Too Many Chiefs

The English National Team bears out a longstanding maxim –team production does not equate to the sum of individual production. The U.S. Olympic basketball squad provided recent testimony to this principle. Of course, the degree of interaction required among players matters. In baseball, output is close to the sum of the individual parts. Sports such as soccer, football, and basketball require much more complex interactions and call for players who can complement each other’s skills. Polish striker Maciej Zurawski observed

Maybe England have got too many superstars. Maybe that is their problem. It’s difficult to understand what is happening to them …’England have a lot of individuals to open up a game. But when they don’t play as a team, then that is something we can take advantage of.

England’s coach, Sven Eriksson, has searched for ways and formations to plug in all of his big names with disastrous results in a 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland before just scraping by against a lowly Wales club in the preceding game. ESPN Soccernet observes the most glaring of the issues,

His first priority should be ditching the 4-3-3 system that has caused such confusion and returning, when Rooney is available again, to 4-4-2 with the other striker playing in behind Michael Owen…[Steven] Gerrard must be ordered to stay in the holding role or moved out to the left flank, with Owen Hargreaves or Scott Parker brought in to play that specialist role – unless [Frank] Lampard’s form fails to improve and he is dropped instead, that is.In addition,

It is a certainty that had Chelsea landed Steven Gerrard, they would not have sat Claude Makelele in favor of Gerrard. Instead, Gerrard would have played some other role because Makelele is Jose Mourinho’s main man. He credits Makelele’s defending and holding role in the midfield as one of their most important keys to success.

No doubt, Eriksson grasps these points. Then, why would he so doggedly pursue the Gerrard-Lampard midfield tandem or squeezing Wright-Phillips at the risk of diminishing the impact of Wayne Rooney? It comes back to the basic point of public choice, that is, politics is inside the game. Eriksson, or any English coach, faces huge pressures from media, fans, and the players to make ues of the biggest names. The upside to England’s debacle may be that it will provide Eriksson with the opportunity to make some of these tough decisions. As he put it, England’s got a “knife to our throat.” Under such circumstances, big name players and media will accept moves that might not as easily when times are good.

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Author: Brian Goff

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