Tag Archives: Raheem Sterling

England Analysis: Hodgson’s negative substitutes stunted solid display

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Rooney worked well in the midfield and was the impressive heartbeat of the team. Source: Daily Star

As usual in tournament football, supporting your team can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride and yet again, England did not fail in getting the heart pumping. It was a bitter pill to swallow in the end but not one England cannot come back from and while there were plenty of good moments, there are issues that need to be fixed.

Starting with the positives, England overall put in a strong performance. They controlled the game and possession, limiting Russia to scraps for long periods of the game and even though there was not enough clear cut opportunities, they did create some chances at goal.

Wayne Rooney was great in the midfield, controlling the pace of the game and creating the big diagonals that spread the Russians thin, putting them under great pressure. Both Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were excellent too, working down the flanks to support the forward play as well as earning their keep by tracking back.

Eric Dier also showed his importance to the team with the man of the match display. He stopped any attacks coming from the Russians, breaking down play and keeping possession well, with his goal being the icing on the cake.

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The system also worked for long periods, especially for the likes of Adam Lallana, who impressed in the first half. In the second period, Harry Kane became too isolated and Raheem Sterling was often running into avenues without much support, so mixing it into a 4-2-3-1 going forward might give the team a better balance.

The big problem arose after 70 minutes, when Roy Hodgson finally made some substitutions. They were a little late in the game to affect much and they were very negative, especially given England’s position in the game and that he would have not made them if the team were still searching for a goal.

Taking Rooney off seemed suspect even if he was slowing in the game and his replacement, Jack Wilshire, was like-for-like and he did his best. Bringing James Milner on for Sterling showed everything you needed to know, England wanted to sit on the one-nil lead they had and take the three points home.

It’s right that they were still unlucky to concede at the end to an opposition that had not turned up for the other 90 minutes but in football you create your own luck. With them likely to push on, bringing on any of the forwards on the bench would have kept them on the backfoot and susceptible to the counter attack.

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Milner coming on was too negative and it cost England. Source: Yahoo

What was more worrying is the fact that there wasn’t just one option to put in that role either. Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford would have pressured the aging Russian defence as they tired and pushed for an equaliser. They all could fill a role out wide too if needed, so he did not even need to switch tactics to bring them on.

That negative attitude to hold on cost England dear, with Milner ever rushing out too far that allowed the cross in to the box and the biggest lesson they should learn is that their positivity was what got them into a winning position in the first place. Hodgson needs to trust his attackers and in a key derby game against Wales, England need to make a statement of intent or face more embarrassment from a team that are just as desperate to win.

In fact, this game could be do or die for Hodgson. Win and he can hopefully see the light to set course for greater victories down the road but if he fails to, he could be heading for disaster which would mean his head would be on the chopping block.

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Footballers are humans, too

Sterling's dismal performance against the Republic of  Ireland summed up his last three months.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling’s dismal performance against the Republic of Ireland summed up his last three months. Source: Sky Sports

It’s a strange thing to say but what sometimes seems to be lost in the modern day reporting an even discussion in football is that the names we talk about are human beings. We talk about transfers, contract situations and even a player’s form almost as if there can’t be external issues off the field of play that could be pulling them away.

This has come up recently with Raheem Sterling, who has even been vocal in his disappointment that his contract talks with Liverpool have come out. Unsurprisngly, his form declined at the end of the season and whilst some would point to fatigue, which could also be a factor, it’s clear from numerous performances that his trademark swagger has left him.It was what made him so distinctive and exciting, he showed no fear and looking at WhoScored’s ratings you can see the dip he’s gone through.

Up until his two-assist performance in the 2-1 win against Manchester City at the start of March, he’d put in a string of excellent performances and whilst his form was erratic at times, he’d regularly hit over 7.5 on their scale. After that point, he made just one more goal and assist, scoring over 7.5 twice in the final 14 games whilst finishing below 7 in all of his last seven games.

Di Maria's concern for his family's well-being hindered his form.  Source: Sky Sports

Di Maria’s concern for his family’s well-being hindered his form. Source: Sky Sports

It’s clear from that whilst the actual situation with his contract isn’t affecting his play, the ire from the wider public that he’s received and the increased attention has. It’s a process he’ll certainly learn from and will likely grow a thicker skin, it’s interesting to see how the psyche can change a player’s form on the field.

It’s not just Sterling that’s been affected, Angel Di Maria has also had a pretty poor season for his lofty expectations and it’s almost obvious that the break-in at his home had a detrimental on his on-field exploits.

He would give the ball away, try to do a little too much and his own frustration at his inability to rediscover his form led to the petulance seen during the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal where he was sent off. Sometimes it’s just a break that a player needs to find his feet again and now the season is over, hopefully both can return to their former glories.

De Gea's happiness is forthright, no amount of Manchester United's money will change that.  Source: Express

De Gea’s happiness is forthright, no amount of Manchester United’s money will change that. Source: Express

However, we should also take a player’s off-the-field happiness into consideration during transfers too. Some don’t join clubs because they don’t fancy the area, because they don’t want to learn a new language or they want to leave because it’ll make their lives a little easier.

A perfect example is David De Gea, who looks almost certain to join Real Madrid not simply because it’s a huge club but because it’s a lot easier on his family. His girlfriend much prefers Spain, his family hasn’t got to travel as far (especially with his father’s fear of flying)  and that’s a really big factor in a player’s decision, sometimes even more so than money.

Sometimes we lose a little bit of thinking, analysing numbers on a screen and thinking of players much like they are within the realms of FIFA 15 of Football Manager but after all, they aren’t far removed from ourselves. It’s almost impossible to see the roadblocks in someone’s mind and we never will but it’s something that teams, players and even the media will get better with the more we learn.

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Raheem Sterling and the balance of power

Sterling will decide his future in this player-power era.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling will decide his future in this player-power era. Source: Sky Sports

It was revealed last night that Raheem Sterling plans to leave Liverpool in the near future, rejecting their contract offer believed to be around £100k a week to move to a club with better title prospects. Reports from Sky Sports say he has felt “bullied” by the club in signing a new deal and that he’s not been protected by the club from headlines in the media.

Many Liverpool legends have come out against this, from Jamie Carragher to John Barnes to Phil Thompson, with all of them defending the strength of Liverpool Football Club and the absurdity of a 20-year-old holding the club to ransom. However, it also shows the significant shift in modern football that player power is absolutely everything.

It does seem wrong that he’s demanding such a contract, the pay is good for a 20-year-old who’s proven he’s got ability but has yet to show that he’s absolutely world class. The ambition he’s showing, however, shouldn’t be in question and the pressure he’s putting on Liverpool to improve as a whole should not be ignored.

It actually reminds me of a situation with Wayne Rooney in the past, where he’s demanded better terms and better players surrounding to maintain title challenges and the club buckled in the end. They convinced him to stay, for the better of the team and paid the amount he felt he was owed.

What kind of message does this send out to the likes of Jordon Ibe?  Source: The Guardian

What kind of message does this send out to the likes of Jordon Ibe? Source: The Guardian

The fact that Sterling isn’t looking likely to sign a deal sends a message to other youngsters in the team that they better play ball with Liverpool or they will be wanting to leave too. In this day and age, that’s a very dangerous game to play where you begin to become the selling team rather than the destination for top talent and that can see you struggle quickly.

It’s pivotal for a club like Liverpool, with a big fanbase and big expectations, that they keep their best players when they can and do it as early as possible. It was almost a formality that Luis Suarez was going and in all honesty, they didn’t have a hope in keeping him in this player power-centric era but when someone like Sterling, who looks like your future, can’t be retained then big questions must be asked.

In my personal opinion, contreversial as it is, they should give Sterling what they want. Clubs do have to operate on a budget but at the same time, they aren’t restricted by rules in any way so why not pay him whatever he wants? He could be a focal point of your club for years to come, a gem that other teams will be jealous of and that your own team can build around. That’s always lost when thinking about the attitude and the money.

It’s a difficult thing to hear but in the balance of power, players hold all the cards. They can hold clubs to ransom because having top quality talent is the only way to win and whilst clubs try to be stubborn, it tends to lead to issues like this, where there seems to be no way back. It might not be the end of Liverpool’s troubles should this kind of negotiation tactic continue and whilst they should have kept him, their only option is to sell and re-invest. And then hope that works out a lot better than it did last summer.

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