This is a question that we hear constantly from England fans and neutrals across the country, because since Euro 96, England have failed to show any signs of quality we always see week in and week out in the Premier League. In the Champions League on the other hand, the biggest teams in England struggle to compete with Clubs such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid. But before discussing the champions league, let’s begin with the England National Team.
England National Team
I find the case of this team never reaching its potential very interesting. Normally teams that do well in qualifying go on to do well the tournament, and those we don’t, struggle. This was the case with Argentina back in 2010, who struggled in their qualifying and were later smashed 4-0 in South Africa. France that year were the same. Barely escaped their qualifying group and finished bottom in their group, containing the hosts, an average Mexico side and a good Uruguay team. Both of these teams downfall was foreshadowed before the tournament even started, but England was another situation. They have consistently done very well in world cup and Euro qualifying, but still underperform on the big stage, the stage where they will always be remembered by their supporters. So where does the problem lie? Well there are many areas. So let’s begin with the most obvious one in my view.
The biggest issue is the lack of foundation to be built on. England lack any kind of identity, an identity so players can be identified to fit in that system or so the team knows how they need to perform. Looking at the biggest teams. Spain have their tiki taka football, Iceland use their long throwing tactic, Germany play quite like how Bayern played under Pep, and Italy have a counter attacking style with a powerful defence. England have lacked this kind of identity in the past. Are they a possession style team, a counter attacking team, a long ball team or a high pressing team. It’s important that a consistent line up, formation and style is used, so the players know their job and how they will be playing before a tournament starts. A consistent line up relates to another point, that England have to play as a team. We’ve seen in the past few the reliance of individuals and constant change of personnel. Amazing players like Scholes retired early because he was tired of being played out of position, with Gerrard and Lampard playing in midfield while Scholes was shifted out wide. England can’t keep relying on individuals. A foundation needs to be set. And the best way for that to happen would be through the youth academies. If you’re able to teach the younger players how the seniors play, it will be put in them how they should be playing so when they are eventually called up for the England team, they will know what their role will be and what to bring to the team. The under 21s are very important in the grand scheme of things. In the Germany team that won the 2014 world cup, 5 out of the most used starting eleven, played with each other at youth level. It ensures that these players are familiar with each other and can form some sort of connection with them. That doesn’t happen in England. Most of the players come from rival teams. The hatred they have for each other at club level continues on the big stage. The best national teams do not have that. The team needs to be built like a team, not a group of individuals.
This is a whole different situation. Even though it might not look like it, we do struggle in this competition. The only team left in the Champions League is Leicester and that’s from playing their way, not trying to play like the other teams. The way of solving this issue is simple. The quality in Spain and Germany is just at a much higher quality, whether it’s a team full of stars like Real Madrid, or a well working machine like Athletico Madrid. Even though the Premier League can attract the top coaches, it’s just the players themselves. The premier league relies heavily on foreign players from other clubs that aren’t at the top. The signing of Paul Pogba was the first time in a long time a player that Real Madrid wanted decided to go to the premier league. In some aspects it’s showing an evolution in the standard of quality. But that isn’t the issue. Scouting seems to be the issue. The best run clubs, like Dortmund and Monaco, have amazing scouting networks. Monaco, Dortmund and Sevilla have the ability to sell a player at a high price and buy a replacement for very small fees. English teams lack that scouting ability. Leicester were the last team to have a scout, Steve Walsh, who could buy players at small prices and sell them at higher prices. Kante being a great example. England do not need to spend as much money as they do. The players are there. They just aren’t looking hard enough.