The busy December period is upon us, with some good performance and a little luck hopefully we can nail down top spot in our Champions League group and also stay top of the Premier League. Also in the last part, I said we would need to be well beaten by Spartak to lose top place, well… that isn’t true. Just losing would be enough, which I didn’t realize till it was too late. We have the Manager of the Month award to start the month, unfortunately, we came 2nd behind Wenger. Continue reading
After a well fought draw against France, we have a must win game against Iran. For the last two games we have to work on the assumption that France will beat both Iran and Senegal, and so to offer ourselves a glimmer of hope of finishing top (and theoretically giving ourselves an easier draw in the knockout round) we must win both also.
On paper, this should be an easy game for us, but on paper, Iceland was an easy opponent at Euro 2016 and well… I thought I erased that memory but no, it’s back again.
Having a quick look at the Iranian national team there are a few players I recognise: Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Dejagah (formerly of Fulham) and Azmoun (Rostov). These are players you may have heard of, but hardly superstars.
As you can see, we should win… should. The narrow formation suits us, hopefully allowing our wingers, in the 4-2-3-1 shape we favour, to occupy the full-backs creating space for our overlapping full-backs. As I don’t really have much else to say about the team, did you know that Iran has a rich cultural history, boasting one of the oldest civilisations on Earth dating back to around the 4th Century BC? Well, luckily Wikipedia did.
Now we have had a look at the opposition, worked out our approach to the game, and learnt something about our opposition, I guess there is nothing to do but sit back and drink some of this Russian white wine… this clear, strong Russian white wine.
After waking up, hungover with Mark Noble singing bubbles over the hotel balcony to a bunch of bemused Russians in central Moscow (probably making the front page of the sun), we better get to team selection.
There is some slight weariness in the ranks following the France game, so slight rotation has been required, bearing that in mind, here is the team to face Iran:
Mark Noble recovers from a two-day hangover to make the starting eleven, replacing a tired Dier. Wilshere (he was injured before the tournament, going to assume hangover also) and Barkley replace Lallana and Alli, with Rose also coming in for Shaw. Kane is on 90% condition, I will keep an eye on this with a decent replacement in Callum Wilson on the bench.
With all that said, let’s hopefully go and grab those three points.
Pre-game: noticing Iran are playing a 4-3-3… so that full-back overload might be off… let’s stick to it, see how it goes regardless.
A slow start, it is not until the sixteenth minute that we get our first action of the match. A throw in down the right from Clyne finds Barkley who passes to Noble, Noble to Wilshere who lets loose…. and tipped over by the Iranian keeper. The first shot of the game.
Straight after that highlight, in the eighteenth minute, Barkley finds Rashford, who feeds Chamberlain, his shot his blocked, falling to Kane, who’s shot is once again blocked.
The thirty-first minute quickly approaches, quick interchange sees Rashford letting fly – straight at the keeper.
Wilshere and Kane both have long distance efforts in the thirty-third and thirty-fourth minutes. Wilshere way over, Kane’s effort is tipped over. Still, the game is all England, no efforts so far from Iran, but can we make the pressure pay?
Just what we needed. The pressure pays off. Tenacious work down the left sees Rashford win the ball from the Iranian right-back, he then passes square to Barkley, who passes to Noble, Noble carries the ball forward and passes to Chamberlain who works some space before feeding the ball into Rashford‘s path for a tap-in. 1-0 England!
And just like that, it’s half-time. An okay half, we have dominated, but that is to be expected. Iran are defending solidly and deep, this has contributed to them not registering a shot yet. We can expect more from them in the second half, but as they chase the game, hopefully, more chances will present themselves for us.
As the fiftieth-minute approaches, Kane will be withdrawn. He has been ineffective so far today and needs to be rested ahead of the game against Senegal. Callum Wilson will enter the fray.
Danny Rose steps out of position allowing Iran a simple ball down the ring wing. The winger is closed down by Keane, who has to leave his man free in the middle, he (Azmoun) taps home with Iran’s first shot of the game…
Change after the goal: Alli is coming on for Wilshere who is not fully fit following his hangover.
Well, that was quick! Rashford once again wins the ball back, the ball finds its way to the fresh-legged Alli who crosses for Rashford, who made his way into the box to net his second of the game. 2-1 England!
We need now, to make sure we do not cede this. I will be looking to shore things up by changing from Control to Counter in around five minutes.
Before this can take place, we have a corner, which eventually leads to a headed chance by Rashford, which is not taken – to be fair to him, it was a very difficult chance and we do well to win another corner. From the subsequent corner, Barkley works a shot, which flys over the bar.
Another attack works its way down the left, the ball is crossed to Wilson who cannot meet it, the ball is recycled by Alli, who plays the ball to Rashford, but unfortunately, the shot is blocked.
Although we are on top, I am taking the time now to make two changes. Firstly, we are going to look to play slightly more conservatively and make ourselves less vulnerable to the break by playing on Counter, but keeping our tempo low, and our passing short, making sure that we retain possession in a safer manner. Secondly, we will be replacing the tired (and booked) Clyne with Walker (please don’t pull a Tottenham on me…).
Following a long throw, Iran work a shooting opportunity from the top of the box, Hart saves comfortably, but is this a warning sign that I have gone too defensive?
Further proof of this as our attack fizzles out, and Iran plays a long through ball, the shot at the end of the move is tipped over by Hart. This is why we went more cautious, to stop counters!
From the touchline I shout a calm concentrate, I’m not really sure how to shout calmly though…
It was all over. That was much closer than I expected it to be. We were incredibly dominant throughout, with Iran scoring from their first shot and not registering their second until after the eightieth minute. The increased pressure at the end was almost solely my fault for not trusting the players to hold out controlling the game, maybe that confidence was rattled by the Iran goal coming from nothing, but it could have cost us, and our approach to closing out games is something I will have to think about – do I go defensive, or go with the ethos of “it ain’t broke…”?
Anyway, three points in the bag, can’t complain too much. On top of that, we were able to rest some of our players in order to have them fresh for the Senegal game in four days time.
Speaking of Senegal…
Senegal managed to hold France to a draw leaving both teams on two points. This means that a draw will take us through to the knockout round, and a win will guarantee us top spot in the group, however, a loss likely eliminates us. A great situation to be in, albeit, somewhat risky. Before the Iran game, I would have been convinced of our success in this game, but I was not convinced by our performance out there today. I still think we are favourites, and will likely look to control the game but we cannot afford to be too blase as we almost found out today.
But for now, that doesn’t matter, we got the three points, and now, in my estimations, are favourites to top the group. Will we? I guess we will find out next time.
And we’re back, in Russia, in the year 2018 with our World Cup opener again the favourites for the tournament, France. Our preparations have been good, the boys are confident, so let’s get into this as soon as we can before the team realises we are vastly outmatched by France and their confidence gets shattered.
The best thing about being last means we can sit and watch the rest of the games, I love an international tournament, so many games on TV that you don’t usually get in the season save for the odd FA cup weekend (thanks, Sky/BT), it is summer (maybe not for Qatar 2020…) so the games have a different ambiance in the build up. Also, the whole country is rooting for the same team, and hoping that maybe this is the tournament… maybe this is the tournament…
Before this starts sounding like a Snickers advert, a few things. For the World Cup, I will be mixing up my normal formula, instead, bring a live play-by-play commentary of what is happening coupled with images. For this reason, I will be going game by game for the time being. Hopefully, you enjoy this new format, if not let me know and I will switch! Also, LET’S GO WIN THE BLOODY WORLD CUP! IT’S IN THE BAG!
Oh wait, the other thing was results elsewhere… I got carried away. Nothing too interesting happened, no real upsets, Japan beating the Ivory Coast 4-1 jumps out, but apart from that, pretty standard. In our group Iran and Senegal drew 1-1 which may or may not be a good result for us… I’m going to go for yes.
Going with the 4-3-3 for this which earned us a draw in our friendly against France. I’m putting a lot of hope into Rashford and Oxlade-Chamberlain to cause problems on the break with their direct running against Tolisso and Digne in the French full-back zones, these appear to me as weak areas in an otherwise supremely impressive French team. France is the favourite for the game at 6-4, we are 13-8 so the bookies think we have hope.
COME ON ENGLAND!
Off we go…
So… the first attack of the game Coman latches onto a through ball by Benzema, Coman crosses and…
Few eventless minute pass before Pogba sets for a french free kick on the edge of the box, shooting straight at Hart. We need more.
This is quickly followed by a free header from Varane at a corner. Luckily for us, this is well over.
Time for an in-game team talk – encourage.
It seems to have had little effect and quickly we reach to 40th minute with just one shot on target – one shot at all! France has had seven shots with two on target. Kante picks up the ball on the edge and shoots harmlessly wide. If we can make it to half time at 1-0, sweeping changes may well be needed.
Just after, 41st minute, Coman latches onto another Benzema pass before beating Hart… luckily for us, it hits the post and Hart collects.
Promising signs in the 44th minute as we patiently work the ball down the right, an interchange between Clyne and Chamberlain produces an opportunity for Clyne, which he fires straight at Lloris winning us a corner.
Nothing comes of the corner and now it’s half time. Time to shout a little at the team, and look at the tactics.
I have decided to remain on the counter, but re-shape the 4-3-3 into this:
Hopefully pushing Lallana and Dier slightly on will encourage greater pressure on the ball and allow more support of Kane. Chamberlain has also been put on an attack duty, hopefully, to get at his full back. If further change is needed I may look towards Callum Wilson, he is a different type of forward than Kane, maybe even complimentary… 4-4-2 maybe…
Let’s get on with the second half.
50th minute comes quickly, but as it does excellent passing football down the right allows Chamberlain to cross, but slightly too far, Rashford recycles, passing to Shaw, who goes infield to Lallana, he picks out a nice little through ball to Harry Kane who is now one on one… MISSED! Kane’s Tottenham team-mate Lloris denies him with a low save to his left. Opportunity squandered.
From the corner, France counter, leading to Martial firing just wide from distance.
Great play in the centre frees up Shaw down the left who is fed by Rashford, he crosses to Kane who escapes his marker, who then fires wide. England looking the more likely at the minute.
Before we know it, the 70th minute rolls around. Time for changes, we will be making two like for like changes, Barkley for Lallana and Walcott for Chamberlain. We are doing okay, if nothing changes in the next ten, we will be going more attacking and throw the kitchen sink at them.
Barkley, fresh on the pitch, feeds Kane who’s run drags the defence out of position, Rashford takes advantage running into space, Kane feeds him and Rashford does not mess about, smashing home. 1-1.
Straight from kick off England attack again. Walcott carries forward, drops the ball back to Barkley who passes into Kane, before letting Rashford free, as he begins to shoot Tolisso gets a foot in. Corner.
Nothing comes from the corner. Apart from England brilliantly pressuring Martial into a turnover as he attempts to break.
Last 10 minutes and I am reluctant to make changes, we are on top of this, I, for now, will keep faith in the eleven out there.
This faith almost instantly pays off as Walcott picks up on the right edge of the box, squaring up his man before playing the ball to Rashford, he plays it to Barkley who’s shot is deflected onto the post.
France carves out a shooting chance for Pogba on the edge of the box – straight at Hart.
And that is that, 1-1.
I’ll take it. A 1-1 draw against the tournament favourite. The second half, in particular, was particularly encouraging, we created a lot more than France, but we were, unfortunately, let down by our first half display. I was maybe a little too hesitant to make changes before the half and this may have cost us attacking opportunities.
The scoreline is a repeat of England v France in Euro 2012, but we played much better than Roy Hodgson’s side. It is also a draw against France for the second time and given their squad I will take this as encouragement that we are doing the right thing.
Next up we have Iran and then Senegal, games we should win. This could easily turn into a goal-scoring shoot out between us and France if we both perform to our standards.
Anyway, that is all for today, I have tried a new presentational style (especial for the World Cup) let me know if you would like me to continue it. The idea is to give you a bit more of the action, bring you the goals (made GIFs for the first time… I need to improve on those) and a little more tension. If you preferred the old style let me know, as that enables me to bring more games at a time, but less of the action, and is what I will be doing after the World Cup to help us get through them quicker.
Till next time.
First things first, I hired a new assistant: Pat Rice. The ex-Arsenal assistant accepted the role and brings a wealth of experience to us. He also will handle arranging friendlies which is pretty great. His first arrangement is a friendly against France which is a great idea, cheer Pat! And Lithuania, which meh… So a long one today.
Whilst waiting for the first set of friendlies I have had job offers from Bournemouth, Leicester, West Ham and Everton. Needless to say, I rejected them all in order to focus on the England gig.
For the call-up, I have decided to experiment (a little). Welbeck and Hughes are out for Oxlade-Chamberlain and NOBLE! Yes, Mark Noble. I decided to try the experienced Hammers midfielder as a backup midfield option. Hopefully, his developed mental traits give him the edge on Hughes – also, he has had a great season at West Ham.
The first friendly, as previously mentioned is France, the tournament favourites and our group-mates (is that a term?). I will be testing out our more cautious, counter-attacking system in this match. We have tried this out in the past to not too much success, but we haven’t played any team of France’s stature, and these are the teams the tactic is built for.
So, here is the lineup and tactic:
With this shape, we are looking to counter attack but also make some use of our full-backs. Dier is ideal in this shape to play an anchor, which will help break down oppositions attacks whilst we sit in shape, and then allow our full-backs to charge on as we counter. Henderson will be our all action man in the middle, and Lallana will look for space to break out. Rashford will hopefully combine with Vardy, whilst Sterling stays wide to supply support. This is all of course in theory. We have a few players down for just 45 minutes action so there will be a lot of rotation. Let’s see what happens away in our night in
We did okay, France had twice as many shots as we did, but most were from distance. Our first half performances were very even, but I was forced to remove Dier from his anchoring role due to club restrictions and replace him with Noble, who was much more comfortable as a deep-lying playmaker on defend, which he did okay with but Dier seemed a lot more effective. Up top, Rashford was quite poor, as was Vardy, but Sterling performed well carving himself out a few opportunities. We had the only clear-cut chance of the game which came via Rashford in a scramble following a corner, he hit the ever present Kante. Smalling picked up the man of the match.
Overall, pleasing stuff. I will give this tactic another shake in our game against the Netherlands, I think it could serve us well. Henderson picked up a knock and so is out for the next game, so in comes Ward-Prowse. Now, Lithuania, again, but in sunny Lithuania, which I suppose might be nice… apparently they have nice potato dumplings.
I am giving Noble a start after his substitute appearance against France if only to test his versatility, his ability to play most midfield roles might be very useful in the tournament, though I am somewhat concerned about his technical ability. Elsewhere, Ward-Prowse start, Wilshere see’s a start in a more advanced role, Walcott is on the wing, Kane start, and the back two are rotated. This is the same tactic we used last time out against Macedonia, let’s hope for a similar result.
It was cold out there, there was even snow, but luckily we were comfortable. Pickford’s hands must’ve been freezing after having only one save. Our first goal came after Clyne worked well down the right-hand side before delivering a perfect cross for Rashford to tuck home. This was followed up by a penalty as Walcott was fouled in the box as he looked to latch onto another cross, Noble stepped up, and on his first England start, stuck home as cooley as well… Pickford’s hands. Noble ended up captaining the team, which was odd as it is only his second cap, but he has done enough to get himself into contention. Rashford got man of the match.
With that result, we have also set an England defensive record, not conceding since we played Scotland in September 2017, it’s now nearly April 2018, a long way from conceding five against Northern Ireland – catenaccio.
We are approaching the squad call-up for our last two friendlies, and then, the world cup. Before doing this, I had a quick look at the premier league, to see who is winning it, and whilst that is not done yet (I will bring you the final result), I noticed this:
Callum Wilson has torn it up this season, throwing himself firmly into contention given the misfiring of other strikers (Vardy and Welbeck…). Also, I will give some thought to Cresswell who has the second most player of the match awards, but he has some tough competition in Rose and Shaw.
But before a choice can be made…
Arsenal nearly clinched it, but Man U had a bit too much. Elsewhere, it was good to see Brighton hold on with Knockaert racking up the assists. Anyway, back to my business, the selection.
It was only when we went to get on the plane I noticed… there was no Jordan Henderson. I asked Pat Rice, where he was, thought he might just be in the bog, but not, I completely forgot Jordan Henderson… our fucking captain.
So this world cup is off to a good start.
You might notice, I also called up Jon Toral thinking I was smart nabbing him from Spain. Turns out, he isn’t that great, and it meant I forgot Henderson… the bloody captain. God dammit!
Life moves on. Wilson and Noble make it, wait no I’m still not over the Henderson thing, let’s just play Holland.
…Oh god, the media are going to kill me…
I called up Toral and Noble instead of…
Actually moving on, the world cup odds are in. We are placed at 18/1, which isn’t great, but if I was you I’d whack a tenner on that. I mean… ignore my incompetence, I’m sure it will pan out, we have Mark Noble.
The International League draw was made, which sort of replaces friendlies, we have drawn Italy and Sweden, which is okay I suppose.
As promised, we are testing out this tactic against a reasonably strong side who didn’t qualify for the world cup, which makes them seem not that strong, but don’t doubt how bad we can be.
We now have no box-to-box midfielders and tonnes of playmakers so Alli can fill in adequately – he has long legs. Oxlade-Chamberlain is in hopefully he can justify his selection. I hope to give Wilson some minutes too. Let’s do this.
What a performance! Completely dominant, creating chances left and right. It took until the second half to score but we missed two clear-cut chances in the first half. Our first goal, however, came about in lucky circumstance. A long clearance from Clyne managed to evade the Dutch goalkeeper, Vermeer, who had came to head the ball, Kane latched on and tapped into an open goal. Following this, a cross from Shaw was about to be met by Chamberlain who was dragged down giving us a penalty, Rashford dutifully tucked home. After this, a fine passing move was capped off by Rashford following a defence-splitting Kane pass. For the fourth, Walcott beat three men on the right-hand side before delivering an excellent cross to debutant Wilson, who had lost his marker, who tucked home. Finally, fine play from Rashford allowed him a pull back to Wilshere, whose shot was parried to Walcott who tapped home.
Overall an excellent performance, and an encouraging one for the 4-3-3 going forward. Next, Cameroon.
We have tried this shape (3-4-3, 5-2-2-1, 5-2-3?) once before against Peru, we won 5-0 that time out. It really enabled our full-backs to get forward and could be very useful in the tournament against teams of Cameroon’s or Peru’s ilk. So let’s give it a second test and see how we perform.
On the pitch, I am hoping to get a closer look at Noble, Wilson, Jones and Barkley in this final friendly… Let’s go.
(Mark Noble to captain the side, West Ham captain?!?! It’s coming home!)
A pretty unconvincing performance, I don’t think we will be carrying the 3-4-3 into the tournament, instead, I think I will opt for the 4-2-3-1 in these type of games, although Dier offers me the flexibility to switch to this shape on the move. In the game, not too much happened, before the 92nd minute when Chamberlain beat his man down the right-hand side, charged to the edge of the eighteen-yard box and delivered a bullet cross to Wilson who produced a side-foot volley from close range to take the win. That’s two in two now for Wilson.
That’s it. Preparations complete. We know our tactics a bit better now, we know our main two (4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1) with a bit of flexibility if needed (3-4-3). We’ve made mistakes and discovered some useful new players, and it all comes to ahead next time as we head into our crucial first game, against tournament favourites – France.
A crucial time approaches for the England national team. Crunch time as we soon play Lithuania and double crucially, Slovakia away following our whooping of Malta and Scotland, it’s all down to this. But first, we play Cyprus in a friendly, conveniently for me this has been arranged away in Cyprus so a nice little holiday for me.
Before I can get on the beach and some halloumi, I need to call up a squad. The only changes to the previous squad have been dropping Gary Cahill for Mike Smalling, replacing James Ward-Prowse for Phil Jones freeing up Eric Dier to play in the middle and the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is replaced with Will Hughes to buff out our creative options. With that announcement sent off, I’m off to the beach, then to some stadium some place, then back to the beach with another tray of halloumi (it’s from here, and that’s about all I know about Cyprus) to report on the result.
A B-team was rolled out for this one, with Will Hughes being given the 90 minutes. Even with this, we were always in control with Cyprus causing very few problems. Theo Walcott picked up the man of the match with a goal and an assist repaying my (never ending) faith with him, Phil Jones also impressed.
An encouraging performance away from home that also allowed us to rest key players ahead of the double header.
So now, of the beach after eating my weight in halloumi (did you know halloumi was first created during the Medieval Byzantine period?), we head into CRUNCH TIME!
First, Lithuania at Wembley, a game we should win but then again England should’ve won the world cup in 2002 and Ronaldinho happened, not saying Lithuania have Ronaldinho, but it’s not like we have Paul Scholes and Darius Vassell? That squad wasn’t as good as I remember it being.
Here is the team for today’s game:
A few changes to the team due to players being close to suspension and returning from injury. Rashford, Rose and Dier have been kept on the sideline as they are a yellow away from suspension, whilst Wilshere, Stones, Clyne and Henderson are risked, a yellow for any of them meaning they are out against Slovakia. Kane is rested as he is recovering from a knock, if needed he is capable of twenty-or-so minutes.
Anyway, into the match this eleven goes.
Once again we are in control. It did, however, take us a while to break through, with Walcott perhaps most guilty, missing two decent opportunities in what turned out to be a good game for him. Frustration began to build as we mounted pressure in the second half missing an array of chances before winning a penalty from a corner. Stones stepped up to score and the floodgates opened as Lithuania were forced out of their defensive shape. A goal for Walcott followed after a nice pass from Dele, Rashford quickly followed suit scoring a volley from a Walker cross. Dele picked up the man of the match from what was a dominant display, Walcott caused a constant menace running into the half space between Lithuania’s left-back and centre-back.
Onto the bad news, Walker is suspended, Clyne also picked up a slight knock but should be okay. Slovakia also picked up a 2-1 win against Malta, meaning going into the last game the table looks like this:
As you can see, Slovakia and Us are a class above the rest of the group, and in reality, it was always a story of us and them. To avoid the uncertainty of a second placed finish, which could mean playoffs, we need to draw or win away in Slovakia. Our defence and attack have been impressive in the qualifiers, let’s hope they can carry us through this last one.
The team for today’s tie:
I have gone for a bit more solidity in the middle with Dier coming in for Wilshere and Henderson taking up play-making duties, this sacrifices some creativity but hopefully, allows more control. Elsewhere we have Rashford coming in for Sterling who disappointed against Lithuania, Rose in for a tired Shaw, and Kane given the start. Walcott retains his place after scoring in his last two.
On to the game, will we be playing qualifiers? Will we be out? Will we be off to Russia? Let’s find out.
We did it! In retrospect, I think we still would’ve gone through with a loss since we have an incredible goal difference. Oh well, we are through anyway, but it makes my nail-biting as we fought out a 0-0 draw look a bit silly. Nothing much happened in the match itself, a few chances for us, a few chances for them. We had two good chances, one for Kane and one for Walcott, both squandered. Slovakia had a few, all of which were well matched by Hart who wasn’t too stretched by any of them. The man of the match went to Slovakian full back Hubocan.
With that in the bag, we can look forward to a summer trip to Russia, and all the usual media nonsense in the build up. Will I allow the WAGs to come along? Will the fact I consult a psychic for tactics come up? Will my having a cup of tea with every match earn me a nickname? Mr Tea? Please?
I guess only time will tell. Next time we will be seeing just who we have coming, a look at the preparation and how qualifying went around the world. Most importantly, we need to decide on our world cup song… Probably gonna have to be this classic.
Till next time.
As mentioned last time we have Scotland and Malta coming up before the crucial double header of Lithuania and Slovakia. Today, we will just be covering the minnow matchups, but first, important news about my upcoming holiday.
Good news! We are going to Morocco in 2022 (hopefully, might fuck it up). Morocco has pretty awesome food, so that’s nice. Plus fewer slaves and that, although I’m no Morocco expert so can’t say for sure. Chamakh is from there, so I know that too, that and food – I know enough to get by on the mean streets of Casablanca.
Also, club protests? I imagine it looked a little something like this in the Bayern camp:
Onto business, the squad call-up is pretty much the same as the last few times. Only exceptions are Smalling and Sturridge who are injured, in their place Keane and Welbeck.
Side note – the U21 side lost in the finals of their tournament to France, so let’s not speak of them.
The team for the game against Malta will look like this:
A few players are a yellow away from suspension so have not been risked from the off. Although Dier and Walker start and are both at risk of suspension. Malta shouldn’t pose too much of a threat, but if they do, we have some great options from the bench. Malta looks to be lining up with five at the back, so switching to two up top might be a great option if we struggle to break through.
We never really had to get out of first gear in this game. Early goals from Sterling and Rashford made this game a cake walk. The only downside to an otherwise straight forward away victory was Harry Kane’s injury, the severity of which means he will be out for five weeks (also, hopefully denting Spurs’ league title defence). Sterling earnt himself the man of the match, Vardy also came on for Kane to excellent effect grabbing a goal and an assist.
Okay, so onto Scotland at Wembley with no Harry Kane with Callum Wilson his replacement. The starting eleven will be much the same as the previous game, only exceptions will be Clyne for Walker, Wilshere for Ward-Prowse, Henderson for Keane with Dier shuffling to centre-back, and of course Vardy for Kane.
Before the game, I received a match report which pretty much read: We need to watch Leigh Griffiths as he scored in their last game against Lithuania. Great work scouting team… great work.
With that tactical nugget firmly lodged in my mind up with all the other important football stuff (if in doubt, kick it out; put the fast kid up front and lump it; and of course, don’t fanny about with it at the back) we head into the game.
A reasonably comfortable win moves us three points clear of Slovakia who managed a goalless draw with Lithuania. In this game, Scotland had me briefly (very briefly) worried, when they equalised in the 52nd minute. This followed a first half where we dominated but only took one chance. The man who scored was, of course, Leigh Griffiths, who my centre-backs lost track off allowing him in behind, a mistake from Hart then allowed him an empty net. Our goals came from a variety of sources. A well worked first goal between Rashford and Sterling opened the scoring, following the equaliser Dier powered home, Wilshere scored a fantastic free-kick and Oxlade-Chamberlain powered home a back post header. John Stones also took a penalty won by Welbeck, surprisingly Stones has 15 penalty taking… but he still missed kicking straight down the middle, where the keeper remained rooted. Overall good performance, shame about their goal, but we move on.
Stardust Gordon played again today, looked into his profile, plays for Jagiellonia in the Polish first flight. I have more respect for him now, a much higher level than the SPL, and playing abroad like Oliver Burke and Ryan Gauld… something I wish more English players would take the chance to do (although, hasn’t really worked out for any but Burke and he isn’t in the Scottish national team in game for some reason…).
Next time, we have the crucial double header plus a friendly against Cyprus. After that, we will hopefully be preparing for our first shot at the big one. Till next time.
After the big win against Slovakia last time out, the Three Lions are looking to all but secure our spot in Russia with the June game against Slovenia, followed by a double header of whipping boys Malta and Rugby team, Scotland. After that, we will face the perhaps crucial games against Lithuania and Slovakia. Today we will face Slovenia and a friendly against a bunch of guys from some place.
In other news Jose Mourinho doesn’t like me due to apparently ignoring his request – I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I also care very little.
Also, I have yet to attend a game to watch any England players. I mean… why bother when I can illegally stream it online. This, however, did not go down to well with the journalist.
The media are also starting to mention Crouch and Defore in contention for call-ups. I thought football manager was meant to be realistic? This is so…
Ah, well… you win this time FM… but not call up is coming to either of them barring a massive injury crisis (fingers crossed).
In the world rankings, we are now above Wales who have slipped to 15th as we have held onto 12th. These rankings are soo pointless. What isn’t pointless is the premier league, and at the end of the season the table looks like this:
I rescind my previous point, the premier league is pointless and all that matters now is international football. Also, the fact Tottenham didn’t bottle it is completely unrealistic… this is truly the darkest of timelines.
Enough nonsense, into the important stuff – international football.
Alongside our games against Slovenia and the team I have not yet named, and will not yet name, and will ultimately disappoint you when I say it, the U21 team are playing in the championships, so we will see how the young’uns get on.
Getting to our squad, my assistant tried to call up Charlie Austin over Theo Walcott… is he looking to get that sack? Because that’s how you end up getting the boot around here. Blasphemy.
Into the game against Slovenia, here is the squad:
We have gone with our more attacking setup, not repeating our previous mistake against Slovenia. Walcott is on the bench for Oxlade-Chamberlain after the impressive performance against Slovakia has earnt him a place in the team. Kane is in for Vardy because at some point he has to become prolific for me. Also, Butland is in for Hart. The team looks good, we should have comfortably more than enough. Let’s do this.
An excellent win, and an excellent performance. Our full backs really seem to be growing into this system and that showed with Clyne notching up a goal and an assist, and Rose grabbing a goal and two assists and the man of the match award. Elsewhere, my selection of Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed justified as he put out a strong performance, similar story for Kane.
We could have gone three points clear if Scotland held onto Slovakia, they had been holding them to 1-1, and of course screwed it up – thanks, Scotland. We do however have a +18 goal difference compared to Slovakia’s +4.
Now a friendly against the mystery men… VENEZUELA! I told you you’d be disappointed. They were yellow like brazil… and have… Rondon maybe? Let’s hope they don’t come here and have a go at our parks and film it for Hugo Chavez… I won’t be accepting no cheques (on camera).
As I intend to do for all our smaller friendlies I will just bring you the result and explain my changes. Pretty much, we will just be playing the same shape as last game, very exciting. If we lose, right to jail, if we draw, believe it or not, jail.
Another friendly, another interesting game. I should really cover them in more depth, but ultimately they are pretty irrelevant. Daniel Sturridge impressed with four goals, a mixture of finishes, I hope to see more of this from him as he, Vardy and Kane battle for the starting striker spot. Another assist from the fullback position is promising, and Walcott had a decent game. Defensively, we were often caught out by Venezuela’s 4-4-2, with both our centre-backs being dragged by their two strikers. Also, the direct style of Venezuela caused us issues in the first half, conceding early. Ultimately though, our style pulled through.
For only two games, there was a lot to get through today. Next time out, we will be playing Malta and Scotland, hopefully, this will mean a lot of goals to bring you. After that, we have crunch time as we go up against Slovakia, away, and Lithuania at Wembley. Until next time.
We start today with an offer I could definitely refuse. Southampton saw my absolute bottling of the Northern Ireland game and figured I was the man for them, maybe because they have Steven Davis who could laugh at me all day. Regardless I turned it down, England requires all my focus if I am to bring England glory. Perhaps after I win the world cup, I will consider club management in this save if there is interest.
And now I am going to go into hibernation until we play Slovakia.
Almost there, accidentally dropped Walcott in favour of Ross Barkley or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, told him I was sorry, I hope he forgives me. In other news, we have dropped to eighteenth overall in the world with Wales holding twelfth…
Wilshere has picked up an injury AGAIN, so I have replaced him with young Tom Davies, although I could of brought Walcott in… need more central midfielders.
I am now realising that I should not allow my assistant to make the suggestions as he has chosen one injured player and multiple players just coming back from injury… on a related subject I should learn my assistants name. Looking at the team, I may change Vardy to a Defensive Forward, and move Alli to Shadow Striker, with Oxlade-Chamberlain being given a support duty and let Lallana play as an advanced playmaker from the left. We need to win this one and I hope the players are up for a battle.
It’s now half time, from the start I have carried out the tactical changes outlined above plus changed Shaw to a wing-back, and the result:
So far so good, I am going to keep things as they are and let’s hope that we don’t bottle it like we did against Northern Ireland, if things look to be going south I may switch to the more defensive 4-3-3.
Gave a nice team talk, had a cuppa, time for the second half. Also, Wembley update, I have banned the band. You are welcome.
After Skrtel’s headed goal I decided to switch to the 4-3-3 as planned which worked a treat, with us getting a further two goals. One came via Jamie Vardy adding his second of he game before breaking his nose, presumably from squaring up to Skrtel. The second was from Sterling following from excellent work from Oxlade-Chamberlain adding his second assist of the match. Comfortable man of the match for Oxlade-Chamberlain, although Vardy once again impressed.
We once again claim top spot in our group, hopefully we can keep hold of it this time.
The next match is a friendly versus South Korea, as it is completely inconsequential I will not present all the details. Not much experimenting will be going on here, just our standard 4-2-3-1 with a debut for Tom Davies and possibly James Ward-Prowse who has been called up due to injuries.
I have also been offered the Palace job…
It’s a no I’m afraid, as much as I love gravy, I don’t want to follow in Big Sam’s footsteps.
A lot of teams have requested that their players only play 45 minutes, I’m not sure if I can ignore them or what? So for now I will comply with their wishes, might wait for a small team so I can see if they get mad.
Anyway, into the South Korea match (side note: all our friendlies so far have came against teams with directions in their name… and Isreal… or teams with ongoing land disputes I guess…).
The game turned out to be more interesting than I imagined following Tom Davies getting sent off in the eighth minute, poor lad must of been so excited for his debut and then he absolutely clatters some unsuspecting Korean in a show of passion and he is off. After this happened I dropped to three at the back, pushed the wing backs on, moved Rashford up top with Kane and moved Barkley and Ward-Prowse into midfield, reverting to a counter style. This was successful with Kane finally (FINALLY!) scoring on his eighth clear cut chance of his England career under me, he then proceeded to miss another clear cut chance so lets set the Kane counter at nine CCC, one goal. He did also hit the post, and I believe he has the quality to be our main man. His goal was followed by Dier’s headed goal from a corner. From there we defended well and held on, overall a fairly decent performance all things considered.
Next time out we have Slovenia, followed by crucial double headers that will decide our fate – is it coming home, or are we? FIND OUT NEXT TIME!
The biggest plus of my management so far has surely been the fact I am yet to be entangled in some kind of tabloid scandal. The negative, much like most England managers, I am yet to work out what I am doing. So I’ll just keep bobbing along until something goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Further good news, we have moved up one in the world rankings to twelfth. Bad news, Wales have moved up to ninth. Been a very mixed start to the session.
Squad selection in. I have decided to call up Mike Smalling and Jamie Vardy. Might as well give them a chance, I feel centre-back is a very unsettled position and whilst Kane is holding down the centre-forward position, he is yet to score for me.
A few days after selection Wilshere obviously picks up an injury, just two weeks, but we now require a replacement… a deep-lying, technically gifted midfielder… England’s strength… so I decided to throw a curve ball and call up a Championship player with real potential – Will Hughes.
Whilst Will Hughes attributes aren’t world class, the alternative was a 35 year old Michael Carrick. I like Hughes’ traits, and for his age he has decent mental atributes, he should fit in nicely. Oh and Hart is injured, so Pickford is in.
So it’s off to Lithuania, seems like we’ve had a lot of away games at the start of these qualifiers, only Malta at home so far. The squad will be as follows.
I have made a bold move here and thrown in Keane, Pickford and Hughes in at the deep end. I know I should save this kind of risk taking for a friendly but you can only really learn about a player by seeing how they perform in competition. It is still early days for my reign so with no set starting eleven yet, we may see who can perform under pressure.
Well we spoke about sink or swim. Michael Keane sunk costing us the first goal with absolutely atrocious defending, ball was played over is head, after finally catching up to his man, he stood off him to allow him a free shot on goal – Lithuania’s only shot on target. Will Hughes however played reasonably well picking up an assist for Vardy’s late equaliser. Kane had another poor performance, missing two clear cut chances, making that around six clear cut chances missed with zero goals scored – his place is now seriously at threat.
This disappointing result leaves us two points off Slovakia. We can catch them, but we are building unneeded pressure.
Next up is a friendly against Northern Ireland, I will be experimenting. I completely forgot to capture the formation during the build up so here it is from two minutes into the game.
Yes, two minutes in we are one-nil up thanks too Vardy. The team is very experimental, and very attacking. I will give a full run down after the game as I need to get back to pitch side, just had to dart into the dressing room to post this.
Well what do you make of that? Absolute bottle job. At one point we were 3-0 up, and then 4-1 up! I played an odd tactic and it was mixed we were very exposed on the break as was expected but it helped outline players strengths and weaknesses. Vardy had an absolutely fantastic game before his injury and has secured his spot as starting striker for the next game. Kane… Kane came on for the injured Vardy and immediately missed his seventh (SEVENTH!) clear cut chance without scoring, Northern Ireland immediately went to the other end to make it 4-3! The two centre backs played very poorly, but considering how exposed the tactic would of made them, I won’t read into this too much, however some lapses of judgement from Stones were not due to tactics. Ben Forster had a nightmare and may not see our net again for a while with Pickford and Hart firmly ahead of him now, his fragility is highlighted by Northern Ireland scoring five with only one clear opportunity. The game of Lavery and Vardy.
A lot to be learnt going into the next set of games. We have also dropped to fifteenth in the world rankings… which is a shame… Wales dropped too, but only to eleventh, we will catch them, we will destroy them.
The next game will be a must win against Slovakia at Wembley, which I will be covering next time out. But for now how about a look at the Premier League table at the start of January.
I do not like this reality, that bottle job against Northern Ireland and now Tottenham top of the table? And even worse, Arsenal in the meme position of fourth? Well… basically the same as real life. The top goalscorer is surprisingly Rondon on fourteen, amongst English strikers Deeney is the most prolific, followed by Afobe, Defore and Kane. Jack Wilshere is amongst the top assisting players in the league with seven.
After what has happened here, I need to sit down, since I am I need to lay down. Disappointing in every respect, and we need desperately to turn it around next time out against Slovakia.
Off the back of a less than convincing friendly against Isreal, we roll into Slovenia for our first World Cup qualifying game. Being a little unsure of our quality, and rating Slovenia as a half decent team I have decided to start cautious in order to weigh up the game in the first half.
There are a few changes to tactics in there to make the shape a little more attacking whilst retaining most of its robustness. For example, John Stones is playing as a Ball Playing Defender, but Eric Dier will be playing as an Anchor to allow the Full Backs to push wide and deep. Jordan Henderson will also be allowed a more adventurous role as a box-to-box midfielder following on from his impressive performance in the last fixture.
So let’s see how they get on in sunny Ljubljana.
Ahh… not the result I was hoping for. The cautious start backfired as Slovenia scored a scrappy goal from a corner following shaky defending from Phil Jones (who I started for unknown reasons, maybe from writing the starting eleven on a pack of fags). We quickly equalised from a wildly deflected free kick from Eric Dier. I then at half time switched things up to a more controlling strategy and dominated the game, creating three clear cut chances, and missed them all. Oh well, at least Scotland lost.
A draw in Slovenia is not the end of the world, I still am fully convinced we will top the group comfortably. Next up Malta and Scotland in a minnows double header (oh god I hope I don’t fuck it up now).
As I wait the thirty-three days till we play Malta I have to wonder, what non-sense would Glenn Hoddle be saying about me? Answers on a postcard, or in the comments, you do you.
Malta at Wembley, not too much thought going into this one. Just going to look to control the game, and hopefully get some of the squad firing before the main event – Scotland away.
The team has been slightly rotated for this one with appearances for Lallana, Sturridge, Rooney, Wilshere and Rose plus Dier dropping back to play alongside Stones.
The most surprising thing about this result is that John Stones scored two. Performance was exactly as you’d expect, Malta managed a shot which was nice for them. The whole back line picking up yellows is somewhat of a concern but could maybe be put down to a lack of concentration after scoring four in the first half. We are also now top of the group. Next up, Scotland, a match John Stones has managed to pick up a suspension for.
It’s somehow seventeen Celsius in Scotland, in October, my immersion has been broken. The team for the game will be again rotated with Kane, Alli , Sterling and Shaw coming in for Sturridge, Rooney, Lallana and Rose, with Stones missing out Cahill steps in at the back. We will approach the game looking to dominate from the off, let’s get into this.
Seeing the strength of Scotland, this approach and this line-up should be sufficient as there appears to be a significant gulf in quality. Scotland are expected to line up in a similar shape and so I hope to just overpower them with our technical quality. See you after the match.
As expected, we just had too much for Scotland. Jordan Henderson scored a curler from the edge of the box in the first half, followed by a scrappy Gary Cahill goal from a corner and a neatly worked goal by Daniel Sturridge following an excellent pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Worth noting, Scotland at home had as many shots as Malta did against us at Wembley. Malta also earned a draw away at Slovenia… the same outcome we achieved… maybe I overestimated Slovenia…
This win leaves us joint top with Slovakia who are emerging as our main rivals for top spot in the group. Slovenia and Scotland both have only three points, quickly turning this into a two horse race.
So two wins against two minnows leaves us firmly on course. Next two games are against Lithuania and a friendly against Northern Ireland. I’ll be taking Theo to the giant’s causeway, says he’s always wanted to go, will make him right happy.