What exactly is the England national team’s style of play? Once upon a time it was a high-energy, physical style. Now according to Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque, there is no authentic English style of play due to the number of foreign players in the Premier League. And, actually, the Spain supremo is absolutely right in his assessment of a team his Spanish outfit will come face-to-face with in a friendly matchup on Friday.
The England boss, Roy Hodgson, has spoken in the past about developing a consistent style with the Three Lions that would be recognizable around the world. Three and a half years into the job, however, and that style of play is no more recognizable or consistent now than the day Hodgson arrived.
At their EPL clubs, English players play a particular way for their club manager, and they’re all different and identifiable. For example, Manchester City play an open, expansive, attacking style; Arsenal play an offensive, pass-and-move style; Manchester United play a slow, possession-based, cautious style and Chelsea utilize a deep-sitting, defensive setup. Which one is Hodgson supposed to be using? Does the 68-year-old have alternate style to throw into the mix? Apparently not.
The variety in the EPL is reflected in the English players once they join up with the national team. Then the question of just how good the English players are comes into the equation. Raheem Sterling has looked good playing with the likes of Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure in his career — yet rarely turns it on for England with those players not around.
In his prime, Wayne Rooney was one of the best players in the world when playing for United. But watching the striker playing for England over the years, you would have been forgiven for thinking West Ham United or Newcastle United before the Red team in Manchester. The Same often went for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the prime of their careers — leaders for their clubs, but lacking direction when wearing an England shirt.
So are the players overrated due to the quality of foreign players they play with at club level? Or does the England national team suffer from poor coaching? Maybe having so many foreign influences means that no distinctive ‘English’ style is formulated? Either way, as del Bosque rightly claims, the England team does lack a recognisable style that people can relate to, and now more so than ever before.