Denglischer Fussball is a comment blog on German and English football written and edited by Kit Holden. It was born in January 2011.
Stuart Pearce’s claim for the England managership.
Stuart Pearce declared this week that he would love to manage at England at Euro 2012, but would be uncomfortable taking the job on further, due to his being, in his own words, a “lightly raced coach”.
English football then, still labours under the bizarre illusion that if a man’s achievements have not been sufficiently covered by the press, they are worth less than those of a man who is constantly in the limelight. There are myriad reasons why Pearce may not be suited to the England manager’s post long term, but a lack of inexperience is ostensibly not one of them.
The former England captain’s relatively successful stint at the helm of a mediocre Manchester City side was enough to put him in the running to succeed Sven Goran Eriksson all those years ago, and since then he has taken charge of an ever improving England Under 21 side and, most importantly of all, engineered impressive tournament campaigns.
So why on earth is he now considered, even by himself, as something of a joke candidate? After the Capello catastrophe, is English football still naïve enough to assume that quantifiable success is a prerequisite and indeed a guarantee of success in the England job? Apparently so.
Pearce’s squad for the upcoming friendly against Holland is, contrary to popular belief, not the experimental gamble of a man who should be kept in the backroom staff. No indeed, it is a squad assembled of England’s best youth talent, with a few subjective exceptions, consolidated by one or two very experienced players to keep the boat steady.
It is, in fact, a squad designed according to the same blueprint as most successful national teams of recent years. To label a defence containing Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Micah Richards and Ashley Cole as “comparatively weak”, as some national papers have done today is not a misguided opinion; it is an error. To omit the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry purely on an “experimental” basis should not be the fundamental attitude of the new legacy which England so dearly need to create.
With his strong knowledge of the upcoming talent in England’s ranks, Pearce is – as his squad testifies – one of the best placed individuals to craft a new, exciting England team from those players whose progress would otherwise be blocked by the jaded stars of yesteryear in which the Redknapps and Capellos of this world have so much faith. And yet Pearce’s perfectly legitimate candidacy is rejected on equally overused grounds: you can’t have crazy “Psycho” Pearce in charge of the England side. When has he ever bought an FA Cup? When has he ever done anything as a manager which one might have read in a headline?
An exhausted analogy it may be, but when Jogi Loew took charge of the German national team, his coaching record was barely more notable than Pearce’s currently is. In any case, it was not for the temporary successes he had enjoyed at Stuttgart and Innsbruck that Juergen Klinsmann insisted on appointing him as assistant coach. It was for his philosophy, and the shared philosophy that the team needed a radical overhaul.
England continues to bemoan nearly fifty years without a trophy, and yet stoically refutes any suggestion that the team itself, not just the manager’s office, needs a serious change. In Pearce, they are happy to ridicule yet another very viable candidate, and pave the way for a Redknappian era whose success is equally far from guaranteed.
The crisis at Bayern continues.
How often does it transpire that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is the only one of FC Bayern’s numerous polemicists who almost invariably talks sense? His provocative verbal sparring with Manchester City was sensible, he is religiously careful to remain diplomatic in disagreement with his peers at FCB, and before the disaster in Basel this week, he was quoted questioning Bayern’s current mentality, praising the missing Bastian Schweinsteiger and defending the team’s increasingly lacklustre defence.
Of those three assertions, only the latter was not proven emphatically correct last Wednesday. Bayern were unmotivated and lazy going forward and the huge gaps in their midfield exposed the cost of Schweinsteiger’s injury. If the defence failed to reward their chariman’s profession faith in them, then it was at least partially down to the fatal lack of control in the middle of the pitch.
The loss of Schweinsteiger is, as Ottmar Hitzfeld so rightly predicted many moons ago, threatening to be the achilles heel which dramatically unravels what should have been another fearsomely dominant year for FC Bayern. While the advances made by David Alaba are no doubt highly impressive, and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is a better than average stop gap, the control which Schweinsteiger can assert over a game was exposed like never before in Switzerland this week. For large swathes of the game, though Bayern controlled possession, they granted their opponents so much breathing space in front of the defence that, had Claude Makelele been watching, it would probably have moved him to tears.
Such a lack of control in front of the defence made for an even more questionably structured back four than was initially the case. Time and again, Bayern found themselves in danger of conceding due to poor defensive position, and, with little by way of attacking success to keep their spirits up, so they sunk into the old game of arrogance, sulking, and blame.
The images of Jerome Boateng with his arms raised and an incredulous expression on his face, of Franck Ribéry morosely scratching his adam’s apple with his beard, or the philosophical gaze into the middle distance which Mario Gómez adopts in times of difficulty, have become ever more common, and the premature declarations of crisis are threatening to become justified. Should Bayern fall at the hands of Basel in the Champions League, it will be little consolation that their efforts would be the entirely focused on domestic success. The days in which the club resigned itself to inferiority in Europe are coming to an end; competitiveness in three trophies has become, once again, the expectation on the Säbener Straße.
So will the season be saved? And what are the reasons for the lapse in form? Jupp Heynckes, barely three months ago the tactical genius at the helm of the new Rekordmeisteresque Bayern, now seems a little confused, and certainly incapable of drumming up the appropriate inspiration for his unmotivated playing staff. Should he fail to deliver success as early as this season, those who questioned the logic of hiring a manager who, for all his abilities to mollify the hierarchy, does not belong to the progressive, youth focused cult of the modern
Bundesliga, will feel vindicated. If Heynckes is unable to inspire his group of egos into action, there will surely be call for a manager who can propose a true long term legacy.
The likelihood is, however, that it will not come to that. The dip in form itself is proof that the fortunes of a team can change dramatically, and Bayern’s recently history shows that such a theory works both ways. Do not be surprised if, in a few months time, we see the club back on its arrogant perch, with a Champions League semi final place to boot. This is no crisis. It’s just another chapter in the ever tumultuous plotline of FC Hollywood.