Arsenal Fan: Tottenham's Walker Is A Liability Who Should Not Go To Brazil

Forget the collective inability to pass to each other, if Kyle Walker is our only alternative to Johnson then we truly are screwed...
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Arsenal Fan: Tottenham's Walker Is A Liability Who Should Not Go To Brazil...

1) Kyle Walker is a liability

Back in the stadium where Pirlo and co passed them off the pitch in Euro 2012 we suffered a poor start from both full backs, one from a poor man’s Glenn Johnson, the other a shadow of the real Ashley Cole. It was Walker who proved more of a liability by showing his lack of experience – or was it quality? His positional awareness was poor, which for an International right back is unacceptable. He was dragged out of position on too many occasions whilst Cole played far too deep at times playing the onrushing Ukrainians onside.

Is it too much to ask a defence to keep their shape when faced with technically proficient attackers who run with the ball? Of course there are deep underlying problems with English football but really, are our defensive skills so primitive and unintuitive that we cannot think for ourselves and try and adjust to problems that arise during a game? Not only do we not produce players with pure technical ability but, alas, it seems we cannot even produce footballers who can take responsibility and think for themselves these days.

Walker was also clumsy, bringing down his after failing to get goal side that resulted in a free kick late on that could have been costly.

Kyle, son, if you know someone without the ball is going to try and run at you/run past you when he does have the ball - don’t go tight on him, knowing he’s going to spin off you and apply the afterburners.

I wish I could I blame the laughing gas but quite simply, he’s not good enough.

Having said that I thought Cahill and Jagielka did well, were strong in the air and as mobile as they can be. They also held their shape, looked well organised and won the majority of vital second ball – even if their lack of real pace at this level – especially Jagielka’s - will be tested far more vigorously against better teams than the Ukraine.

Mind you when the man who gives a keynote speech criticising a myriad of facets about your national sport - criticism that was reported around the world last week - can’t be bothered to fly out the Eastern Europe to show his support for the team, what does it say about his commitment to the cause? Kyle Walker may have had a mare, but at least he was there Greg…

2) Joe Hart had a poor start yet rallied well - but as an attacking force England were poor.

There could and should have been a penalty in the first minute when Hart brought down Zozulya. Luckily the ref waved away valid Ukrainian protests. Unluckily there is evidence mounting that appears Hart is now officially suffering from the Almunia’s - a condition whereby your defence doesn’t trust you, and you don’t trust the defence or yourself. Hart also seems to have lost the vital knack of commanding his area, although a brave punch late in the second half gave me hope the condition isn’t permanent.

As for the midfield trio of Wilshire, Gerrard and Lampard, well the best I can say is that it was difficult out there last night in such agricultural conditions.

4-3-3 is nominally what Hodgson chose for his tactical line-up but for long periods it morphed into 4-5-1 with the wide men Walcott and Milner tucking into the middle to make it far more congested for the Ukrainians to break through. It was instructive at times to see that Ukraine seemed confused as to whether they should have gone for the win or were happy for a draw.

Walcott’s pace is his biggest asset, but he was at his most frustrating again, giving the ball away when a good touch would have threatened the Ukraine defence, or simply snuffing out promising moves by making the wrong decision. The worry for Arsenal fans, however, was just how serious that shocking late tackle by Oleksandr Kucher on Walcott’s fragile ankle really was?

Rickie Lambert was starved of service but his lack of pace and movement at this level were highlighted by a Ukraine defence that was at best competent.

However, apart from a shaky start we didn’t look like losing - and if we win our last two games then we will qualify for Brazil and play Argentina and Germany at Wembley in two mouth-watering friendlies in November instead of two fraught play-off matches.

The only thing is that England haven’t beaten anyone in the group bar the bus drivers of San Marino and the unheralded Moldovans. Unfortunately we play Poland and the early pace setters, the dangerous Montenegrins.

Never underestimate the capacity for England to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. For someone who was there for that glorious day at Old Trafford v Greece in Oct 2001 I also remember being at the 3-2 defeat by Croatia at Wembley in the pouring rain that scuppered my trip to Euro 2008.

ITV kept saying job done. I know they may have been only talking about last night’s result (or were they?) but never say never with England…


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3) Ukraine are not a great side.

“The truth is that the big English names like Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard have had lots of success at club level but for whatever reason they cannot do it for their country”. So said Tymoshchuk, the former Bayner Munich player and Ukraine captain who was surprisingly benched last night.

Ain’t that the truth.

Yet considering Ukraine’s campaign could have been over before it began with the defeat by Moldova in their opening game, the turnaround, led by the dour yet effective manager Mykahlyo Fomenko, is nothing short of remarkable. Brought in after their uninspiring start on the road to Rio he has crafted a dynamic, energetic youthful team with one time Liverpool target Yarmolenko on one flank and Yevhen Konoplyanka on the other. With the hard working Romano Zonzulya behind Marko Devic in the forward line they showed guile, power and finesse at times.

With four competitive wins in a row before last night, including wins in Montenegro and Poland, you wouldn’t be surprised if they achieved six points out of six in their last two matches. Especially as they have San Marino in one of them. Yet they still looked short of major quality if you took away their danger men on the flanks.

Fomenko has a reputation of never smiling – but with such an uninspiring 0-0 as last night it was difficult to tell if he was happy at all.

4) In other news: Chiles revels in misery, Roy Keane is comedy gold and Tweets of the Night…

The man described as a toby jug licking the p*ss off a nettle was practically orgasmic at the notion of England playing badly in the early stages. But to be fair Chiles is an able broadcaster in live conditions, rather than orchestrating sterile punditry from the safety of a studio. Technically decent if lacking in flair or an engaging manner he did lead Roy Keane into one of the most memorable exchanges I’ve heard regarding a certain West Ham old boy’s 100th cap.

The glowing tribute to Chelsea’s Frank Lampard from ex Manchester United player Roy Keane was surely influenced by David Brent informing his staff that he was being promoted whilst some of them were being laid off. As Keano said: “I had my doubts about him [Lampard]. He was carrying a bit of weight too”. Such a fulsome testimonial only set up his fond conclusion: “I suppose goals are hard to score though”.

With enemies like that who needs friends to pay you compliments?

Tactical insight of the night: Andy Townsend: “England don’t have players around the bits and pieces”.

Image of the night: “My game is fair play”, said Steven Gerrard into a microphone moments before kick-off. Unfortunately just as he was saying it the cameras cut to a fan giving the finger to home counterparts.

By the way what happened with the National Anthems? Why were they acapella versions that sounded like bad baritone karaoke efforts from both sides - maybe they should have followed Kyle Walker’s act and used some laughing gas…

Tweets of the Night: (any involving references to Walker putting his foot on the gas, waiting for him to balloon a clearance etc etc were automatically disqualified).

@Banouby - England and Ukraine scrapping for the honour of a 2014 ‘win one, draw one, lose one’ group stage, followed by lacklustre second round exit

@FootballCliches Got in the mood for the game by installing an East European running track in front of my TV and sitting as far away from it as possible

@RJSAFC Not the band again. Like a recurring nightmare. Give it up you tiresome c**ts

While we’re at it – you know the band are sponsored by Pukka Pies – does that mean that they don’t have to pay for their travel, tickets and accommodation when following England away? Can someone confirm this?

If it is the case then it is shocking. Whilst everyone else has to scrimp and save to follow England away why should they get in free for the dubious pleasure of making everyone’s ears bleed?

There were over 2000 England fans in Kiev, some of them having to endure extremely hostile conditions away from the game – and the band are paid to play ‘England till I die’ – currently a favourite of the EDL: It’s not on. For a lot of reasons.

For starters, there’s not an ounce of irony, or terrace wit about them, unlike Billy the Barmy Army trumpeter for example (and he’s a classically trained musician). Their musical catalogue would shame Heart FM, and to top it all they can’t even hold a note properly.

Of course if it turns out they do pay their own way I will forgive them my rant even if I can’t bear their brain-dead drone – but if it turns out they are being commercially funded to travel and play that racket, well, it pretty much sums up the sad state of football culture in England these days.

5) A Fans eye view

Those of you who read my offerings on the Moldova game will be familiar with a good friend of mine who I travelled the world with watching England away for a decade. Whilst I only make the odd away game nowadays Steve McCairns still travels to most places around the planet supporting England.

I managed to talk to him shortly after the final whistle blew in Kiev: “Tonight was all about not losing. I thought the second half was a tense affair where the attacking intent was left to Ukraine. We were subdued but workmanlike and effective. Having been to previous England games in Donestk, Dniprotovesk and Kiev you could say that although they have a partisan crowd in Kiev the running track separates the fans from the pitch and the atmosphere suffers a little for it.

When I went to Dniprotovetsk for example – that was a real trek – eight hours on an overnight train from Kiev, you find that most Eastern European locations can be a little intimidating with the local police being quite unfriendly. However, most fans genuinely look forward to visiting the ex-Soviet countries. Even if the Cyrillic alphabet takes a bit of getting used to when you’re looking for street names and bars. Kiev is no different – certainly when you consider the number of bars and restaurants in the city centre, with vodka unsurprisingly being the favourite tipple!

That said travelling to such places and getting a result – in contrast to losing important games makes the trip back home more bearable. After travelling to Moscow and losing, then drawing in Podgorica the journey home felt a lot longer.

The good news after tonight is that qualification for Brazil is now clearly in our own hands and hopefully we will see a more offensively minded England on show at Wembley for the Montenegro and Poland games. Having been in the Maracana in the summer I saw England torn apart by Brazil in the first half but come away with a creditable draw – it just shows that the team can generate decent results when not playing particularly well.

For now all England have to do is qualify. Tonight brings us a step closer to that aim”.

Spoken like a true fan Steve. See you at Wembley in October for more twists and turns no doubt - even without the backing of a Pie company to fund our night…

Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29

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