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.