Euro 2012: England’s Ashley Young has a greater burden than United’s Ashley Young

In April 2012, they came at Ashley Young with pitchforks: they’d had enough of his theatrics. It’s June 2012, and now they don’t dare: Young has become England’s key player, the most in-form and, with it, the most influential in what is a depleted, generally uninspired national side. Still, Young can bring theatre to a side that badly needs it and, perhaps, should they need it, some trademark theatrics in the 18-yard box in order to con the referee.

As the France opener approaches, he has found himself with a burden greater than he ever had at Manchester United in the season gone; though, what happens over the next few weeks might have an impact, though small, on his Old Trafford career. At 26, Young is at an age where players are said to be at their peak, and there are signs that he is about there, however profligate he may be at times, and however many times his rawness from his days at Aston Villa and, further along the line, Watford happen to be evident. Roy Hodgson will play him away from the left and into the centre, alongside, not behind, a proper striker. Whether that is Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck shouldn’t change too much from his angle; though he might be better suited to play with the latter as it’s his club partner, though, then again, Young is more similar to Welbeck than Carroll in style of play so the Liverpool forward could be favoured to add something different; whatever that is.

Anyway, Young playing centrally could have some relevance to his club; the signing of attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa signals that United want someone behind Wayne Rooney, and should he be unavailable or rotated for any future club games, Young could be expected to play in that role, especially if he impresses for England during Euro 2012. If England were to play well — wahey! — you’d predict Young would have something to do with it. In fact, Ashley Young is England; he’s either scored or created 11 of England’s last 20 goals (Opta). France mustn’t beware of key players Steven Gerrard or Welbeck or Martin Kelly. It’s Young they have to deal with, Young they have to frustrate.

England and Hodgson might not immediately recognise the side’s reliance on the player but it does exist; he is creative from open play or on the set-piece, prolific in front of goal, shown against Norway and Belgium in the warm-ups, as he almost always manages to provide the breakthrough. He scored a wonderful solo goal in the first and then hit a cleverly weighted through pass for Welbeck against Belgium. England were average at best in both but Young’s moments helped Hodgson maintain respectability in his first few weeks as manager, despite the blows caused by selection and the re-emergence of the John Terry race row.

Young’s only problem is that he drifts out of games far too much; something this site touched on a few months back, where his first season at United could be defined by “one or two good moments [in a game], but otherwise [overall] frustrating”. Both friendly games, at least, were highly efficient performances where he was always available and always part of the game, but it is realistic that this problem will re-appear, especially as England take on considerably better teams.

Some other questions …

What can Hodgson do with England?

In yesterday’s Euro 2012 predictions piece, one question that perhaps, on reflection, could have been posed to the panel was whether Roy Hodgson could bring the good times back make England a proper threat, and not just an underdog with a sniff, even a powerful one like Russia or Croatia. The players England have are better than those two sides — though I say that naively — and, realistically, could aim for better. Indeed, a semi final, though unlikely, is possible if England see off France in Group D and then play either one of Italy, Ireland or Croatia (i.e avoiding Spain) in the quarters.

Yes, Hodgson’s side is slightly uninspiring in some places — the six (SIX) Liverpool players a bit baffling — but a good run is possible, they just need to apply the right things.

You know, the three non-Barcelona teams to have won the Champions League in last five years all played the Spanish side in the semi final and defended deep in at least, though not limited to, one leg. All three — Manchester United, Inter, Chelsea — were criticised in some way but it should now be accepted — that “parking the bus” is like any other strategy. England have done similar, though not as extreme as those, in the warm-up games. Four 1-0s/0-0s, and generally being hard to break down, can see relative success; a place in the last eight. They’ll be like Greece 2004 — well, they’ll try to be. They won’t win the thing, for sure. Though the Spain friendly in November 2011, where England won 1-0, give weight to optimists’ arguments who think they can beat the bigger sides, hoping for a stubborn unit that can pluck goals on the counter or on set-pieces.

Welbeck or Carroll?

Welbeck. Next.

The title of this piece is a bit long, you know?

We know.


One response to “Euro 2012: England’s Ashley Young has a greater burden than United’s Ashley Young”

  1. Doug says :

    By my count (maybe I missed 1 or 2) Welbeck touched the ball 3. Yes he scored the goal but England were effectively playing 10 against 11. They were outnumbered in midfield and seriously out possessed.

    Welbeck and Ox are the only two players with technical skill and speed on a team that overall is pretty slow and not very technically adept (especially in midfield) with the ball. 4–4-2 cedes possession. France is loaded with pace and technical skills. If England had a problem with 4-4-2 against a weak team, it could be worse against France unless England changes their formation.

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