This is a quick analysis after England’s failure to reach the quarter finals of Euro 2013. A truly disappointing performance from the England team.
The results :
England 2 Spain 3
England 1 Russia 1
England 0 France 3
1. The 23 players squad
I think anyone who watches the FA WSL and women’s football knows the following players : Gemma Davison, Jodie Taylor, Natasha Dowie, Rachel Williams, Gilly Flaherty, Katie Chapman (retired from international football), Lianne Sanderson ( retired from international football). What do they have in common ? They were not selected in favor of Hope Powell’s usual favorites. Chapman of course was not available as she has just given birth to her 3rd child but retired due to lack of care possible for the kids during tournaments.
Refusing to select in form players is a regular occurence with Hope Powell : Rachel Williams in 2011, Jessica Fishlock for Team GB in 2012, Natasha Dowie in 2013.
There is nothing wrong with having a core of trusted players you can rely on and who do the job for you on and off the pitch. But the previous tournament yielded the following results : Group Stage, Quarter finals, Runner-up, Quarter finals, Quarter finals. It seems to me that being runner-up in 2009 was the result of hard work and lucky circumstances ( finishing 3rd in the group, beating Finland and Holland on the way to the final). So right from the start of the squad selection, there was already a few problems.
I should mention the squad had 3 right backs and only 1 left back which is unusual in a tournament competition. Having the 1st choice right back as back up for the left back position is strange when you consider Left footed Kerys Harrop was competing for Team GB at the Universiade.
At goalkpeeper level what can Siobhan Chamberlain do to get a game when the 2 players in front don’t seem to perform well or what about Carly Telford who is the best English goalie in my opinion.
2. The injured players
Which coach in the right frame of mind would gamble on selecting so many injured players ? Again nothing wrong with having maybe a couple of injured players around in the squad. Look at France : Henry did not play before the England game ie 3rd group game after a knee injury. But Hope Powell took 5 players who had knocks. Carney injured at the Cyprus Cup with 0 WSL game played for the whole season. Smith injured in the Champions League quarter finals and again no WSL game time. Brown also injured and with limited game time in the WSL. Although it can be less damaging for a Goalkeeper. Houghton and Stoney where injured in the month prior to the competition and coming back, and the really unlucky Sophie Bradley who was injured on the last preparation friendly against Sweden. The ridiculous compressed FA WSL schedule certainly did not help with players fitness overall.
So what was the final use for those players :
Brown unused as she was number 2 keeper. With Bardsley performances during the tournament, she could have got a game.
Bradley missed 2 games and came back for the France game and struggled due to French forwards quality, fitness and match sharpness.
Stoney and Houghton were starters for all 3 games and there was suspicion that they were not 100% ready for it.
Houghton did not look the same players as in 2012 at the Olympics and Stoney was not as commanding as usual.
Smith came on twice towards the end on the Russia and France game to save the day. It worked against Russia where she combined well with Duggan to get the last second life saving equaliser. Against France’s quality it was not enough.
3. The tactics
The usual 4-3-3 that is used from the U15 to the seniors was employed and failed to work during the tournament with White too isolated. Simply because it transforms into a 4-5-1 in defensive position. A different center forward with an old style English center forward may have helped but Williams, Taylor and Dowie were not selected.
Incredibly 4-4-2 was used against France something that I had not seen for any England squad for like years and years, I remember the U15 v Holland and the U23 at the Nordic Cup, to pitch Duggan and White together but it did not work due the the opposition’s quality and the team inabilty to pass and move on the day.
As previously noted, there was a change of tactics with the move from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 but you can still find some strange thing like a monotype style of center forward selected. Variety is the spice of life me thinks.
Also at the time when managers also talk about pairings as part of the stregth of a team RB – RW LB- LW CM -DM, it is really strange to have pplayed 2 center backs with exaclty the same skills and weaknessses against France.
Stoney and Bassett complement each other as they are different type of center backs but Bradley and Stoney are exaclty the same type with the same problems and this was surely targeted by the French forwards Le Sommer and Thomis.
4. Players not performing
The important thing to note is all players gave 100% and you can always rely on all the girls to do their best. Fitness come to mind if you look for reasons for some below expectation performances. There is a bit of irony in it because, fitness testing is one of the primary criteria for selection for the England team. I could even guess, it comes before the technicall skill level. I always had the feeling watching the England teams youth and seniors that coaches preferred to have a player that is able to run for 90 minutes rather than someone who can do something with the ball but cannot run as much.
So with some players performing under par, you would have thought that those players would have been replaced in the starting 11 by the others who have been patiently waiting for their turn. Obviously it did not happen for some unknown reasons.
5. The management
Hope Powell has been managing England for 15 years. She has worked very hard to change the culture at the FA and build the foundation and the structure for women’s football in England. She has made wonders no one is denying that, but It does not mean she should be immune of criticism because of it.
It is a fact that she is relying on the same core of players since 2005 : again nothing wrong with having main group of players that are tried and trusted. Every football manager does the same. But if your tried and trusted are out of form, slightly injured and not performing, it is time for a change.
Jordan Nobbs is the main name that comes in conversation considering she sat on the bench for the whole tournament. She could have offered an option. Tony Duggan got her chance against Russia and subsequently started against France. Duggan was the only youngster who was given a chance. Jade Moore, Lucy Bronze, Gemma Bonner, Dunia Susi 0 minute altogether in this Euro. Had the main players been playing well, you would say fair enough.
The manager makes all the choices in term of preparation and selection and once the players cross the white line, they are the master of their destiny. So they are all in this together and it looks like Hope Powell is looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers in September. In the meantime no player has retired from international football which is surprising but maybe it will happen soon.