Spirited to Sophisticated

English players have been criticised in recent history for lacking in creativity. As a football nation, being ‘Spirited’ seems to be our greatest achievement. We’re renowned for our resilliance and gutsy defending, yet we’re not even regarded as the best defensive country in Europe. A title that has been gifted to Italy. However, there was a time where we believed that this strong ‘English’ mentality was actually an asset. Those days seem to be gone, and the pressure from fans and peers seems to be introducing a new mentality. Dare I say, a revolution. 

I’m not suggesting that we’ve not produced players with any finesse. But it seems like we’ve one at any given time, and that baton is then passed on. I.e Paul Scholes, then Steven Gerrard and now… Wayne Rooney? I know every fan will have their favourites, but being realistic, those are the only real three. It doesn’t make him any less of a player, but even Frank Lampard doesn’t fit into the finesse category. 

Yet, there seems to be an upturn in young, creative, flare players that are working their way through the ranks. Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Josh McEachran, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilfried Zaha… all of which are headlining an ever-growing list. Things are on the up, right? Well, possibly. We are definitely starting to see an England team that can pass the ball, and be a little bit more ‘interesting’ in the opposition half. But (despite a reasonable defence) we’re becoming a lot more vulnerable when on the back foot. 

This isn’t a problem if we’re in a state of transition. However, I get the feeling that if things don’t work, and Roy Hodgson and his players aren’t given the proverbial ’time’ to mould themselves, we’ll be back at square one. Wasting the talent at our disposal and future England teams. If they are, though, the revolution may be on! For the better.

But, there is one final thing to consider. The current Champions League campaign draws up a pretty important question. Whether or not we can adopt this sophisticated style. It appears not at the moment. Manchester City and Chelsea (Both have decided to start playing a more open, passing style) have had an awful European season. Do we put that down to progression, or just inability? All will be revealed. 

We just need to remember though, that it’s great playing a sophisticated, finesse-filled, passing game…if you can compete. It may be the greatest style, and the most entertaining. But if there are teams who adopt that approach better, and more successfully, then it’s utterly pointless. Chelsea proved last year and then this, that it’s better to be the best at being spirited, than be second best at being creative. 

Clubs and England alike need to decide what they want. To give time to the possibility of competing on a sophisticated level. Or the certainty of competing on a spirited level (no pun intended). Soon! Because it might just be too late.