Tournament football can be soooo cruel. After winning every game during the qualifiers and getting through the group stage relatively easily, England were unable to shake off a determined and well organised Iceland and are out of the competition. The players are already back on the bleak Brexit soil and will all want to hide away for six weeks till the PL starts again.
As with so many games during the Euros, the clash between the Icelanders and Ingurlanders reminded me of a typically frustrating Arsenal game. An on paper inferior team comes with a clear plan to defend to the Emirates and we struggle to break them down and lack the defensive discipline when the odd chance falls to the opposition. To see the England defence getting beat by a Stokian fecking throwie, just 34 seconds after kick off from Rooney’s well taken penalty, is just so humiliating for the inventors of the game. The Iceland winner, on the other hand, was a beautifully crafted team goal; one that England so desperately wanted to make but was incapable of – and yes, ‘Head and Shoulders’ Hart should have done better, but it was a well worked attack nevertheless.
Jack’s introduction did not make much difference but this was not down to him. He was playing very deep and had to share the role of playmaker with Rooney, who also remained relatively deep. In my opinion, England needed Jack to direct play from deep and Rooney to populate the area around the D, with Kane in the 18 yards box and plenty of movement on the wings. I disagree with the general sentiment that the players did not show enough passion or work rate against the Icelanders; it was not that at all. The truth is a lot more embarrassing for the three lions: there was not enough meaningful movement in the areas were Iceland could be hurt and the technical discipline of the players, bar none, was well below par. First touches were awful, passes were constantly over-hit, long distance shots and free-kicks were way off target, etc. It was just like there was a shifting weight inside the football that made it impossible for the English players to play accurately….. a problem the Icelanders did not seem to suffer from..
Holland were beaten by Iceland in a similar fashion to England, and although the Northern European country’s population is so much smaller than either of the former countries, they clearly are not a rubbish team. They are a good example that a team with a clear plan, strong discipline and team spirit can go a long way; and we will only see more and more of these sorts of teams, both nationally and in the PL, in the foreseeable future.
The Germans have the best answer to these, I reckon. Against the Machiavellian and naturally defence-minded Italians, the German system will be tested to the limit, and I cannot wait to see this game. As we could see during the Germany v Slovakia game, key to crack the PTB teams is: constant movement, added width from the full backs and a number of incisive and technically very capable creative midfielders; and key is also that the ‘wingers’ can play close the the CF and add both a goal and assist threat. Furthermore, you need a strong and multi-disciplined double DM-pivot such as the combo of Khedira and Kroos.
The Germans effectively play the way Arsene wants his Arsenal to play. The difference is that we are still looking for one or two players to make the system really work. Giroud plays in the Gomez role – the Germans started the Euros with Gotze as a ‘false’, very mobile nr.9 but seem to play now more effectively with a holding CF – and around him we need two dynamic ‘wingers’ to benefit from his hard work and presence in the centre to create space, link up play and offer genuine goal threat at the same time. These ‘mid-wingers’ need good close ball control and passing ability among other skills, just like Muller and Draxler have. Alexis Sanchez can play in such a role but he is certainly not uber-suited for it. But he will do for us; it is the other wing where we are still in need of a better alternative to Theo, the Ox and Campbell. And I expect Arsene to either buy or put his trust in Iwobi in the coming season, whilst hoping that Welbeck (our future Muller?) can still make a difference in the second half of the season.
If you want to know what the final Arsene team will look like, have a good look at the German national team. And if you wonder who will replace Arsene eventually, I reckon that Joachim Low will be a strong candidate. A real shame that by the time this is likely to pass, we may well no longer have free movement of EU members! 😉