England Disappoint in Friendlies!

27th March 2024

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The Premier League has been on a break and that meant that we could focus on some international games. For England there were no competitive matches to be had, just two friendlies and when you watch these games it isn't too hard to hear the cash tills as the kings of the spectacle. Wembley Stadium hosted both Brazil and Belgium in the space of 3 days to the tune of over £8 million in ticket receipts alone. However, not to concentrate on the economic market which goes hand in hand with modern football anyway, it is always special when Brazil come to town. In the 27 games that the nations have met each other England have just 4 wins and they were defeated for the 12th time by an Endrick goal in the final moments of the game as Brazil won 1-0. Since 1992 England have only won one of these fixtures which was in 2013 but Gareth Southgate's side who are installed as the favourites to win Euro 2024 were seen to have a great chance to pull off a rare victory. Granted Harry Kane was missing for England but Southgate was still able to put out a super strong side which included Jude Bellingham. The problem for England is that they were outmuscled and outthought in what was admittingly quite a dull game which had fleeting moments of greatness. For Brazil Neymar was injured but their young stars in Vincius Junior and Rodrygo who like Bellingham all play for Real Madrid are seen as the future. Young Endrick, only 17, came on as a late substitute to get the winner of course. It is worrying though that a fairly average looking Brazil side if you take out their attacking line were able to deal with England so well, and most of the defence put out at Wembley had never played with one another before. It was a great victory for Brazil and a worrying loss for England who looked normal against a technical side, haven't we seen all of that before?

Three days later England welcomed Belgium without their best player Kevin De Bruyne and it was almost a 2nd defeat in a row again against a technical side. However Bellingham who has been superb for his club Real Madrid made the difference in an England shirt and scored a last minute goal to salvage a 2-2 draw. He had admitted after the game the stick the team would have got had they recorded two back to back losses, so to get a draw was at least something. England had played better in this friendly than the Brazil one, but had they been playing for points then 1 from 6 does not look good. However friendlies are just that and shouldn't be taken too seriously, an exercise in money and an exercise literally for the players is all you can take from these games. Of course it is also a chance for managers to give other players a chance at international level and that fell this week to Kobbie Mainoo, still a teenager who plays for Manchester United who has been stealing the hype for now. Hype because haven't we seen this all before? From Theo Walcott to Jack Grealish- we can all remember at Euro 2020 when Grealish was used as more of a super sub by Southgate, the anticipation by the Wembley crowd that he was the special one, the difference or a Gazza Mark II. While Grealish hasn't turned out to be a bad player, you get the feeling that we have seen the best of him, and he may well end up being a footnote in the history of English football. Bellingham was quick to protect Mainoo from the hype, maybe we have reached a new chapter and Mainoo will turn out to be one of the great players, but too much on one's shoulders too soon can also stifle them. Southgate is feeling the pressure to include Mainoo in the Euro 2024 squad, three weeks ago was anyone talking of him even playing his first international yet? So that is the problem Southgate has- make a decision that the Euro's are too soon for him which they may well be and don't play him and he opens himself up if England fail, bring him and he could fail, it will be interesting to see how that one plays out.

This weekend Arsenal's big test of the season crops up again- here we have a side that have had a couple of chances to go for the title race in the past decade, this is their third attempt but they have come up just short on their previous occasions. This is a great Arsenal side, with so much attacking potential but each time it has really been asked of them they have lost those big games. They will face Manchester City, the champions away from home and if they have learned from previous mistakes and put in their best game of the season, who knows if Mikel Arteta's side can claim what would feel like a statement victory? The odds seem against them but don't forget there has to be some pressure on Manchester City too- they are trying to win a record 4th league title in a row and it could well be their sweetest victory yet having not one but two rivals for the title in Arsenal and Liverpool. Time and again and even when they have been at home we have seen City start games in sluggish mode, that won't cut it for this game and perhaps Arsenal will take heart that Chelsea were able to come here a few weeks ago and claim a 1-1 draw despite the season they are having.


Latest odds:

- Manchester City 1.91

- Arsenal 3.75

- Draw 3.75

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