Monday, 01.07.2024

The problem with English football

The transfer expenditures alone have exceeded the one billion euro mark this summer. English clubs invested like never before in new arrivals but only brought in half that amount by selling players. What will you buy for yourself? What would you like to make up for? What is going wrong in English football? A contribution to the debate on mindset, tactics, and coaching.

by RM and CE (With feedback from TW and MR. Translated by @rafamufc.) 

Power Structures and a New Narrative

The general public in England seem to have come to the realization that English club football has lagged behind the competitive leagues in Europe for some time now. More and more, comments from the “experts” in newspaper columns and in the discussions on major broadcasts have made an attempt at analyzing what’s going wrong. The grievances are particularly evident with the declining quality of the top teams, even though the Premier League is able to attract new stars or perceived stars year after year, and the less respected, physical clubs living in the sflipstream of the Manchester clubs and Chelsea. While the game culture has taken a decisive leap forward on the continent and the teams have changed for the better, England continues on the path of less compact, one-dimensional crossing football.

Commentators like former national team right-back Gary Neville focus their attention on the alleged defensive weakness. Although Neville describes individual tactics quite well, his comments highlight a far-reaching problem in understanding the complexity of football and in the prevailing mindset in England. In fact, during the 2004/2005 season, a total of 975 goals were scored in the top flight. In each of the last five seasons at least 1,050 goals were scored. Neville writes in the Telegraph:

“I look at some teams and feel: they don’t know how to defend. They struggle with crosses, they don’t deal with set-pieces, they don’t know how to work one on one. They have a weak understanding of the game.”

This raises the question of who misunderstands the situation. Is it not the person who breaks down the game to an individual level, disconnects the defending of England’s beloved crosses from their creation, and only thinks of defense as one on one. The power structures in the public, which either create or inevitably drive the conversation are quite clear, and Neville is the perfect example. The former defender goes on to  explain how man coverage had been trained to an extreme – that means he even  (unconsciously) unmasked the weaknesses in England’s former approaches in training – and believes his remarks are serious suggestions for improvement.

It must be mentioned that Neville’s position as a former professional player is not fundamentally different in nature from various European countries. While in Germany they have given the 90s generation the reins on relevant broadcasts, in France, trainers like PSG’s Laurent Blanc have received protection from their old companions against public opinion. It’s not just the fear of a new generation of intelligent analysts, but also holding onto the old ways of thinking that requires the breaking of a long process.

Back to England. Gary Neville, Ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown and many others, whether former professionals, professional journalists, or opinionated bloggers, get bogged down on one question: “Why are Premier League clubs defending so poorly”

At the end of the day a false reality is created. The facts are supposedly demonstrated and the problems are clearly laid out by each observer. If the number of goals increases, then teams, especially the players on the last line of defense, must be defending poorly. Which, in this context, will usually be reduced to lax coverage, weakness in heading, and concentration problems. Just as the problems of a dogmatic view of the 4-4-2 were ignored for years and, on the contrary, defined even as the ne plus ultra, new supposed facts are now established. This problem is not limited to England. Before the big turnaround in German football there was also very close-minded thinking and analysis. At the moment, however, this phenomenon mainly affects England and they have arrived at a point where a direct, practical impact can be observed on their future success. The quotes from Gary Neville are a particularly good example because, from a tactical point of view, he absolutely inappropriately dissected the defensive play as an individual responsibility rather than a group responsibility.

This simplification of individual shortcomings will also be applied to new players from other leagues that teams want to bring in during the winter transfer window. But these claims are only a small sign – the problems on the field are greater.

Tactical and Strategic Flaws

How do these problems ultimately pop up on the pitch? Because they are strategically and tactically flawed in several areas. What sticks out most are the problems when pressing, which my colleague Tobias Escher covered in an article in the summer of 2012.

These pressing problems still plague the English teams, even though it has been two years since Tobias’s little declaration. Some trainers – like Brendan Rodgers with his raiding, yet not outstanding pressing at the beginning of games or Mauricio Pocchetino in his time at Southampton – were able to celebrate some notable success in pre-season.

Yet there are few teams that practice a suitable pressing system. This is especially the case in the European competitions. The English teams seem surprised if the opponent is aggressive on the ball-carrier  pass options are cut off early, leaving them little time and space in the buildup game. In return, their counterparts from the continent seem surprised by the lack of pressing of the Premier-League teams; but this is a pleasant surprise.

Pressing has evolved into a key concept in recent years. The movements off the ball are flawed and the strategic concepts like forcing, cutting off passes, double-teams, triple teams, the use of cover shadows and pressing traps are mostly attempted in vain in the Premier League. The strategic points themselves are largely ignored. What is particularly noticeable is the fundamental weakness in aspects like ball oriented movements and generating compactness.

The distances between the players are often too large, gifting the opponent valuable space in the important areas of the field (the middle and half-spaces, between the lines, in front of goal, etc.). This also makes it nearly impossible to effectively cover multiple players and develop pressure. Until the nearest defender arrives after the opponent’s pass, the opponent can orient themselves and react. Even if he is pressed, the necessary support and compactness is missing. As a result, the blocking of running paths and passing options doesn’t work and the ball-carrier can easily maneuver out of these pseudo-pressure situations. When the team moves to the side of the pitch the intensity is too low. Often only one player moves out of the formation to press. The rest shift only slightly towards the ball and the furthest players move nowhere. Thus, the compactness near the ball and the team’s horizontal compactness are too weak. If you mix this with the low intensity and the ill-suited vertical and diagonal distances, numerous spaces open up for the opponent. The movement processes – not only when pressing but in penalty area defending and in ball-oriented movement – are so poor. Add to this poor coordination and low intensity in the group’s tactical movements and dynamic situations.

This – in combination with the high individual quality of the offensive players – is one reason why the number of goals has increased in England and why the English teams are extremely unstable on defense against equally matched opponents in Europe.

The number of goals per game would be even higher if the offensive structures were better. Which brings us to the second big problem in English football. It starts with the concepts and philosophies used on offense: possession football is misjudged and its use is unstructured. In addition to this misconception of “possession football as a tool” and “possession as a philosophy” there is also a lack of flexibility and specialization in other concepts, which causes huge problems. There are only marginal differences in the playing styles throughout the league: all teams attempt to play a mixture of ball circulation and counterattack football, but without being too innovative or special at either.

In the Bundesliga, for example, we find the position game of Bayern Munich, the extreme transitions of Bayer Leverkusen, the counter game of BVB (when in top form), Lucien Favre’s DirektPassMonster with rhythm changes from deep possession in Mönchengladbach, and many teams who use interesting tactical aspects (Christian Streichs’ intense Freiburg, Thomas Tuchel and now Kasper Hjulmand’s Mainz, the Daniel Baier-lead Augsburg, and also Dieter Heckings’ Wolfsburg) or at least exhibit a high degree of flexibility. It is similar in Spain with Atletico, Real Madrid and Barcelona, Celta Vigo, Villareal, Rayo Vallecano, Athetlic Club, and also Valencia. These teams also deal with the most important strategic issues in offensive play (especially in Spain) and in transitions and defending (especially in Germany). This is missing in England.

A broad diversification of their strategy, an innovative implementation of a single playing idea, a high-class execution of the basics and great tactical flexibility are all sought in vain. The only teams who step out of line in England are the underappreciated Swansea and last season’s West Ham. The latter, however, was primarily due to their keeper knocking every ball long as they had no playmaking. Since their conversion, however, they are regrettably amongst the best teams in England in this respect.

Although some teams (Arsenal, Everton, Swansea) and the relatively new trainers like Pochettino, van Gaal, and Ronald Koeman have attempted to change things, this has not spread to the other teams; often because they have their own problems and shortcomings. Only José Mourinho seems to be more or less resistant to the English anti-Taktik/anti-strategy/anti-stability poison; of which Koeman also seems to have swallowed a nightcap.

In addition to lacking diversity and stability, many of the ‘simple’ teams in the league lack a consistent role distribution. It often seems as though teams are created on the drawing board. They play with a simple offensive structure. They use mostly the same offensive alignment and the same game plan that focuses on quickly conquering space, the wings, crosses, and individual actions. This has gotten to the point where these teams cease to have their own identity or an efficient offensive style.

It’s almost paradoxical that many coaches using a complex – and almost always player-adjusted – system, would be accused of stubbornly use their own concept rather than take into account the individual players. But the real problem is that  not complex enough systems don’t do justice to the complexity of team sport and the high performance levels of the players. Many English coaches and the media are looking for too simplistic structures with which they want to integrate the quite outstanding individuals in the Premier League but simply can’t because they lack the complexity to do so.

This is compounded by the fact that many players are limited not only in their offensive creativity, but in their area of responsibility. This extends to many technically savvy players being asked to take up basic defensive tasks that are counterproductive to the team. Defensively they either don’t do anything or they have a simple man orientation; the wingers then often create a six-chain because of the man-oriented tracking of the opposing full-backs – which is an extremely weak position for transitions.

The same issue shows up in defensive transitions, which when coupled with the strategic faults leads to huge problems defending even poorly organized counter attacks. Gegen- or counterpressing? No. A competent structure in possession to prepare for transitions? No.

It’s almost telling that Jonathan Wilson – who is an outstanding author and wonderful historian and considered by many to be a leading tactical analyst – explains Gegenpressingin this video completely wrong. This makes not only every reader of better but probably every fan of Bravo Sport (see here). A side-note in a Bravo Sport article explains Gegenpressing better than Wilson on Sky Sports – has England’s incompetence on football ever been better illustrated?

It is no longer surprising that the media discourse and the mid-table coaches in the Premier League are so far behind. The understanding of basic strategic concepts is completely missing – Gegenpressing is merely the most impressive example. But not only is the knowledge full of holes, we also have to evaluate the resolution of the existing know-how critically.

Breaking the Mindset

Even a slightly complex tactic will not work if the right players aren’t involved. To make a player fit either requires a genius (almost never), a stroke of luck (very rare), or adequate training (almost always). Looking back at England and analyzing the “State of the Art”, you realize that a lot of the training and player development is lacking.

This starts with the trainers that hire fitness experts from completely different fields and contrary theories of training and then complain about an increase in the number of injuries, to the trainers that again and again justify clearly recognizable tactical flaws with a lack of motivation, lack of aggression, or the players’ poor form – all aspects that fall within the realm of responsibility of these riled up coaches.

The recycling of services to specific and contextual aspects – like certain tactical problems, incorrect alignment, the lack of success-stability because of problems in training – hardly ever happens, outside of individual coaches like José Mourinho.

Have you ever heard an English trainer in a press conference complain about a lack of compactness, inadequate distances when pressing, or low intensity in ball-oriented shifts? With all due respect: these are things that Jürgen Klopp and Josep Guardiola discuss at breakfast with their wives. Is the mentality of many English managers primarily responsible or is it that they only occasionally witness training or sometimes delegate it due to other circumstances (like conducting negotiations)?

This is far from the media discussion but the problem is evident in games. We have analyzed more Premier League games here at lately, some from the basement dwelling teams and mid-table clubs to better illuminate certain aspects. In this analysis it has become clear that there must be some issues in training. Too great a focus on isolated aspects, particularly on physique, is evident from the tactical information presented. Even Neville’s comments about his time as a player suggest this is true. But what is more striking is the players’ lack of tactical communication skills.

Poor decisions, misjudgements of movements, a near absence of harmony in the timing of tactical maneuvers, and overly simplistic movements are evidence of an inappropriate prioritization in training. Teammates’ reactions to players leaving position, covering shifts into open spaces without a teammate directly backing them up, even simple ball-oriented movements and more or less all offensive tactics vary from exceedingly poor to non-existent.

This is also expressed in even smaller and more inconspicuous points, like the Brits designating their player development as “poor.” In a more specific consideration of their training sequence it is apparent that the focus during youth training is a combination of physique and individual tactical skills. Thus, the context and influence of the team is completely lost – in a dynamic and complex team sport that is not a very good idea.

Need an example? How often does the cleanliness, the execution, and the simplicity of receiving a pass stand out? The direct search for a simple pass or the protection of the ball before an opponent’s attack are given greater significance, while anticipating free runs or basic things, like a preparatory glance over the shoulder or making the right decision seem to be neglected.

This applies not only to ball receptions but the defensive game and finishing. This is unquestionably caused by training. There is a big focus on simple things, on “traditional thinking”, individual “virtues” and is broken down  to  a too simplifying transfer in training. The pursuit of a football-specific, holistic, and complex approach seems to be a foreign concept to the masses; not to mention more specific concepts like differentiated learning.

The mentality of the few trained coaches is also “typically English” – a terrible cliche, but one which seems to represent more than a few. The total focus on physique, individuality, superiority of the individual over their opponent, simplicity, and stability, is evident in the coaching of all levels and age groups, where there is a tremendous lack of maturity and intelligence in implementing game concepts.

Young footballers end up this way not only through prejudices and error-based advice, but also an exaggerated focus on basic techniques, which are completely isolated in training. Clean technique in a non-pressurized and isolated exercise does not protect against errors in pressure situations during a game. These repeated errors develop into a vicious cycle: a trainer with the wrong mentality evaluates these mistakes as a motivation issue and will focus even more on isolated, extreme work on elementary technique. The fear of failure and the confrontation with this in games leads to workouts being made less complex so that errors do not accumulate in training. The contextual importance of football technique thus remains unrecognized and undeveloped.

This was also confirmed in discussions with coaches educated in England who later worked abroad (such as Stevie Grieve) and those who follow coaching development in other countries.

These training problems are more far-reaching than that. In addition to the symptoms, the causes need to be treated. Many youth coaches – whether in school or clubs and societies – are unwilling to get help or can not be swayed by new concepts. Many in the media call for competent foreign coaches to come to the Premier League. It is assumed that Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola would immediately leave everything at the drop of a hat if a top English club came calling. But, as soon as they arrive in England, they will be made to adjust to the English conditions in terms of tactics and training methods. This extends from extreme media pressure regarding the paradoxical demands of club presidents to open rebellions from the players (see Andre Villas-Boas).

Now comes the one billion pound question: how can a foreign trainer positively influence the situation in English football if he isn’t allowed to make an adjustment? It’s almost as if they want to continue playing “typically English” without actually doing so. Prediction: this could be difficult.

This mindset is part of the dilemma. The observer is so far up the tree that he can’t recognize the problems at the roots. The resistance to the implementation of concepts foreign to England – whether tactics or training methods – is the only thing that seems to surpass the incompetence of the typical English trainer. Another vicious cycle. The lack of competence arises largely from lower abstraction of the concepts- the why and not the what or how – whether it be tactical, strategic, or training methods. So how do you hire a competent foreign trainer without being able to recognize competence? Ah yes, a simple answer: Money. Which brings us back to the beginning again.

foxmilder March 27, 2022 um 7:19 am

The sneering stance of this article towards English player development is funnier every time I go back to read it. I particularly enjoy reading Rene Maric’s absurdly overconfident pronouncements about “correct” defending in light of his work at Dortmund, whose high defensive line has been repeatedly ripped to shreds this season by teams they ought to be beating.

I suppose the article has one thing going for it: it truly is a forensic deconstruction of the shortcomings of a nation’s footballing culture – the nation in question being Germany.


tobit April 10, 2022 um 3:59 pm

Maric is not the head coach in Dortmund. And he isn’t german either. Also the article is eight years old and British Football has changed a lot since then, especially in developing youth.


Emmanuel April 25, 2022 um 9:05 am



curious-casual April 15, 2022 um 9:22 pm

Care to explain? As a layman in football, and only revisited football again after several years. What is it about this article that describe Germany’ s failing? Since I never followed it, I’m interested to know. Maybe a reason why with all the great coaches, fans and players, none is able to challenge Bayern Munich since 2012.

I would love it if the Spielverlagerung writers that finally had roles as coaches, with skin-in-the-game and I assumed some trophies or sackings, reflected on their older articles and described what they learned through out the years. I discovered this site, years ago, and thought it was by far the best football analysis because I’ m tired of rhetoric of “mentality” from English pundits. Since then, Arsene Wenger left the game, Guardiola had yet to win another Champion League Trophy, Klopp succeeded with Liverpool almost one billion euro squad while bemoaning the numbers of game English teams had to play, Barca had to let go of Messi and none of the German team seem to be able to challenge Bayern Munich. The godfather of German Gegepressing became an forgettable coach in Manchester United and Mourinho said that finishing second with Manchester United is his greatest achievement or one of them. Reading Rene Maric tweets today, is like reading a poor man’ s version of Arsene Wenger, at least that is my perceptions and I hope it is not insult to him by comparing him to one of most respected and successful man in football history. English club football is not only about the 22 men kicking the ball in the pitch. The fans, media and former legends had expectations that may not reflected reality. Klopp said that it would took him four years to win the league, he did it because the fans are with him, the board back him with transfer and the team performed. He said the same thing as Arsene Wenger that his job is more about trying to coddle young men from pain of defeats rather than talk about tactics. Well, my favorite article of the football this year so far is from Rene Maric confessing at one point that he realized he was an idoit. This one stuck with me. “Different styles aren’t created by different football, but by cultures, coaches and players.”


Gs October 6, 2020 um 11:19 pm

Individual and physical ability has always been the priority for English clubs for the players coming through youth set ups. A knowledge of the role of the player in collective situations has been largely ignored and thus English players have been introduced to these ideas in latter stages of their development . A part 2 of this would be great with the managers now occupying the pl. I’m not convinced the current English fa hierarchy are taking on the board the models talked about in the article but pep and klopp being here can only be a good thing.


Pietro August 29, 2016 um 3:21 pm

I hope that the recent influx of non-English coaches will ‘break the mold’ and force administrators, boards, journo’s and supporters to recognize the weaknesses in the English game.
It took years after the recognition in Europe for a general acceptance in England of the importance of diet, ball based training and an emphasis of ball skills.
The insular views of the UK have not disappeared despite the globalization of media, communications etc. The endemic and unwarranted belief in Albion’s superiority in all things still persists in the general public and it takes a mighty effort for that to be shaken in any area.
Rewind to 1977 when I moved from England to Belgium thinking that as a Forest supporter I had seen true footballing glory. That lasted 30 minutes into the first Anderlecht game that I saw and I just had to wonder how I could have watched footie for 15+ years and not been aware of that wonderful game that existed over the channel.
We were blinkered and sheltered then and the UK is still largely in that same befuddled state.


jimbo April 16, 2015 um 10:05 am

A good read although I think you have jumped on the bandwagon a little bit with Gary Neville. Yes I agree that teams don´t defend as a whole in the PL as opposed to BL. However the mistakes in the PL have come on an individual basis in a 1v1 basis. This is what Neville was mainly talking about. Simply defenders being ´beaten´to easily or central defenders being caught in a poor defensive position.
It seems that your belief across the site is a little pro-BL and Germany. Not everything that happens in Football can be analysed. There are far too many variables for that.


Good Smelly April 3, 2015 um 4:23 pm

“Teammates’ reactions to players leaving position, covering shifts into open spaces without a teammate directly backing them up, even simple ball-oriented movements and more or less all offensive tactics vary from exceedingly poor to non-existent.”

I’ve always held the same view, just from observing what players do on the pitch, and I’ve always put that down to the poor intelligence of players coming through in England. To expand on this point, I feel that maybe the “wrong” players are coming through the system. Too many players who have strength, pace or stamina as their main attributes and too few clever, inventive players. Maybe the intelligent players are being filtered out at a young age, for being too “fancy”?

Or maybe like you said, the players’ training is too focused and isolated. Or maybe a combination of both? Regardless, your point about the training is interesting and something I have never considered.


Dave C January 19, 2015 um 5:02 pm

I am still wondering why exactly this happens in England? What the underlying cause is. We have the same coaches that the European teams have, we get a lot of the same players. Carlo Ancelotti didn’t fit this mold when he was in the EPL so then he leaves English football to go to Real Madrid and suddenly remembers how to coach a team?

Manuel Pellegrini recently coached at both Real Madrid and Villareal, two of the teams who’s tactical prowess the article praises. But then he goes to Manchester City and forgets how to coach? Louis van Gall as well? Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pochettino, Juande Ramos, André Villas-Boas, Pepe Mel, and Rafa Benitez are examples of some other coaches who I think probably had success outside of England but apparently weren’t able to transfer that style of play to English teams.

In addition to the coaches, a lot of the same players are being passed around from England to Spain to Germany, etc. So if England has the same coaches and the same players, then what causes this big difference? If Pep coached Man United and took the entire Bayern Munich squad with him, would Man U suddenly be the best team in Europe? Or is there something more to it than that?


HW January 23, 2015 um 10:04 am

Well, that is not completely correct. There are not the same players in England, Spain and Germany. In the EPL are far more British players than in the other leagues.
I don’t want to say that the British players are the problem. But there must be a difference in style or something. And the question is correct: with all the foreign managers, why is there still this diffence?

Maybe this is a topic that has it’s roots much more in the business side than in the football side of the clubs. With much more money available for the EPL clubs (compared to a midtable German team), business is run much different. This is just a theory, but the business side (transfers, wage, club structures, etc.) must have an impact on the football side of a club. But I think in the EPL some clubs have started to implement a football concept (like Swansea) and base their business on this concept (not the other way around).

We can not deny that also in Germany many of the old clubs have been pushed aside by smaller newcomer teams. Thirty years ago nobody would have thought about Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Mainz, Paderborn or Hoffenheim. But they found their way into the first league etc. Others like Nürnberg or Kaiserslautern (to name just a few) struggle to stay in the first league. Now Bremen, Hamburg and Stuttgart are struggling, too.
You can see, also in Germany there was a change of football and business strategies. A number of the traditional clubs were relegated, and some never really recovert but were ‘replaced’ by other teams with new ideas and different concepts. But this is a process over years or decades, and only partly under control of the FA or the league (with the license system, youth development concepts, etc.).


co2netto December 1, 2014 um 12:58 pm

Next article “The problem with Dortmund” Please 🙂


Toc December 2, 2014 um 3:47 pm

There’s a four-part series “Klopp’s biggest crisis” worked on, with part one in German already published. Don’t know if it’ll be translated.


co2netto December 4, 2014 um 10:34 am

Thank you very much. Maybe I need google to translate for me. Cheers! 😀


HW November 24, 2014 um 9:15 pm

Hey Chris,

I’ve published a few stats to compare the Spanish, English, and German league in the comments to the German version of this article.
One astonishing point is, that in the EPL over two third of the players are foreigners, while in the other two only half or less are from another country. At the same time the average ‘value’ of a player in the EPL is much higher than in the other leagues.
So far, this is not strange. But at the same time, and I took a look at the latest internationals, the English national team had no player from a foreign league in their squad against Scotland, while Germany and Spain had four and seven players who earn their money abroad. Even more, the average value of an English international was less than that of a German or Spanish international (and both fielded more or less B-teams).
In your opinion, what does that say about English players in a) their home league and b) continental football? And is England producing any footballer (in terms of young worldclass players) and tactical innovation or are they just buying (talent, managers, etc.)?

When it comes to the owners, I agree with you. But is it a problem only in football or also in other areas of business in England?

The EPL makes the most money from TV. With that money they should be able to kind of dominate Europe with several teams. But only Chelsea competed for a trophy in the last years, and there loads of Russian oil money was invested. England loses ground in the UEFA ranking.
Does the competiton in England, or the many competitions, need such an attention, that all the money that’s made with TV etc. is needed to stay domestically competitive (to make enough TV money)?


Kane Weller November 24, 2014 um 2:03 pm

Felix Magath


Lance Martire November 24, 2014 um 1:58 pm

A well thought out and accurate take on the modern day English game.

I am a youth coach U5-U10’s with and we are constantly looking to initiate the above details noted especially at a grassroots level so the players of the future will be a lot more adept like our International counter-parts and these types of issues.

I believe the modern day archetype of football needs to be adopted with the coaches training our youth. A lot of coaches methodology’s in and around English professional football today are dated & I feel this go backs to the ‘old English way to play’. A direct reflection of the way they would have been coached.

Old habits die hard!

Young coaches such as I need to adapted, learn & create a modern day environment for our youth so that going forward they are fully prepared for the demands of professional football.


HW November 24, 2014 um 9:22 pm

Hey Lance
Can you give us a short reply about the (maybe changing) condition of grassroots level when it comes to pitch rent, the condition of the pitches and facilities or anything else worth mentioning? It’s just, that I read some negative articles in English media, but I like to hear the opinion of an insider.


Lance Martire December 1, 2014 um 11:25 am

Hello HW,

In regards to the grassroots, the soccer school I work for rent 5aside pitches from a UK company called Goals who supply 5aside & 7aside pitches all over the UK so our costs will be different to those who hire off the council or local football clubs. The facilities are there to be used, grass pitches, 3G/4G, astro-turf etc. but you have to pay the local councils a lot of money to use them. For instance my adult team have to pay over £1000 per season to use our local council’s 11aside pitches and the quality is questionable. Often they are water logged, uneven and the grass, well it seems to be more mud then carpet. Ha-ha.

In terms of the changes to grassroots, the FA have had a good attempt to implement new and relative courses to meet the needs of a young footballer, however these courses are expensive and a lot of coaches are self-funded and so get priced out of the course. For example I have completed my level 1 & 2 FA Youth modules, however if I want to complete my level 3 as a requirement I must do my level 2 FA coaching course which is near to £500.00 the level 3 course is £875.00 so that’s a lot of money if you do not have a club to support you.
Unfortunately in my opinion the FA hierarchy are still very elitist and so the focus is on pro-clubs and academy level football. They seem to forget that it is the grassroots football that is the building blocks to this success?!
If there anything else you would like me to comment on/write for you in regards to this or anything else please feel free to email me [email protected] or on twitter @houseofcamelot.


Chris November 22, 2014 um 11:11 am

Hey guys amazing aricle. You really hit the nail on its head with pointing out culture (press, coaches, academies and EX!!! players) as the main cause for EPL’s stangnation. The comparison to Germany really fits. Just watch your Saturday 3:30 Bunderliga Game, than half an hour switch over to a premier League game – see the difference in quality (most of the time). Taking Gary Neville as an example is also great. Because it seems like he’s considered to be a analyst-guru in the England. In my opinion very overrated.
But still you’re didn’t grasp the whole problem IMO. Your answer on why foreign coaches aren’t able to apply their superior methods is not very satisfying in this regard. Not only many foreign managers have worked at english clubs, but also considering how many “foreign” chief executives and how many “foreign” owners “work” in the premier league it seems odd to only assign cultural problems as the main reason for their failure. The pressure from the boardroom and the executive office (in very few cases from the sporting director) is not very “english/cultural” most of the time. (foreign owners at Chelsea, Man City, Man Und., Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool) Maybe because most of them don’t come from “football” countries they simply adapt to english football values. While you’re absolutely on point with press and the public side of things (preassure). I don’t find your argument quite consistent on an inner club level. At last because of the fact that some organisations are entirely run (on a power level) by non-english staff (Chelsea (who you mentioned as positive example), Manchester City, Arsenal (but Wenger is another chapter + pretty englishised).

I think what is really missing is inrevocable evidence of success. In Germany Dortmund lead to paradigm shift. It was there for all of them to see. Alos because the important forms of pressing and Gegenpressing were excuted in such an extreme way. It also took Bayern 2 years to come to grips with this change. But embraced it and became the side they are now.
As long as english football can continue to bath in its own money with their own style and nobody comes along with radical change and in consequence the evidence of the superiority of modern football, Gary Neville will continue to talk about the good old individual defendin. In my opinion this change can only come from Germany at the moment.

And at last. Don’t you think that the laissez-faire style of refereeing limits a more technical and ability based game and rewards concentrating on your team’s destructive side rather than your own ability to score.

sorry went a bit over board there.



Andrew November 22, 2014 um 4:30 am

Very good analysis. Such a complex problem in England. Players aren’t developed properly ie lack a high degree of game intelligence, but it doesn’t hurt because at the pro club managers aren’t demanding because they employ such basic tactics and strategies. Hence why you don’t find many english players outside of the country nor in the top clubs in england which are managed by foreign managers.


ml November 21, 2014 um 11:40 pm

Great article, but it could be better when strengthen by images or videos.


RM November 22, 2014 um 1:18 am

Legally we aren’t allowed to use screenshots or videos of any kind. Thought about using statistical data / graphs but even that is a problem because of copyright.


Tony Mee November 21, 2014 um 9:48 pm

An interesting article, in which I can see some truths. However, I would like to point out that much of what you discuss, pressing in groups, reducing the spaces between the lines, checking shoulders etc is being done CONSTANTLY at Academy level. My belief is that when players make it to the first team, these things become less important than the win “at all costs” which keeps the manager in a job!
Not too many successful youth coaches make the transition to 1st team boss, and look at what’s happened to those who have (Michael Appleton, Rene Meulensteen for example).


RM November 21, 2014 um 10:39 pm

Which academies, since when and in which way? If you do it in an isolated way, it still won’t do any good. That’s the way it looks right now. Obviously often academy coaches are better than head coaches of big clubs, it’s like that even in Germany. Also, Meulensteen is a prime example for a coach who trains too isolated, focused and fragmented without any special (not saying he is bad) competence in terms of global tactics.


RM November 21, 2014 um 7:44 pm

Of course, there are much more things, culturally, historically and also tactically and strategically, we could have talked about. Yet, we wanted to concentrate on the most important and glaring points. Hope you like it. Thanks to Rafamufc, as usual great work.


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