June 2, 2012
Just like Paul McShane’s ticket to the European championships gives hope to every flailing footballer on the planet, Andy Townsend’s ability to find and maintain employment on national television is nothing short of inspirational.
I hadn’t really considered a career as a pundit but listening to ITV’s analysis on the England-Belgium game, I think I have a lot to offer. Not least because everything Townsend said, was completely off the mark.
First up, his bemusement at Eden Hazard’s apparently underwhelming performance was growing more frustrating with every incisive pass the new Chelsea signing was making. Townsend said that Hazard was on the periphery of the game, despite being the key figure in a team which once again dominated England.
Hazard was a ball magnet (which I’m sure he won’t like to be labelled) and produced a controlling performance which suggested Chelsea have just acquired another maestro to sit alongside Juan Mata. Such was the Belgian superiority, possession-wise, that only six of Hazard’s completed 53 passes were made outside of the opponents’ final third. Belgium pressed and pressed and pressed and Hazard was central to this.
To boast, he completed all of his four dribbles and, of all three corners Hazard delivered, he found a team mate with the cross. But hey, we don’t have to think back that far to recall Townsend commenting that Sergio Busquets “generally isn’t the best in possession” (I can’t let that go, nor should I).
When Lukaku was introduced, the two Chelsea players combined three times, creating two very opportune chances for each other. I think Hazard has taken an immediate stance as the role of villain (including in my own eyes) but I don’t agree that should compromise his judgement as a football player.
Now, man of the match. Where do I start? The thing is, I’m a massive fan of Steven Gerrard despite my all-too-vocal dislike for his club. It was therefore a travesty to see him tied up and chained as one of England’s two defensive midfielders who spent the majority of the evening on the edge of their own box.
Gerrard, fair enough, made nine interceptions for his side which was what that role dictates first and foremost. But, my oh my, how he was wasted playing so deep as the eventual outstanding player of the game (in Townsend’s mind at least) went on to take possession just 23 times in 84 minutes.
The England captain was penned in his own half and every one of his first half passes were played from here. It wasn’t until his 49th minute header went forward to Chamerlain did Stevie G complete a forward pass in this game (his tackle which trickled to Ashley Young was not a pass).
One of the country’s usually most influential players made made just 15 passes throughout the whole game, 11 of which were played to a member of the team’s back four. Defensive midfield is not Gerrard’s position and his buck-passing performance went a long way to emphasising that.
For me, it was another one of those worrying performances where teams from this part of the world are technically outclassed and granted a rude awakening and, with the current set-up, heading into the tournament, Hodgson will be thankful that he doesn’t pride his management on keeping the ball.
This is where the movement of Wellbeck is crucial and why he should start because, seeing scarce possession, England always need to have that ‘out’ and, if they don’t, it is difficult to see where they will threaten from.This entry was posted in Performance Analysis. Bookmark the permalink. ← Why Moneyball Doesn’t Work Here