It’s Not The Foreigners, It’s The EPL

So why do England do badly? To bust some common myths and establish one of my own hypotheses, I’m going to start at a slightly different place. I’m going to start by a best 11 squad from the EPL, but comprised of foreigners. Not just foreigners, but those who could have played for this world cup. Give or take a few quibbles, the team might look like this:

  1. GK – Reina
  2. FB – Ivanovic
  3. CB – Vidic
  4. CB – Agger
  5. FB – Evra
  6. DM – Essien
  7. MF – Malouda
  8. MF – Nani
  9. MF – Fabregas
  10. ST – Torres / RVP
  11. ST – Drogba / Tevez

Obviously, Modric, Valencia, Zhirkov et al might have made it into this team if their teams had qualified.

Now let’s look at how these players have done in the world cup:

  1. GK – Reina – hasn’t played yet, behind Casillas in the pecking order.
  2. FB – Ivanovic – good performance for Serbia – but bottom of group – Eboue – okay but not spectacular for Ivory coast.
  3. CB – Vidic – same as Ivanovic
  4. CB – Agger – Patchy outing for Denmark – didn’t make it to second round
  5. FB – Evra – Appalling for France. Static, and a poor wearer of the arm band
  6. DM – De Jong/ Essien/ Song – Essien injured before the cup. Out of the tournament. Song played for Cameroon but ended bottom of the group, losing all 3 games. De Jong – satisfactory outings for Netherlands.
  7. MF – Malouda – late and not very effective entry.
  8. MF – Nani – injured before the cup.
  9. MF – Fabregas – not fully fit, has made the odd cameo appearance with no real impact.
  10. ST – Torres / RVP – Van Persie has been good, not brilliant yet, with 1 goal so far. Torres has been a shadow of his former self.
  11. ST – Drogba / Tevez – Drogba – overcame a pre-tournament injury but hardly set the world cup alight. Tevez has been his industrious self and scored a screamer against Mexico, along with an offside goal.

So of the team of the 16 best EPL foreigners who could have been stars at WC 2010, 2 didn’t make the world cup at all, 8 didn’t make it out of their groups. 6 topped their groups and progressed; but of the 6, 3 are Spaniards who have had anonymous world cups so far.

My point is, if the English team is suffering because of all the foreigners, shouldn’t the foreigners be making merry? Setting the world cup on fire? Our team here suggests that 3 out of the possible 16 have had any kind of real impact on the cup.

And therefore, I would conclude that England’s performance has more to do with the physical strain of playing in the EPL than the number of foreigners. The EPL may or may not be the best league in the world, but it is definitely one of the most physically demanding, where speed, stamina, strength and athleticism are at a premium, often over technique and skill. Players who have full seasons in the EPL are drained by the time the world cup comes around. Their bodies are more prone to injuries. The same tumble or challenge can create a bigger impact when your body is too tired to react quickly to a fall.

Many other reasons – such as players being too motivated by money (how come this only impacts English players???) or about foreigners in the EPL (check out England’s performance in the 70s, with no foreigners around in the local leagues!) – are simply convenient grouse-holders and motivated by agendas and pet peeves of the media or the fans at large. Formation? Bah! When the opposition is patently fitter, faster and stronger, all over the pitch, it doesn’t matter if they play 10-0-0, they’ll still thrash you.

While we’re about it also consider the performance of France and Italy. Both countries have leagues with far fewer English players. Domenech may be a comedic coach, but Lippi is no loser. Yet the combination of good domestic leagues, home grown players, and good coaches all don’t seem to add up for them.

Finally, look at Argentina and Brazil. Maradona is no managerial magician but he has an embarrassingly high amount of talent at his disposal. Dunga has assembled a squad that comprises among others Elano, Robinho and Gilberto Silva (Premiership cast offs), Lucio, Maicon, Cesar (Champs League winners), Fabiano, Melo, Bastos, Juan (good but unspectacular teams like Sevilla, Lyon, Roma and Juventus), and Kaka (not first choice at Madrid) and turned them into a efficient footballing machine.  Neither Brazil, nor Argentina have a domestic league that’s watched outside of their continent. But their players play all over the world.

Maybe England should worry less about too many foreigners in the domestic league and worry more about why so few English players play abroad. After all, EU rules apply both ways!

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