England impressed at the World Cup in reaching the semi-finals but despite the positives there is still a problem in midfield, where we haven’t produced a game-changer since Paul Gascoigne in 1996.
You need players who can make a difference by themselves – a maverick, if you like. They might have defensive faults and they might take risks which people don’t like, but I just think these off-the-cuff players are what we need.
People say Raheem Sterling is a number 10, traditionally the gifted creative player’s role – but I don’t think he is.
He scored 22 goals last season, but – no disrespect – I would’ve scored 22 goals in that Manchester City team. Sterling is a wide player who will upset full-backs and chip in, but he is not a natural goalscorer and he is not a game-changer.
Dele Alli plays behind Harry Kane at Tottenham. He has good movement off the ball and a decent technique, and maybe that is the way forward, but I wouldn’t say he is a game-changer.
Is Jesse Lingard? I wouldn’t say so.
When I was playing with England we always had a wide selection of players that could influence a game.
They can frustrate and they don’t always listen to the manager – but you need that type of player to take the next step. We just don’t produce them any more.
What is going wrong?
We have got the best facilities and the most money in the football world but, unfortunately, we have got too many coaches who don’t want to put up with a particular type of talented player – and they want everybody to be reliable.
Coaches don’t like players taking risks because they lose the ball in certain areas. They would rather have a player who can’t dribble but can pass and play a one-two before putting it in the box.
What annoys me most about English football is that we have to pay to import what we used to produce. At my age, we didn’t go to clubs until we were 13 or 14 – so they didn’t have time to coach it out of you.
Now you bring them in at five and six and they lose all of their tricks by 10. It’s not everyone – it’s probably about 90% – but it’s all about reliability.
On the continent they look at players and see what you have got. If you are tricky and clever with the ball, they won’t take it away – but in England they do.
When I was a player we had wingers, but that has gone out of the game because the system has meant central midfielders playing on the left or the right and plodding up and down the flanks without much creativity. They are honest, they work hard and they are good box-to-box players who fill in defensively.
I watch games on the TV now and I see players go one-on-one with the full-back – but what do they do? They usually check out and go back to their own full-back, then they go inside and play a pass across the field because losing the ball is a crime and they are scared to take the player on.
It’s a fear factor and I think coaches are on players’ backs if they lose the ball too easily.
You have to be brave as a coach. If you see a player from a young age who can dribble, who is greedy and selfish, that will change as he gets older but do not take the ability of beating a man away from him.
These coaches look at the top coaches in the world and try to follow their system. Yes, you can win matches with safe players – but to win a tournament you need risk players. We should have a production line of them and we should have too many to pick from.
Gazza was an outstanding player that we produced because we let him play. He was very selfish in his way, and he played a certain style.
Today, if a modern player doesn’t see bibs, cones and organisation, they can’t think for themselves. Whoever is in charge of coaching styles and producing players has to ask why the page about taking risks was ripped out of the manual?
I remember talking to the former Marseille and Serbia midfielder Dragan Stojkovic. He was a wonderful talent and he told me they never ran in Belgrade and everything they did was with the ball. He never got told to play two-touch football – and with people like that, you just give them the shirt and tell them to go and play.
Who can fill the void?
We have a lot of good players with good legs who can pass the ball but we need a bit more to go to another level.
England manager Gareth Southgate picked Liverpool’s Adam Lallana in the squad for the Nations League game against Spain, but he has had to drop out with an injury. He is technically good, but he has to be off the leash more. He has got two good feet and he should create and score more goals.
In terms of those outside of the squad, people talk about West Ham midfielder Jack Wilshere – but he is not a creative player. He is tidy on the ball but he is not a player who picks it up and you say ‘wow, he is going to take two players on and thread it through’.
Leicester’s new signing James Maddison looked good at Manchester United in the Foxes’ first game and then scored the week after. He looks like he has an edge and a swagger about him. I don’t think he is worried about making mistakes and I’m disappointed he is not in the squad for these games against games against Spain and Switzerland.
Nathan Redmond at Southampton can take people on and Bournemouth’s Junior Stanislas could play international football. He could play in that midfield three because he can create, shoot, dribble and pass.
Will success at junior level change things?
We saw England Under-20s win the World Cup in June 2017 before the under-17s followed suit four months later, but our youth teams have enjoyed success before and not many of the players have got through to the senior side.
From under-16 to under-21 level, there is a physical difference between players and we have always been strong and athletic.
If you look at the size of our age-group sides, it is very rare to see the opposition as big and strong as us.
If you speak to our opponents about England, they will talk about strength and legs – but at senior level, a lot of those players drop off the radar because they aren’t stronger and quicker than everyone else any more. Everyone else has developed.
Two young players who have impressed at junior level are Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund.
It is early doors for Foden but he has got a good club coach in Pep Guardiola to bring it out of him and he will be allowed to think for himself in the final 30-40 yards. He will have bad days when his opposite number gets on top, but it happens. I’m hoping he will be a game-changer.
Sancho has got a trick but can he put it together and can Southgate be patient with him? It is a big two years for those type of players.
*Chris Waddle was speaking to BBC Sport’s Mantej Mann.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45384797