Date: 18th November 2007 at 12:13am
Written by:

A couple of weeks back, someone asked the question: “was Sven Goran Eriksson getting the most from a poor England side, or was he underachieving?” And here is my answer.

Unfortunately, as always, a question isn’t as simple as it first appears, and can really be broken down into a few “sub” questions:

How good was Sven?
Were the players in the England side good?
What is a good performance for the England side?
How much was down to Sven?

The first part is quite easy: Under Sven, England qualified for 3 major championships, with, up until the game against Northern Ireland, an unbeaten record – and only ever losing 5 competitive games, 3 of which in quarter finals, 1 to the eventual world cup winners, and 2 on penalties, and it must also be mentioned that no other European country achieved 3 consecutive quarter finals, and only Brazil did worldwide – Not bad! And to cap it all, England went from ranked 17th in the world, when he took the job, to 4th in the world, before the shock defeat to Portugal in the world cup (slipping 1 place to fifth). He is officially rated as England`s second most successful manager after Sir Alf Ramsay. Overall, he was very successful. And to add to this, we now have what scientists would call a “control”. Since he became Man City manager, we can see how good at managing he is compared to some of “the greats” – and an early victory against Manchester United, and them sitting in a champions league spot, proves he can cut it with the best, so it seems there is little to fault about Sven.

The second question is not much harder: The likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Sol Campbell, Wayne Rooney, and so on are all good players. I could go on for pages listing all the good players Sven had to choose from, so I think that yes, the England squad was good.

Unfortunately, you then have to pick the right players – playing Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard is like playing a centre back at full back, and no-one in there right mind would do that would they Steve? Quite simply, the 2 play in identical positions, but other than that, I can find little to fault his team selections. In fact, much has been said about his negative substitutions, but with only 5 defeats in his career as England manger, they can hardly be faulted. But, picking the right players is even more complex than just picking the players in the right positions. The Ashley Cole/Joe Cole combination worked well, and the recent example of the Heskey/Owen combination proved how much a difference it can make. And back to the Frank Lampard/Steven Gerard problem, they just didn’t play together. But once again, we must look at the results, and say that his methods did actually work.

The last two questions however are much harder to answer, as they are a matter of opinion. In fact, before the Sven era, it was not something I personally had much of an opinion about, my earliest memories of supporting England were the France ’98 world cup – but that is for another time. Going into the next world cup, I still did not follow much football, as I spent all my time playing it, and going into Euro ’04, I still didn`t have much of an idea who Wayne Rooney was. But when we got to 2006, I had had enough time to look at our squad, look at the players, see how good they were, and look at other teams players, and asses how good they were. I checked to see who people thought could win, and as far as I could see, it would be a 3 hoarse race, between England, Brazil, and Argentina. My money went strait on Brazil to win. People mentioned Italy, but one look at there side, and I said “no way” – I still do.

Argentina and Germany immediately appeared to be the two best teams playing, and with poor performances from England, Brazil, and Italy, I naively decided England and Brazil would both pick up there form later in the tournament. Neither did, but that didn’t change the fact that in that world cup, I had expected England to reach the quarter finals, and they failed miserably – although so did Brazil, and in fact, so did Argentina and Germany. But that is one defeat, in 1 major championship, that I can say “we should have won” – I didn’t expect the final, so it was a near miss, I’m sure the others were the same. Overall, from what I now know and understand, a semi-final is a good performance, a quarter final is average, and anything less is a disaster. On that basis, which I will leave open to debate, England under Sven did averagely in 1 major championship. Not a disaster really, and compared to the man that took his job, absolutely marvellous.

And the final question “how much was down to Sven?” is interesting to say the least.

He picked the players, he was blamed when England lost – although in my opinion unfairly – and the players got credit when England won. He was accused of making negative substitutions, but they worked, generally. He picked the teams and he set out the tactics. Once again, returning to our “control”, we have another manager, with the same set of players, some better than Sven ever had, and we are on the verge of failing to qualify for Europe, needing a victory against a strong Croatia side, thanks to a last gasp winner for Israel.

In summary, as a manger, Sven converted a team ranked 17th to 4th, he only lost 5 games, he was the second most successful England manager ever, he achieved a feat bettered only by Brazil, he lost his chance for glory by penalties, twice, and following his reign, Steve McClaren has failed to achieve the same standards with a better group of players.

In answer to the question “was Sven Goran Eriksson getting the most from a poor England side, or was he underachieving?” I must answer, that he was getting exactly what England should have expected. Not better, not worse. With the players, we could have done better, but equally, as our current manager is proving, we could have done much, much worse.

Written by pompeycarpet.

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18 Replies to “Sven: was he good or bad?”

  • here you go carpet – i was able to transfer it from the forum into here for you as you orignally wanted… this takes some reading, but i found it worth it. my own thoughts are eriksson failed with england tbh – yep his record on paper looks okay but we didnt always have to play ‘the hardest’ sides did we? tactically he was poor, he didnt seem to have a clue and you could see he didnt know either more often than no… all too often he would revert to a negative mould and we would sit back and sit back until we eventually cracked then we lost, brazil and portugal just 2 such occasions. we had a couple of real chances to have won tournaments under him but they were blown… given the choice of him or spineless tho, altho i wouldnt want either really going back to sven would be the lesser of 2 evils…

  • Great article Carpet.. well thought out and well constructed. I won’t answer each of the points separately in any great detail as I will hog the responses, but I I will say is that when Sven as appointed there was nobody worth giving the job to. He got slated from day one purely and simply because he was not English. His lack of Englishness immediately became a stick that everybody (supporters as well as the press) could beat him with and boy did he get beaten. His performances in major competitions was always dissapointing mainly becuase of the players he had at his disposal – But players I will add that have large egos and have lost the pride and the feeling of what it means to play for England – It’s funny how since Sven that the players have all of a sudden become blameless. Sure I think Sven made some odd decisions and wound me up at times when he did not show any passion and I also think that he lacked the killer touch and didn’t know how to instruct his team to kill off a game .. but in Summary… How good was Sven? – Well better than most actually. Were the players in the England side good? – Yes, and too big for their boots. we had the best England team I’d ever seen (on paper) going into Euro 04 & WC 06
    What is a good performance for the England side? – With the current set-up Semi finals should be expected
    How much was down to Sven? – A fair amount but a lot of the blame have to go the the players the press and I’m affraid to say it us as supporters – We do not have a devine right to win major competitions …. But (as a cheap parting shot) we shoudl Mr McClaren have a devine right to qualify for them

  • thanks rug for putting the article on here – i had not originally meant it to b so long, but got a little carried away. From the previosu two competitions, we possibly should have beaten portugal, and in euro 2004, we did – its just sols goal was disallowed – and im sure that had we won that, we would nhave gone on to win the tournament. I think that sven had to put up with a lot of stick as england manager, but his record speaks for itselfhe was succsesful

  • Not bad carpet I enjoyed your argument. Sven would have been a hero of the Alf Ramsay kind had he lifted the trophy….remember the guy in charge of the England 2003 World Cup Rugby side that later went to Southampton as Director of Football… now what was his name (does it really matter)…If a jockey rides the winner of the Derby everybody wants to shake his hand, but there again if he falls off the horse in the home straight ??

  • Our problem is that we convince ourselves that we have world class players, and we do not, and that we ahve the best men in authority to win us matches and we do not.
    We have some decent players but they are not the best in the world by any means, and we keep picking players who are not up to the job, and we are afraid to give youth a chance.

  • sadly sven didnt learn from his mistakes as far as his selection for england was concerned – always selectiong ‘the star names’ and not neccessarily the ‘right people’, not giving enough youth a chance has been our downfall for years, spineless steve has been given a 2nd chance, it is now for him to take it and make changes even if it ‘offends’ the egos of too many of out footballers that need this happening to them – he will earn much more respect if he does this…

  • mcclaren dropped david beckham – and when he recalled him, beckham started playing better than he ever had before, as he knew his place was not safe. frank lampard, having been dropped, could come back better – but not if you play him alongside steven gerrard – and i am sure that other playors will pick up there game if they realise there place is not safe anymore. but it needs a bit of guts to pick a team like that.

  • Do we need England in EURO – Yes. Do we want to fail yet again – No. Is qualifying for the World Cup more important – Yes. Will we win EURO if we get there – NO. And finally Do I love Pompey more than England…definitely YES !!

  • Sven did a decent job whilst with England. With the squad of players we had though we should have done better and he seemed unable to get England to do the basics (like passing the ball) when we came close to success.

  • Good footballers pass the ball well naturally, look at the Italian and Argentinian teams yesterday, they need liitle coaching in that area, the coaches job is to pick the best XI to play as a team, Sven struggled to do for the big games and Spineless hasnt got a clue how to do it.

  • credit where it is due even the scots played some nice football yesterday and strung some nice moves together – totally agree with you Owens on svens short comings on the ‘big games’ when it really counted, the games when he needed to stand up and be counted, but the less said about spineless the better 🙂

  • It is a part of the English game now isnt it?
    Loads of promise, bigging the team up and then they let us down by not playing well or letting themselves down when it really matters, we are used to it by now arent we.
    I will never ever understand decisions like taking Walcott to the World Cup and leaving Defoe at home, incredible decision, he still isnt in the full squad now is he, then again he sits on the bench for Arsenal as well.

  • cant we just use the u21 team instead of the senior team? 5 wins out of 5, and 0 goals conceeded – THAT is how to qualify…

  • I think we didn’t realise we had a good thing with Sven until he was gone. A Man City fan I work with was gutted when he took over there, but he’s changed his tune now. And the U21’s would play out of their skins for the senior England side – why not?

  • Not all of them lads, Huddlestone looks good and Milner does as well but put them in with big boys on a Saturday and they look very average.

  • I agree use the u21’s at least they show some passion and commitment and would play their hearts out…………….

  • Eriksson was very good. Don’t forget the mess Keegan left us in. I doubt that we would have reached the QF of both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and Euro 2004 with Keegan in charge on the evidence of the calamity that was Euro 2000. The manner of our defeats to Brazil and Portugal (twice) wasn’t good but all it proved was that Scolari is a great manager and should have replaced Sven when the FA had the chance. I had a £5 at 20/1 on Scolari to become England boss until Barwick cocked up.

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