Pep, Jose, Klopp & Co don’t do hype.. and that will spell major trouble for many of England’s ailing Prem ‘stars’
LITTLE more than nine weeks ago Joe Hart tried to put the critics in their place.
“Nobody will want to play us,” he said after England’s goalless draw with Slovakia meant they’d failed to top their Euros group. “I haven’t had anything to do in the whole tournament, to be honest,” he added, walking blindly into Schadenfreude Alley. If someone had told Hart when he woke up the next day that, in two months’ time, Pep Guardiola would tell him to find another club and England’s new manager Sam Allardyce would warn him that unless he followed that advice he wouldn’t play for his country, he’d probably have thought he’d had a car crash, woken up after a Head And Shoulders transplant, and his brain wasn’t functioning properly. Because like most senior England internationals he hasn’t needed to worry about his club place. He probably assumed that with so few high-quality natives in a Premier League crying out for English qualities he was bombproof. This season Hart (left) won’t be the last to discover that he isn’t. With the arrival of the so-called Super Coaches comes a stark reality for players whose reputations have been over-inflated by an England shirt. These bosses don’t let hype blur their vision. They know, through experience, the definition of world class, and it’s a few grades higher than the one commonly used in England to describe our own.
It didn’t need Zlatan Ibrahimovic to assume Manchester United’s penalty-taking duties for Wayne Rooney (right) to realise that Jose Mourinho won’t be indulging him the way he has been in the past.
With his new manager telling him he won’t be playing in midfield just to be accommodated, you’d have to fear for the chances in the biggest of games – when Mourinho goes defensive – of Rooney being picked ahead of Ibrahimovic or Anthony Martial.
Allardyce has already warned Marcus Rashford that Mourinho will need to be picking him to get a game with England. How long before he’s making Rooney sweat over his place the way he currently is over his captain’s armband?
Or Chris Smalling, now that Mourinho has privately indicated that Eric Bailly and Daley Blind are his preferred centre-back pairing. Phil Jones will certainly need to find another team to stand a chance of playing regular first-team football.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has had 10 months to assess his squad and shown the door to two Englishmen who were perceived before he arrived as future regulars.
Jordon Ibe has been sold to Bournemouth and England international Jon Flanagan loaned to Burnley, despite the Reds having a full-blown full-back crisis. Don’t be surprised if, over the next couple of transfer windows, Englishmen with higher reputations suffer similar fates.
With Klopp bringing in Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum and showing faith in Divock Origi, Emre Can, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana know they’re far from automatic starters now.
As for Chelsea, Gary Cahill looks safe for the time being, but with Antonio Conte desperate to bring in Kalidou Koulibaly and eagerly awaiting the return of Kurt Zouma, the pressure may soon be on.
So Hart may not be alone in this cull and Allardyce may have to live with the fact that (outside of his Spurs contingent) few players at the biggest clubs are guaranteed playing time. It shouldn’t come as a shock though.
The main reason for those woeful performances at the Euros in France wasn’t Roy Hodgson’s coaching, wrong formations or fatigue, but too many English players lacking the technique and nous to compete at the highest level.
Which is the only level at which the very best coaches in the world want to operate.
SOME have called it admirable honesty, others candid realism. But if I were a Sunderland fan being told by David Moyes (left) to expect another relegation battle a week into a new season, I’d question the wisdom of my board paying a fortune to a manager who needs to use such depressing defeatism to buy himself a get-out clause for future failure. And were I one of the four players he says he wants to bring in before the window closes, I’d tell him: ‘Come and join our ninemonth survival battle’, is not the best sales pitch in the world.