Paul Merson has been talking about England’s chances at Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate’s team kick off 2pm on Sunday (13 June) against Croatia, then Friday 18 June at 8pm they play Scotland, final group match is Czech Republic at 8pm on Tuesday 22 June.
These three group matches then hopefully followed by round of 16, quarter-final and semi-final, before the final itself at Wembley on Sunday 11 July.
Paul Merson is of the opinion that England can ‘walk it’ if they play games like they do for club sides in the Premier League, the Sky Sports pundit stating: ‘We have to close down from the front, play with pace and energy.’
I actually agree with this, at least in terms of the best chance for England is for their players to play their normal game, rather than attempting to outplay players from other nations at their own game / style of football.
However, where his argument falls down, especially when claiming England will ‘walk it’, is when Paul Merson uses this as the basis for his argument: ‘If we play like it’s the Premier League, like Man City and Chelsea did against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, PSG, they cannot live with it, the other countries.’
Chelsea and Manchester City played out the Champions League final and of the 28 players who got on the pitch that night, only seven were English.
Three quarters of them aren’t eligible for England and in reality, if you are honest, most of the best players out of those 28 used in the Champions League aren’t English.
Ruben Dias (Portugal), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Ederson (Brazil), Mahrez (Algeria), Bernardo Silva (Portugal), Sergio Aguero (Brazil), Fernandinho (Brazil), Kante (France), Silva (Brazil), Azpilicueta (Spain), Havertz (Germany) Werner (Germany) and so on…
The seven English players to feature in the 2021 Champions League final were Kyle Walker, John Stones, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Reece James.
Lets be honest, if Man City or Chelsea had been forced to play a majority of English players throughout the tournament, would either of them even have got to the final?
I am not writing off England but four of those seven are defenders anyway, not midfield / strikers and Kyle Walker is terrible at defending, whilst I don’t think Stones or Chilwell are great at defending either. The likes of Dias and Thiago are a class above any England options.
Phil Foden is undoubtedly an exciting prospect but comparisons with Gazza are simply embarrassing for me at the minute, Gazza was world class on his day, one of the very best (the best?) of his generation, Foden still has it all to prove. Plus he has had the massive benefit of playing for such a dominant club side.
Mason Mount is decent but predictably overhyped because he plays for a London club like Chelsea, whilst Raheem Sterling appears to have lost a bit of his edge and is no longer automatic first choice for Man City or England.
England have a chance but I honestly don’t think we are one of the two or three best teams, I would certainly put the likes of France and Belgium as superior.
When you add in the fact that England once again go into a major tournament with the worst ever first choice goalkeeper in their history, the idea that England could ‘walk it’ doesn’t really come to mind.
I just hope England are competitive and do play to their strengths, though getting through their group might prove a lot more troublesome I fancy, than the likes of Paul Merson and others appear to think. Struggling to those 1-0 wins over Austria and Romania didn’t exactly conjure up going to ‘walk it’ as my first thought.
Paul Merson speaking to Sky Sports:
‘England can win it – if we treat it like the Premier League
We have to play at a tempo. If we play like it’s the Premier League, like Man City and Chelsea did against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, PSG, they cannot live with it, the other countries.
That is why everybody around the world wants to watch the Premier League. It is a hundred miles an hour, there’s a shot at one end, a corner at the other 30 seconds later, we have to play that way.
We have to close down from the front, play with pace and energy, and we will walk it.
Over 90 minutes, of that many games of a tournament in a month, we would blow teams away.
We have got to get to the semi-final, at least, for me. We are at home, pretty much every game is at Wembley if we win the group, it’s such an advantage. We go on about this team, it’s got experience, it’s got youngsters, it’s got to be minimum semi-finals.’