielders from that era.

  18. England were less effective when Sterling came off. His finishing hasn’t been there but he’d have a fair few too if he were the designated penalty taker, so I don’t think Kane should escape all the criticism in that department for Sterling to bear the burden alone.

  19. Andy,

    Sterling was effective because he was mobile and it’s one of the reasons we found attacking space in the first half. We didn’t play him the same way as City do so he is more or less a false winger, but he wasn’t helped by Kane being incredibly static last night.

    I agree we lost our way in the second half, passing back was a mistake as all it meant was the ball was coming back toward our goal as we surrendered possession.

  20. Great post Yogi

    Hopefully this is the last World Cup without the USA USA USA. However it was still fun and I hope France can win the title. Before the tournament started I thought England would exceed expectations and if you would have offered a semifinal I would have taken it but once you get that far its still a big disappointment to lose.

    I think Ox would have made a difference if he had been healthy. I think Southgate left Jack home for the same reason Emery encouraged him to leave. With the exception of a few games Jack was not effective on the attacking end of the pitch and he is a defensive liability in midfield. Paddy Vierra once said you can tolerate a player who is a defensive liability such as Bobby Pires but he has a have a consistently positive influence on the attacking end. I know a lot of people still rate Jack but even in the unlikely event that he stays healthy, I suspect he will be a disappointment at West Ham and I doubt he will be on the Euro2020 squad

  21. Limestonegunner,

    Yup, I wonder whats behind it, if its similar to how those top players went to Wolves because of the relationship between the agent and the club or owners of the club.

  22. Sterling helped the team but he failed to give the team the one thing they really needed which was a second scorer. Kane was the only player on the squad who was a legitimate threat to score. Over the course of time a forward has to score to be effective. Unfortunately for England they did not have any one on the bench who was a threat to score either and taking off Sterling did not help the team. England are going to struggle to really improve as a team until someone steps up to be a second scoring threat.

  23. Limestonegunner,

    Your spot on about Kane, i know people are big upping him for his goals but he only had something like 1 shot on goal(his chance last night he cocked up) but his goals came from the penalty spot and a deflection that he literally knew nothing about. Manzudiac showed him proper CF play last night.

  24. Bill,

    Kane wasn’t really a legitimate threat to score. He was mired deep, starved of service, mostly scored from the penalty spot, and perhaps thinking too much of his own goal rally when inside Stirling was totally free in the box and in his sight when he went for goal in the first half and missed.. But yes Stirling could have helped more by finishing some of the chances that have fallen to him. But were there many vs Croatia for him? The previous matches don’t really matter since England came through. The really significant problem was that England didn’t get many corners and free kicks in the second half since set pieces were their most reliable way to score this tournament. That is where Kane, Maguire, Stones could have been more deadly. Stirling is no real help there nor expected to be.

  25. Maybe Rashford would have played more if he started more games—hard to know. But he didn’t do as well in what Stirling did successfully and didn’t add enough otherwise, so it was a puzzling substitution to me at the time with ET looming (he came on after the equalizer, didn’t he?—can’t remember now).

    It would be nice for a new winner but I wonder If France will be too strong and whether Mbappe might rip through Lovren and Vida with pace and skill.

  26. Its interesting that all the talk is Sterling but I thought Alli and Lingard offered nothing and sure Trippier scored the goal but I thought Persic and Rebic on the flanks were giving Trippier and Young fits and Modric ran the game.

    All that talk of Croatia having heavy legs was a non-starter too because I thought from the start of the 2nd half on Croatia looked much more lively and England looked tires.

  27. Limestonegunner,

    What will be fascinating to watch will be Perisic and Rebic to watch against Hernandez and Pavard and I know Kante is a brilliant player but will he be able to mark both Modric, Raktik and Brozovic out of the game?

  28. Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard weren’t effective, I agree C. But Sterling seems to be the chosen object of blame like Ozil was for Germany. Southgate’s sub of him exposed him further as a target.

    But in this discussion we have remember that no one genuinely expected this England team to get near the final. The best case was getting to a quarterfinal and if the team had been knocked out by Colombia, people still would have had positive feelings about the team in England, I suspect. Going forward the question is whether England will have the midfield quality to face the better teams on more even ground or if they will have to depend as in this tournament more on set piece headers and crosses from wide for goals. I think generally the England team, esp in this back 3, was able to defend pretty well and should be better eith Stones and Maguire getting experience. Sure they were caught napping a bit for the last Croatia goal especially. But by and large they have been pretty solid.

  29. Being an Englander, I wanted our team to get to the final and win. I agree that Kane did not get that many services ( Lacazette too playing for our team is starved of services), but he should have scored at least in one clear opportunity. England’s team performance was like that under Wenger, and like Wenger, Southgate did not see quickly starting of the second-half, that this team is not what it was in the first half, and should have made substitutions. But then ,Southgate must have thought the best players are already in the pitch. I was hoping that the score will remain 1-1 after the 120 minutes and it will go to penalties and we have a chance there.
    Having said the above, we were in semifinal,which was beyond my expectation. I only hope that Southgate should be scouting for the potential younger academy players
    -our own fr example, for Euro2020.

  30. C,

    This is a really good point. Kante shackled KdB in my opinion. But he will need Pogba to handle his fair share.

  31. skywalker,

    I hope in 2-4 years our crop are worthy of inclusion. Long way to go for them though. Maybe a good midfielder or two will emerge from the youth ranks.

  32. Limestonegunner,

    Yup, Kante did shackle deBruyne(minus that one brilliant pass that Lukuka should buried) it will be a joy to watch him vs Modric. Pogba will have to do his share or Matuidi will have to drop in.

  33. C,

    I just adore Kante. I hope Torreira will be our South American version of him with a slightly better longer pass. Fingers crossed.

  34. consolsbob,

    Thanks. Good insight. England had a good team that year, but seems Ramsey made a tactical blunder. Did the press hammer him or was he untouchable after 1966?

  35. Limestonegunner,

    From watching him a couple times for Sampdoria and reading about him, Torriera is going to be brilliant for us and the name that I continue to see Serie A people and reports compare him to is Verratti but better defensively.

  36. That’s got things moving.

    Sterling is the current Theo Walcott of the England team. Fast, which defenders don’t like, but his control is poor and his finishing woeful.

    Southgate didn’t really affect the game much. Seemed like he had settled for penalties. He could have:
    – switched to 4 at the back as Young was getting ripped to shreds
    – replaced Trippier with Rose and push Young into midfield
    – Pulled Lingard and Delle as they were ineffective
    – Stick Dier and Welbz on for extra midfield solidity and more legs
    – In ET bring on Vardy for Sterling

    Gareth if you’re reading my number is 078 555 46211. Call me for a chat..

  37. Pete the Thirst,

    Haha! I like those. Don’t forget also Loftus-Cheek and/or Delph for Lingard or Dele Alli to get some help in midfield so they could try more than CB’s and GK punting long. He didn’t change the shape but just went with like for like which didn’t change the dynamic of the match. I think CBob put his finger on it, went into shells and passed back to boot it rather than try to play on the turn. Southgate created a good team spirit, gave calmness, determined a good shape for qualification and group opponents but maybe tactically needs to reflect more on this.

  38. Elneny too just signed a new contract .. so i dont see him leaving so soon , he is a good squad player.

    Xhaka is the obvious player who’s gonna drop for Torriera – Ramsey axis .

    We have so much depth in that midfield. Such a good time to be a gooner fan.

  39. Now, with twelve months on his contract, he has a decision to make. Does he stay put, sitting on Arsenal’s bench or does he drop down a club level – Wolves, Everton, Southampton – and get regular football.
    Would he earn more as an AFC sub or a starter at Wolves? THAT will probably be the question his Mr. 15% will be exploring.

  40. Pete the Thirst,

    He did get slated, as did poor old Bonneti. I think he was under the microscope more from then and then failure to qualify for the next World cup did for him.

  41. It was the beginning of the end for him. They gave him a hard time but respect was still there. Things went pear-shaped in ’72 when Germany outplayed us at Wembley in the Euro ’72 quarter-final and then came the disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign. He went because the media turned on him due to his aloofness and being Revie’s mates, gleefully put the boot in. Of course, that worked out well for us…

  42. Everyone was ‘lionising’ Southgate when the team was still in the tournament. Granted they exceeded extremely low expectations but the reason they did so in my opinion is that England’s players are now finally benefiting from better coaching NOT at the national team level but rather at the club level. It is the presence of Guardiola, Conte, Klopp, Pochettino as EPL coaches that was helped the national team.

  43. The biggest doubt with Jack was whether he could stand the intensity of the knockout phase. The group stage was nicely spaced out but I guess GS believed he wouldn’t have lasted the 90 minutes or more in R16, QF and then SF.

    EXACTLY – Jack couldn’t last the number of games in a short spell of a tournament….except as a sub. Furthermore he lacks the speed to play at the pace of the team. He would have slowed things down.

  44. C:
    All that talk of Croatia having heavy legs was a non-starter too because I thought from the start of the 2nd half on Croatia looked much more lively and England looked tires.

    Their legs WERE more tired….but they had mental strength. Croatia are a small nation and their players bust their guts for their fans. Croatia had more self-belief and desire.

  45. philmar,

    That certainly could have been it but I also think the talk of them having heavy legs was overblown. Either way the likes of Perisic, Manzudiac (is he the most underrated CF who just consistently produces for big clubs and in big moments), Modric and Rebic just seemed to grown stronger as the match went on.

  46. So Roy Keane was flashing his ‘liberal angst’ while browbeating Ian Wright for his enthusiasm on air? Oughta’ call a knob a knob– regardless of their bent.


  47. Good Evening to All. Interesting post YW.

    I must confess I’m loving watching the Videos of players in training.Ibwonder what Steve Boyle thinks of it all?. I bet he’s had a private chat or two with Arsène on the new incumbent.

    Football is a funny old Game.Had England taken their chances in the first half it might well have been a different result. Croatia forced them back in the 2nd half. The big game experience of Modrich and Rakatic became a lot more evident.

    If the truth be told Kane, Lingard and Ali never truly made an impression impact upon the Game.

    I can’t wait for the new season to start.

  48. Spuds have now bottled 4 major cup semi finals in two seasons… FA Cup SF 17, FA Cup SF 18, Belgium v France and England v Croatia

  49. Ras,

    Don’t forget Manzudiac in that big match along with Modric and Raktik. Its interesting because he is essentially an old school battering ram #9 but had technical ability and he just seems to put away his chance when it comes.

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