On England, Xhaka, Torreira and Midfield Lineage

It’s tempting to think of the Nations League as a joke tournament, something conjured up in the drug-addled mind of a Nyon suit. But no, it isn’t and England are in the finals! Anyone who derides the latest UEFA brainchild is just jealous; their nation let them down and derision is their rapier defence.  Oh, and they hate England, despite supporting an English team…

Twice in the space of five months, Gareth Southgate inspired his team to new heights as they taunted relegation and laughed in the face of Croatia to gain revenge. This wasn’t a dish served cold, it was a custard pie in their faces.

Sixteen games unbeaten trifles in comparison. It’s stunning that the Arsenal board didn’t get on-board the ‘Love Train’ and hire Southgate when they had the chance. His genius was there for all to see; all hail, Sir Gareth as a knighthood will surely follow? Ahem.

Fair play to Southgate and his squad; they proved the more consistent of the three teams in the group and probably deserved to win it.

Yesterday saw another mugging in the capital with Fabian Delph robbed of his Man of the Match award. Harry ‘Hodor’ Kane snatched the award with his poacher’s goal, which is no surprise. He picked up his award from the sponsors and kept a few important business clients happy.

There are benefits to reaching the finals. Euro2020 qualifying is straightforward. Ten groups – five with five teams, five with six – with the winners and runners-up all qualifying, along with four playoff winners to complete the bloated 24-team format.

The playoffs feature the top sixteen Nations League teams who don’t qualify for Euro2020. So England have two group opportunities to qualify plus the playoffs if they need it. Who says the Nations League was pointless?

Midfield Lineage

It was a night when Southgate’s revenge was full and complete. Belgium, who you may recall beat England into fourth place, capitulated to Switzerland. 2 – 0 up, 5 – 2 down; it’s not quite as catchy as “one-nil down, two-one up” is it?

Granit Xhaka played well by all accounts, which is no surprise. His confidence is high this season with Unai Emery taking much of the credit for that. I say Unai Emery when I really mean Lucas Torreira. Having a defensive midfielder alongside him frees Xhaka of the pressure of trying to work out when to attack, when to defend and where are our defenders.

The Swiss is this generation’s Steve Williams. Put the ball at his feet and more often than not, he will ping a perfect pass over some distance. The trouble is that comes with player whose mouth goes into overdrive while his brain disengages. That’s the trade-off and one most of us don’t mind making if ‘good’ Granit shows up.

The ‘lackadaisical’ Granit can do one, to be honest, and in fairness to Xhaka, he largely has this season. Yes, he surfaces from time to time but few players master consistency to the extent that you forget about games where they don’t turn up.

Elsewhere, Sokratis played for Greece as they lost 1 – 0 to Estonia in a match which was essentially a meaningless friendly with placings already decided. But it helps with the rankings, eh?

We’re heading to the end of the international break, with, I think, Lucas Torreira’s appearance in France tomorrow the last of our squad’s matches. I doubt there’s much prospect of him being released early; a shame he didn’t give Neymar another reducer during the Brazil match.

Concentration Issues

It’s an interesting scenario in a random train of thought excursion. Yellow-carded, most players of Xhaka and Torreira’s ilk tend to avoid the second caution which leads to dismissal 99 times out of 100. How so? Why pick up an early booking seemingly without good reason? Is it an issue of concentration, much like our inability to start games ‘on fire’?

Whatever the answer, I’m sure coaches wish they could bottle it to have it handy for pre-match injections. All legal; no need to involve WADA although if they come knocking, having a Russian executive may be a useful asset…

When thoughts like that, it is time for the interdull to end. Sadly there’s another 36 hours or so to go…

’til Tomorrow.


17 thoughts on “On England, Xhaka, Torreira and Midfield Lineage

  1. very happy to be cast as the bitter Wales supporter caricatured in your first para.
    Loved the caller to talkspite after the Croatia game – a scouser who basically espoused what a lot of us feel – that the internationals are of very limited interest and get in the way of the real stuff – he gave the pundits a really nice, well delivered and well timed ‘reducer’…..
    having said all that, I am pretty sure that England are now the best team in the world.

  2. Watched that Swiss match and they looked like Arsenal to start and then Xhaka, Shaqiri and that striker decided, ‘Rite, time to get on with the thrashing’ and they bossed that match with Captain Xhaka at the heart of it all.

  3. Hahahahaha, Belgium! So funny. They literally thought they had the job done. Hazard is not captain material. He had no idea how to martial his troops to steady the tide.

    I for one am very pleased that we beat Croatia and so what if our goals came from set pieces. YW called it correct, in that we’ve been the most consistent side and us qualifying has provided me with a pique of interest in the competition.

    Although Harry spud Kane got MOTM was robbery. He did nothing until his goal and missed a very good opportunity (Real Madrid are you paying attention!) prior to that. However very proud to be an England supporter this morning! (Jeez, haven’t had that feeling in like forever!).

    Goodbye Interdull we bid you adieu until the next time.

    Away to AFC Bounemouth, should be interesting. Some good fixtures on Sat as well.

  4. I’m guessing revenge and romance is the link between “The African Queen” and this particular blog. Revenge on Croatia for inflicting agony upon us in the World cup and England supporter’s rekindled romance with the national team? Please enlighten us YW?

  5. Sort of. It was more to do with the last-gasp escape and happy ending than revenge per se. And yes, rekindling love with the national team.

  6. Ferkov! You’re kidding me.

    It’s like watching The World’s Strongest Man around Xmas on TV:
    – It’s shite; You know it’s shite; but there’s nothing else on the TV and you can’t bothered to change the channel…

    “He’s pulling a truck with his teeth” becomes “Fabian Delph is the best midfielder England have had since the last bloke”

    ferkov:
    Pete the Thirst,

    36 hours left apparently. What?

  7. Speeeeew…get a room

    YW:
    Sort of. It was more to do with the last-gasp escape and happy ending than revenge per se. And yes, rekindling love with the national team.

  8. Talking of England…

    What happened to Dukey? Haven’t seen anything from him since England went out of the world cup and he was criticising anybody that didn’t like England (Harry & St George).

    Maybe he’s the new Brexit secretary?

    🙂

  9. “They hate England, despite supporting an English team”. I have a distant relative who lives in London, has been a Spurs supporter since Adam was a lance-corporal in the Irish army, and who hates all England teams, no matter the sport. Don’t understand it and don’t try to.
    That said, while it’s great to see England advance, I would not have been upset if they had done a Germany since that would have enabled them (and us) to forget about this pointless money-spinner. Since they have advanced, there’s a moral here: something about winning when you have to. It can be contagious.

  10. Pete the Thirst,

    Ha. Thanks. Yes I was shitting you. But the Worlds strongest man analogy was well worth it.
    I hadn’t realised there was any more left. I thought he meant there was real football back in 36 hours not just the termination of turd.

  11. I quite enjoyed Germany going up 2-0 thinking they were juat cruising along and then gave away 2 goals after the 80′ and get a draw.

Comments are closed.