Match Journal Entry #1: Brazil vs. England


In a new series for Summer 2013, The False Nine team will provide talking points from the matches they’ve watched. First up, John Guillem on England’s visit to Brazil…

-          Prescript: since the game, I have suffered nightmares for the past pair of nights. Murdered ‘Arry in one of them ONLY TO TRANSFORM INTO HIM [!] That one was bad. Chased down the road by Woy with a butterfly night in another. The implications of these are yet to be fully determined. Watching England is bloody miserable, harrowing, traumatic (even if you don’t care) perhaps to a degree which extends beyond the conventional contemporary psychopathology of numbness and alienation…can I get my (figurative) money back?

-          Obvious but still merits statement: England had an extremely depleted squad, and the players who were available dictated our strategy and performance for this game. It’s heartening to see that we can still be hard to break down (though Brazil do suck) with such a weak squad.

-          This was the perfect game for Joe ‘world class’ Hart. Lots of shots to stop but we were playing a side lacking clinicality and aerial/indirect set piece threats of any note. He sure has amazing reflexes, but the big name teams I’d expect him to excel against are limited – Spain, Brazil etc. Against Germany (and, what’s more, inferior sides as well), between Hart’s weakness at commanding his area and the poorest set of centre backs to draw from for over a decade, I would be worried.


-          Following on from the above: England look a good bet for games against ‘good’ sides, for the most part. The past two friendlies were not a particularly fair indication of attacking potential – given how depleted the squad was – but it’s clear that we’re extremely tough to break down. Nominally inferior teams are the concern, especially the stronger ones possessing set piece threats (e.g. Belgium). However, IF we qualify for the WC and IF we make it out of our group, I’d feel that we’d be a good bet in the knockout stages.

-          This is in part because we have very good offensive options (i.e. players who bring a very specific attribute e.g. pace, heading etc.), which if used correctly could turn a game after we’ve been sitting tight for ~65 minutes. I’m particularly thinking of the likes of Carroll (the Ireland game was crying out for him), Sturridge, Lampard, Theo & Ox etc. though the last two might be starters. Welbeck has also shown himself to be a useful big game option this year, and Jones is obviously great in that regard. A lot will rest on Roy’s tactical nous, but if he’s smart then we have good bench options. The worry is that of late he’s shown himself a bit weak with use of the subs bench – hopefully this has been down to a paucity of options rather than of acumen.

-          Obviously, this requires us to have our starting players fit and ready. Lampard, much as he offers goalscoring potential (plus discipline, decent chance creation etc.), should not be starting in competitive games in a tournament, unless perhaps Carrick is injured. A midfield base of Carrick and Lampard simply cannot press high up the pitch, which we did to great effect in the Wembley game against Brazil. We must hope that Wilshere, Gerrard, Cleverly etc. are fit when the WC comes round. Ox might be a good shout through the centre in a year’s time (though we can’t bank on it), as might Henderson, but other than that it’s slim pickings for central midfielders who can both run a lot and have quality on the ball (i.e. not Jones). Jonjo Shelvey unlikely to be there in a year.

-          In light of the above, are we perhaps not missing a trick by playing Milner out wide rather than centrally? He’s a smart player who has things to offer, while he’s certainly no dribbler or speed demon, and his crossing isn’t consistent enough to make up for that out wide. Admittedly, he played decently on the break in the second half. With more of our first teamers available, he could link up well with his intelligent movement (much as he’s done with Silva and Richards/Zabaleta for City in the past). He certainly cannot carry a weak attack.

-          Defoe is the past. Here’s hoping we have enough forwards fit (Rooney, Sturridge, Carroll, Welbeck…Theo) that we needn’t even think about him in a year. Oh but he’s got a great shot blah blah – I DON’T CARE. Hearing his substitution on announced makes my temple pulse with resigned fury.

-          This has been mentioned above, but cannot be stressed enough: for once, centre back is a serious concern. Jagielka and Cahill are both good players but not really impressive enough to take some of the weight off of Hart. Lescott is unlikely to be a better option come summer 2014. It’s concerning. Certainly there are other options, but not that many. Caulker will likely not be ready yet, whilst Shawcross – aside from needing to be tested outside of an ultradefensive system – has barely featured in the national setup. Jones (or Smalling if he can stay fit) might be an answer, but it’s hard to say at this point. Particularly given a lack of physical DMs available at present. If Rodwell kicks on next year AND Jones does so at CB then perhaps we’ll have a solution. It’s certainly concerning. Thankfully, we’re very strong in the full back positions.

-          Regardless of Baines’ hipster appeal, if Cole is capable of performing well in a year I’d plump for him. He played his standard reliable and effective game when he came on, and we can’t afford to take risks in defense, given that’s what our side is built on (& the weakness at CB…).


-          Before I forget: what the fuck was that ball? Look, I know, orange is a nice colour and all that but a lot of players have orange shoes. On my stream tv there were times when I could barely tell what was happening – mostly when England were in possession, which might say something in and of itself… But seriously, it looked more like a gobstopper than a ball.

-          It’s so essential that Rooney gets a good move. Preferably to somewhere where he plays as a striker. Sturridge/Carroll etc. are good options but Wayne is too good of a finisher (and too erratic of a playmaker)…if he were to move (or even stay but get games up front) and score lots as a CF it’d be a great boost for the side at a time when we might not be so ultrareliant on him anyway. There aren’t that many convincing flair players at present though, which is a worry. Perhaps someone like Zaha or Townsend will really push on next year, but otherwise we’re looking at the likes of Ox (excellent but very young), Theo (here’s hoping he becomes capable of consistently producing his best Arsenal form), and Lennon (ayayayay…though he did have a good season).

-          As a good Britmaniac I am contractually patriotically obliged to note that the best thing about seeing England play was that they were wearing red. Hurray! I’d hasten to add that I’m a big fan of the new kit (shame we don’t have anyone good to model it), though it’s a pity that the German’s stole our look (via insidious time travel mechanisms or some such). I sure do hate those trendy Germans. ROO BRITTANIA

@ArseGoon; @The_False_Nine

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About John Guillem

Though half British, half Catalan-Mexican, football was somehow a late arrival in John's life. While as a child he dallied with Liverpool and Manchester United (mostly via the medium of football stickers) and Barcelona (the team of half of his family), he today supports Arsenal after finally deciding upon the Gunners as a fully-formed, adult human male.

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