A Case of Boys Against Babies: 5 Things We've Learned From Spain vs England

Despite the result it was boys against babies last night, but in attempting to go 442 against 433, Pearce got it wrong from the off.
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Despite the result it was boys against babies last night, but in attempting to go 442 against 433, Pearce got it wrong from the off.

For the most part this was men against boys, craft against endeavour, and artistry against Jordan Henderson. England can count themselves very fortunate to still be in contention in group B following their late equaliser but with the Czechs and Ukraine still to play – both unbeaten in their qualifying campaigns and tough nuts to crack– our tag as pre-tournament favourites is already beginning to look extremely fanciful after being outclassed by Spain.

Spain, both nationally and in club form, have become our mirror from Snow White; we may be the fairest of them all but we sure aren’t the prettiest, and once again our limitations, flaws and blemishes were easily exposed.

Though the Spanish goal was illegal – the hand of dios – Pearce and his young lion cubs then got off lightly as the sublime talents of Javi Martinez, Mata, and Thiago reverted to Arsenal mode, content to stroke the ball around in search of the perfect scoring opportunity. With a killer instinct or a better final ball it could have been humiliating.

So it’s another lesson learnt is it? Yet again it’s another lesson learnt and at some point you really wish a figure high up in the England set-up would sit up in class and take notes.

They could start with these…

Lack of possession isn’t the problem. It’s the type of possession.

18 out of the 25 completed passes made by holding midfielder Michael Mancienne went back to his defenders or keeper. Compare that to Javi and Herrera’s constant probing, always with their heads up, looking for a through-ball or to knock it out wide. If such a pass isn’t available they keep it simple until it is. We are often told that we fall short with technique in this country. Whilst there is some degree of truth in this it really doesn’t require ball skills mastered in bare feet on the Copacabana beach to pass a ball ten yards to a team-mate. However, whilst the Spanish retained possession in the middle of the park England repeatedly did so in a pointless, time-wasting triangle between goalkeeper Frank Fielding (who sounds like a cast member of Dad’s Army) and his two centre-backs. The fact that England was a goal down made me angry at such negativity. The fear in their eyes from executing such a simple task made me weep.

It was Barcelona’s Thiago who shone brightest with an array of flicks, tricks and dazzling movement. At one point during the first half he performed the most casual of shimmies and sent Mancienne groping as if for a light switch in the dark

Pearce will never become a top class manager

Before the game Psycho banged the drum and declared ‘We will set out to win the match – that’s what we do’. He then opted for Mancienne over Rodwell to anchor the midfield, sending out a different message entirely. The plain fact is that you do not win games against teams packed with flair and creativity by employing someone merely to chase shadows. Conversely it’s also folly to select two strikers – no matter how good they are at running the channels and helping out in wide areas – when faced with such opposition. They will over-run you in midfield and against sides such as Spain that amounts to suicide by a thousand passes.

Pearce was, is, and always will be tactically inept. He once spent half the night picking his team only for his wife to point out there was twelve names on the sheet. Granted there has been a slight improvement since then.

Is it any consolation that we undoubtedly possess the hardest manager in the tournament? Rather pathetically the answer to that is yes.

Henderson is not the new Gerrard

Always neat and tidy until ambition takes hold and he attempts a forty yard sprayed pass to an acre of space where no team-mate has inhabited for at least five minutes. Is it only me who has never yet seen Henderson grab a game by the scruff of the neck and actually have an influence upon it? Don’t believe the hype. He covers ground but so does fertiliser.

In fairness he was hardly alone in looking out of his depth against the often effervescent Spanish. ‘Off-Broadway’ Danny Rose toiled without success and if anyone has seen Tom Cleverley could they please alert his concerned family. He was last spotted in the Herning Stadium shortly before kick-off.

United’s defence looks solid for years to come

If Man U are successful in luring Phil Jones to Old Trafford they potentially have a partnership that could one day rival that of Pallister and the Elephant Man Bruce.

Smalling is by far the classier, and more composed, of the two - and was arguably England’s best player against Spain – whilst Jones continues to develop into an old-fashioned English stopper. He even eschews a modern-day haircut. The Blackburn youngster still has a worrying tendency to put his leather through the ball even when under little pressure but Fergie will surely bark that out of him.

Should the highly promising De Gea arrive too then United’s rearguard looks secure for seasons to come.

The Barca kids are alright

Javi Martinez and Herrera were a different class at times, whilst Mata should be on the shopping list of every major club this summer. But it was Barcelona’s Thiago who shone brightest with an array of flicks, tricks and dazzling movement. At one point during the first half he performed the most casual of shimmies and sent Mancienne groping as if for a light switch in the dark. The twenty year old is being promoted to the first team this June. Pedro in particular should be concerned.

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