Arsene & Jose could fit our DNA

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY -

IWAS in­vited this week to a meet­ing at St Ge­orge’s Park at the end of March to learn about Eng­land’s foot­balling DNA. In ad­vance of that meet­ing, I haven’t a clue how that DNA is go­ing to be de­fined but some smart peo­ple will have thought the mat­ter through and I am sure that the pre­sen­ta­tion will make good sense.

That said, I am highly du­bi­ous about the po­ten­tial and value in a DNA-based phi­los­o­phy. Not to be neg­a­tive; not to be con­tro­ver­sial. I just see huge dif­fi­cul­ties in that strat­egy here in Eng­land.

Our in­ter­na­tional play­ers come from a wide va­ri­ety of club en­vi­ron­ments. Each has a dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy.

So, we have Jack Wil­shere who has been trained in the Wenger way.We have Gary Cahill trained in the Mour­inho way. Ra­heem Ster­ling trained by Rodgers. Wayne Rooney now coached by Van Gaal. Fabian Delph earned his chance through the coach­ing of Paul Lam­bert. An­dros Townsend is learn­ing the Po­chet­tino way.

Each boss has his own phi­los­o­phy, his own way of play­ing, his own for­ma­tion, and his own re­quire­ments within that sys­tem in the var­i­ous sce­nar­ios. With and with­out the ball.

When an Eng­land team comes to­gether, the play­ers will be in­doc­tri­nated in their own ways of go­ing about things. It will never be as easy as to say ‘take off your club hat, you now have to wear your in­ter­na­tional one in­stead’. Habits die hard.

In a vi­tal mo­ment, how you con­tin­u­ally be­have takes over. And you are what you are at a phys­i­cal level based on your con­tin­u­ous train­ing.

If we are go­ing to progress then we need to in­spire our best play­ers to work bet­ter to­gether for the bet­ter­ment of the na­tion. From time to time. And in be­tween times. But I’m not sure how their DNA can be con­structed at a na­tional level. They are prod­ucts of clubs that do things dif­fer­ently.

Let’s look at some of the dif­fi­cul­ties. Us­ing just two ex­am­ples to keep things sim­ple.

Imag­ine that Ar­se­nal play a pos­ses­sion-based game in which con­stant short pass­ing at high tempo is a ne­ces­sity. Phys­i­cally, their play­ers need to be pre­pared to be dy­namic, to be in fairly con­stant mo­tion, with very quick and ag­ile feet.

Mean­while, Chelsea might play a game in which be­ing able to sti­fle op­po­nents is im­por­tant, in which phys­i­cal power is im­por­tant, in which rangy coun­ter­at­tack­ing runs over dis­tances make the dif­fer­ence.

Phys­i­cally, their play­ers will need to be trained dif­fer­ently; up­per body strength is more im­por­tant, power-based run­ning has a more vi­tal place and con­cen­tra­tion on po­si­tion­ing is a more im­por­tant at­tribute.

Where is the com­mon ground for play­ers from those two dif­fer­ent train­ing grounds to come to­gether? Let alone, the ten dif­fer­ent train­ing grounds in a squad.

I guess we could talk about a DNA based on am­bi­tion; an am­bi­tion to be the world’s best.We could talk about an his­tor­i­cal ‘all for one, one for all’ ethos; a DNA based on unity.

But as we start to con­sider the core foot­balling phi­los­o­phy that is es­sen­tial, in­evitable con­fu­sion will arise in Eng­land.

This is not Ger­many, where clubs serve the na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion to a much greater de­gree.

This is Eng­land, the home of the Pre­mier League, with own­ers from far and wide around the world. Each with its own, in­de­pen­dent view on how to suc­ceed, gov­erned by the Pre­mier League not by the FA.

The clubs are build­ing their own suc­cesses, they are fo­cused on their own goals; they are not there to build play­ers for Eng­land. So the DNAs of the play­ers are be­ing cre­ated on dif­fer­ent lev­els. Em­brac­ing and unit­ing dif­fer­ence must there­fore be the key as­pect of the English DNA, I have to pre­sume. And do­ing it for the big pic­ture chal­lenge that lies ahead.

There is no point be­liev­ing in a way of play­ing, for in­stance, that sim­ply will not work at a South Amer­i­can World Cup.

To make every­body feel at home, the united ap­proach to foot­ball must be driven by what the play­ers se­lected in any one squad feel that they can pro­duce.

So if the team is to be pop­u­lated by five Manch­ester United lads then in­evitably the United philoso­phies will have to hold a stronger place in the Eng­land team phi­los­o­phy. It seems to me that flex­i­bil­ity is go­ing to be vi­tal in this DNA.

I want to end by go­ing back to Paul McGin­ley.

What he did in the Ry­der Cup was to bring in his play­ers and en­cour­age them to keep their nor­mal ‘team’ around them.

They brought their own peo­ple in with them to en­sure that they could live in a con­stant man­ner within the Ry­der Cup team en­vi­ron­ment.

Each needed to pre­pare him­self to play the golf course. Each needed his usual team to de­liver the right prepa­ra­tion.

It is not in­con­ceiv­able for an Eng­land camp to fol­low a sim­i­lar phi­los­o­phy. By invit­ing club man­agers and staff more fully into the fold, per­haps we could best har­ness the tal­ents at our dis­posal.

Why couldn’t Arsene Wenger coach the Eng­land team to play a bet­ter pos­ses­sion-based game at Wem­b­ley and why couldn’t Jose Mour­inho coach them to earn a vi­tal qual­i­fi­ca­tion point away in Ger­many? Let’s in­clude ‘in­te­gra­tion’ in this ‘DNA’.

I’m look­ing for­ward to hear­ing the an­swer. I’ll have missed a lot, I’m sure. It cer­tainly isn’t a sim­ple sub­ject.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

SEALED WITH A KISS: Skip­per Paul McGin­ley with the Ry­der Cup won by Europe

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