There has been an increasing call for an improvement in the English game over the last decade with the increase of foreign players into the Premier League and the failings of the English national team, but how are we perceived by people abroad? Well, Spain and Barcelona’s tricky midfielder Xavi has given his opinion on the English game by saying that although it has improved technically, there are still cultural differences that effect the way we play the game. Does he raise some good points or is it a case of stereotyping?
Firstly, Xavi admires English football and the technical players that this country has produced over the years, with the likes of Chris Waddle, John Barnes and Matthew Le Tissier – with also praise for current players like Gerrard and Scholes amongst others. However, despite saying there was a change in style in our game where defenders no longer play hit and hope to the big centre forward, there are some cultural differences compared with his native Spain. He used the example of Jamie Carragher making a defensive clearance into row Z of the stand which would create a cheer from the crowd, but in Spain it would never be applauded.
It is always great when you hear opinions on our football from abroad, especially when they admire our technical players – with the continuing under achievement of the England national team it is nice to be reminded as an English fan that we do have talent and our expectations are not too high. However, I do agree with the point about the football culture we have compared to Spain.
With the likes of Ian Holloway and his new football philosophy which is based on Barcelona’s, it is a step forward into improving our view on how the game is played. Arsene Wenger has helped us become a nation that admires watching attractive, attacking football compared to the common long ball tactics of the past. But if we are to gradually change our football philosophy in this country is there a case for losing our identity in the process? It’s something that is very important to Xavi, who says that although Inter won the Champions League last season, they lacked an identity by just wanting to win, whereas Xavi and his team mates gain satisfaction for how they play football – it’s important to them as winning is.
I believe that Xavi’s comments on our game can be taken quite positively. We do have talented English players and with a changing trend in philosophy, we can start to create a better identity in our football future – starting with applause for technical players showing their creativity on the pitch rather than cheering the ‘if in doubt, kick it out’ motto of old. We can still keep our (as Xavi called it) ‘Warrior’ identity, but with a better focus on celebrating our technically gifted players.