Thursday, January 30, 2014

Does Mourinho stick or twist on Monday?

Many pundit's assertions that games are 'title deciders' whilst we're barely into February are usually a load of old codswallop but Chelsea's match at the Etihad has taken on a sense of urgency after the dropped points at home to West Ham on Wednesday.

Had Chelsea won and tucked in a point behind City whilst opening up a six point gap from the top three to the rest then Monday's fixture would have been no less crucial.

Now however it takes on the form of a game that Chelsea can ill afford to lose, six points behind a rampant City would be already tough and Liverpool would be able to close back up to one point only.

Mourinho of course will not be fazed ahead of the fixture, he has gone to places such as the Nou Camp and Old Trafford before and won against the odds. The question of course is what tactics he employs.

Mourinho's successes in these types of games have usually been born out of defending deep and hitting quickly on the break and there is no doubt that Chelsea under Mourinho are equipped to do this.

Chelsea this season have secured draws at the Emirates and Old Trafford playing drab unattractive football - Mourinho cares not a jot - and the back line is still completely intact that won the Champions League with a series of heroic rearguard actions.

Nemanda Matic also adds another level of shielding for some of the older legs in that Chelsea backline.

Many Chelsea fans will call for them to be bold given the array of attacking options crowned by the likes of Oscar and Hazard. It is however unlikely that Mourinho will trust to such tactics.

Memories of heavy defeats like the the 5-0 hammering he suffered at the Nou Camp with Real Madrid will still sit firmly in his behind.

Mourinho's career has been defined by pragmatism and it is unlikely he will revert from type against arguably Europe's most potent attacking force.

City's back line is possibly their Achilles heel and in that sense, Chelsea would be well served to attack but City will go into the match full of confidence. Their attitude right now is we'll simply score more goals than you will much the same as Barca under Guardiola.

It will be a long night one suspects for Chelsea fans but that is not to say that they cannot emerge satisfied with a point or even nick a 0-1, such has been the resilience forged under Mourinho teams.

City will however be going into the game as firm favourites - they were unfortunate at the Bridge earlier this season - and will fully expect to win. The big winners on the night may end up being Arsenal - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

So does it really Mata?

Given the flurry of debate already about Juan Mata's 37M move from Chelsea to United and my being a Chelsea fan, I thought I would wait until I'd seen Mata in a United shirt before committing some thoughts to (virtual) paper.

Mata's departure from Chelsea has been a strange one for many people. Normally the thought of your best player from the previous two seasons being sold to ManU of all people would have the natives revolting on the Kings Road.

Arsenal have had a series of bitter battles over previous seasons before ultimately losing players to direct rivals. This however feels very different as it was clearly as much Chelsea's choice as United's to make the transfer happen.

Seeing Mata pull on the United shirt, I felt strangely ambivalent. Had it been Drogba or Lampard in their prime or now Oscar or Eden Hazard I'm sure I would have felt very different, angry even. So why not with Mata?

It may be there is an element of aesthetics with Mata. Oscar buzzes and Hazard always looks full of menace and intent whereas Mata doesn't really look like an athlete, he runs a bit flat footed and even his beard is a bit wispy with a hint of ginger.

Mata during his time was superb for Chelsea and whilst they struggled in the league, the Champions League run alone gives him an almost deified status, but one that apparently quickly evaporated.

I think that I and several other Chelsea fans experience (rather than suffer) an all powerful phenomenon called 'in Jose we trust' and I think a huge part of my being relaxed about this is that Mourinho appears to be even more relaxed about it and to be in complete control.

From the moment Mourinho returned to Chelsea it was clear there was an issue with Mata with a sale to PSG or possibly Barcelona mooted in August.

Mourinho as ever has used the media to the fullest during this time. At the same time as leaving him largely on the bench, he has talked Mata up hugely helping to pitch his value to suitors.

Mourinho has also at the same time trumpeted building the team around Oscar - a decision that is hard to argue with - and made himself appear benevolent in allowing the sale of an unhappy player especially given it's a World Cup year. Mourinho's mastery of the media continues unchecked.

There are of course elements of the deal that make a lot of sense for Chelsea. They have in the past been horribly guilty of buying older players with litle or no resale value.

In the good old days, other than lining the pockets of other clubs it mattered little to Chelsea but the realities of FFP mean deals such as that of Mata and De Brunye are hugely important especially when you have to do things like buy back Nemandja Matic for six times what you sold him for. Moving on...

What is interesting about this transfer is that Mata's initial clause allowing him to leave Chelsea for the right bid excluded United. So what changed?

Well obviously United have had a stinker so far this season and Mourinho may even think Chelsea selling to United is a show of strength. It is obviously a calculated gamble.

Were I running Chelsea, I would be thinking of the ramifications for the club that has been my biggest rival in the Abramovich era should they finish outside the top four.

United's income is massive but even they would baulk at missing out on Champions League qualification given the financial reality of the loans the club has outstanding with the Glazers.

One thing we will never know is what would have happened to Chelsea had they not won the Champions League in such unlikely fashion.

The financial reality of missing on qualifying for the tournament would have probably precluded the purchases of Oscar and Hazard who may have not even wanted to come in that instance regardless.

United can probably survive one season out of the CL given the stature and revenues of the club - Liverpool remain a huge draw as an example - but it could have also become a slippery slope.

Chelsea have offered United a definite lifeline in their quest to stay in the top four but this may not even have come in to their thinking. It is a peculiarity to England that the top clubs have an almost iron fisted will to not sell anyone to each other, it happens regularly in Italy, Germany and Spain.

From United's point of view, it is a huge shot in the arm for a team that has been so bereft of quality and who has been so heavily criticised for missing Summer transfer targets.

What is less clear is how Moyes assembles his team. Like Mourinho, Moyes' teams tend to be hardworking and tactically disciplined. Mata was deemed by Mourinho not to fit into this mould.

Moyes' tactics have so far proven very cautious shown up in his ability to use Kagawa. Mata is probably a level up in terms of quality from Kagawa but he is a similiar impish type of player.

Mata one would imagine would fit in wonderfully at Arsenal or Barcelona where short passing and possession is the order of the day, Moyes' teams tend to be more about tempo. Fine player or not, both Moyes and Mata are both going to have to adapt.

Presumably the reason United handed Moyes a six year contract is because they believe he has the nous to figure out how to solve riddles like how to play the likes of Van Persie, Rooney, Mata and Januzaj together.

United have sorely lacked creativity this season but one wonders if the criticism over the handling of their interest in Fabregas and missing Ozil completely has just forced them to buy the next diminutive No10 that was available.

Over time we will of course find out who got the best end of the deal. Chelsea may care not, they have reinvested the money quickly and Mohamed Salah looks far more of a Mourinho player in terms of his energy.

It is hard to imagine that any team would not benefit from having Juan Mata on their books but Moyes in particular is going to have to work hard to evolve his tactics and system to get the best out of his new playmaker and accomodate both Rooney and RVP.

For my own part, I wish Juan Mata all the best, 20 goals a season for the next five years, I don't even mind the odd player of the season award, just no trophies though please unless he's in a Spain shirt - No Nonsense.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Steven Finn-ished?

Writing further articles about England's Ashes Horribilus is probably not required. What is amazing however is that the bad news just keeps coming and it's not confined to what is happening on the pitch.

Steven Finn has become the third player to return home from the tour after Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann both bolted much earlier. Finn's departure will go mainly unnoticed as unless you'd looked at the original touring squad sheet you wouldn't have even known he was there.

What is quite ironic is that during Australia's sojourn to England last year, England were being heralded as the very appliance of science, the sophisticated answer to the uncouth Australians so epitomised by Darren Lehmann's up and at 'em approach.

Since that point of course, Australia have managed to wonderfully rehabilitate David Warner and Mitchell Johnson, coax much improved performances out of Steven Smith and Nathan Lyon and given Brad Haddin one hell of an Indian Summer.

At the same time, Andrew Flower's meticulously detailed and planned England side have seen their young players flounder (Stokes aside), their batting disintegrate, failed to spot that Jonathan Trott and Steven Finn were in no shape to play competitive cricket and didn't realise that Graeme Swann wasn't good enough to play the sport in any shape or form. And no one wants to explain why?

I cannot begin to suggest I know the detailed ins and outs of the Steven Finn issue but to me it seems bizarre to say the least and not without a whole heap of blame that should be shouldered by the ECB.

Steven Finn is now 24 years old, is 6ft 7in, can bowl at 90mph and had we were told modelled his action on Glenn McGrath (seems like a pretty good idea to me). Despite his sporadic inconsistency his International figures are more than respectable. He should be approaching his prime. So how did we get here?

Much has been made of Finn hitting the stumps constantly with his bowling arm. The rule change to make that a no ball prompting a revision of his action by his coaches.

Now I know it's not just as simple as 'move three inches to the left mate' but even to my layman's brain I honestly can't see that as a deal breaker.

Finn played the opening test in the English Summer and then was promptly dropped, he did not play well it has to be said. A similar occurrence was found in the previous Australian tour where he played at the start only to be left out later.

From what I have read and been told, Finn was not really in contention for a place in the team on this tour from the outset, so if that was the case why on earth take him?

Whilst much of the problem is with his action, there is clearly a huge mental aspect to the problem too and one has to ask what effect the ECB's handling of Finn has had, constantly dropping him and then taking him on a tour with no prospect of any cricket.

It sounds as if the guy is completely shattered mentally and if that is the case then hitting the stumps as he bowls is clearly not the problem.

At a very basic level, I find it hard to understand how a centrally contracted and hugely talented player can at 24 years old have such fundamental technical problems that he is rendered unable to bowl.

It is like having a formula one driver and suddenly finding out he can't change gear properly. Why are these things not identified so much earlier?

This article is I'm sure hugely over simplifying the issue but it is born out of frustration that two players, Trott and Finn (we'll leave Swann to one side) who should have been mainstays of the side have been allowed to get to such dreadful stages in their careers.

This England tour has been a debacle and the potential loss of one of the game's bright young talents is just one more straw on an already broken camel's back - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mourinho tweaks his Chelsea

Jose Mourinho is like marmite, people either love him or hate him. Few people would however doubt his abilities as a coach and tactician. His use of substitutions for instance is often unparallelled.

There have however been many questions asked since his return to Chelsea with regard to the way his team have ben playing. Chelsea have been leaking goals, their strikers have not been scoring and the absences of Juan Mata have been seen by many as mind boggling.

Matters appeared to reach a nadir after Chelsea inexplicably lost to at Stoke on Dec 7th, a game they had appeared in complete control of during the first half before allowing Stephen Ireland to equalise just before the break.

Mourinho's post match interview was a classic, full of high drama stating his side were 'in trouble'.

He followed this up after Chelsea's cup loss to Sunderland with snippets such as 'I don't want to, to play more counterattacking, but I'm giving it serious thought'. 'If I want to win 1-0 I think I can as it one of the easiest things in football'.

No should be fooled by the 'I don't want to', this was Mourinho signalling enough is enough and it's time to start getting results, he's simply not interested in playing like Barcelona.

Since losing to Sunderland, Chelsea's results have read 0-0 (Arsenal), 1-0 (Swansea), 2-1 (Liverpool), 3-0 (Southampton), 2-0 (Derby) and 2-0 (Hull). 5 wins and a draw at the Emirates and only one goal conceded. Much more Jose like.

Now it may be premature writing this before playing ManU but whatever Mourinho has subtely changed, it has so far worked in terms of the goals conceded column. Chelsea are still playing the same 4-2-3-1 system but the players' duties and set up has clearly changed.

One interesting point is that other than the fairly dire goalless draw with Arsenal, Frank Lampard has been absent from the starting line up for all the clean sheets but started against Liverpool when Chelsea conceded.

Lampard has been the midfield dynamo behind much of Chelsea's success for many years and Mourinho's previous 4-3-3 system at Chelsea suited his late arrivals in the box wonderfully. As a holding midfielder however he is found lacking (many Liverpool watchers are advocating the same issue with Steven Gerrard) and obviously his legs are not what they were.

I'm personally still of the opinion that David Luiz is a central defender and not a midfielder but Mourinho is experimenting with this in the same way that Rafa Benitez did last season around the same time of the year.

The re-signing of Nemanja Matic and the departure of Kevin De Bruyne makes much sense from Mourinho's point of view. Chelsea desperately need a quality holding player to make this system work and the late purchase of Willian left Chelsea with at least one too many attacking midfielders.

The absurd lack of long term thinking from Chelsea in terms of valuing Matic at 3M as a make weight in the David Luiz transfer three years ago is another discussion but such are the problems when you see coaches as disposal items.

Chelsea played out a dire 0-0 draw with United early this season - Mourinho possibly not grasping how poor United were at that stage and that a win was there for the taking - and it will be interesting to see how Mourinho approaches Sunday's game.

A Chelsea win would effectively kill off any hopes of a concerted United revival given the favourable fixtures the other top sides have this weekend. Regardless, given the relative form and line ups, Mourinho should be setting his team up to win.

It may be next season  - and it may be the cause of fresh tension between Mourinho and Abramovich - before 'Mourinho's Chelsea' re-emerges but the recent goals against column would indicate a fresh level of pragmatism at the Bridge - No Nonsense.

Friday, January 10, 2014

World Cup profiles - England

As any self respecting Scotsman that has lived previously in London knows, we are only about a month or so away from the red top tabloids beginning to trumpet England's prospects of winning the World Cup, World in Motion by New Order and Skinner and Baddiel will be all over the radio and Sportsweek will interview Sir Geoff Hirst and Peter Shilton constantly.

However, for the first time since England failed to qualify in 1994 there does appear to be far more realism about just how limited this current England squad is. So just how far can they go?

To kick off, England have a tough group and will probably have to beat one of either Uruguay or Italy  to qualify if one is to assume that Costa Rica will be the whipping boys. My very own Scotland were famously beaten by Costa Rica 1-0 at the 1990 World Cup but one would think England should be good enough to avoid that fate.

In the recent past, England have had many fine players, the likes of Shearer, Ferdinand, Scholes, Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Gary Neville and Michael Owen in his pomp would grace many teams at the highest level. So how good is the current crop?

Should Joe Hart be fit and re-find his best form then England have a fine top class keeper the equal of most at the tournament. Should however he continue to impersonate one of the Chuckle Brothers then  England have a serious problem as none of the back up keepers are proven nor of the required calibre.

England must be wishing that either Leighton Baines or Ashley Cole were right footed and could play in tandem on the left and right. Cole has been one of the few truly world class players that England possess but he is coming to the end and even Jose Mourinho seems to have lost a little faith.

Baines is a wonderful attacking option with his crossing and dead ball striking but he is suspect against the very best defensively. It doesn't always show up in the Premiership but he was found wanting in England's recent friendly defeat. Regardless, Hodgson has far bigger issues and left back will not be of paramount concern.

At right back, both Glenn Johnson and Kyle Walker are substandard defensively and will be in for a tough time against the better sides as their positional play is simply not good enough. Johnson will probably get the nod for the starting berth but it is a problem area for England.

Centre back
Hodgson's preferred pairing appears to be Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. Both are good solid Premiership defenders but the reality is they are a level down from the likes of Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand in their prime.

Cahill has definitely benefitted from moving to Chelsea and playing in the Champions League but one would fear for this pairing against the pace and movement of the very best attacking players.

Whilst used all over the pitch for United, I firmly believe that Phil Jones' best position is at centre back and I think he will develop into a fine one. Whether he has enough experience (and fitness) to play for England regularly there yet is questionable however. His versatility will probably mean he remains a good bench option for Hodgson in Brazil.

Central midfield
In the past, England have had a plethora of great central midfielders, Paul Gascoigne, Paul Ince, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and the problem for the past decade has simply been trying to get the right blend.

Gerrard and Lampard remain but they are fading forces although Gerrard can still contribute fully this Summer. Lampard may have to make do with coming off the bench to try to rescue games for England.

Jack Wilshire remains an enigma with his place in the centre for Arsenal even being in jeopardy this season. His injury problems have been horrendous and for the time being it seems that both Wenger and Hodgson have lost some faith in him. A fit and firing Wilshire would be a huge plus for England this Summer.

Michael Carrick had a fine season for United last year but he has had injury problems again this season. If England were to play a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 then he would be a fine choice for a holding role. He is not the most glamorous of players but his teammates always value his contribution.

A lack of mobility against passing and movement leaves him vulnerable defensively however.

I have to say I am not a fan of either James Milner or Tom Cleverley and like Carrick, when they are playing top class players with top class movement, they are left as passengers with a slight resemblance to wheely bins in white shirts.

Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley both appear to be making late runs at the squad along with Adam Lallana. Of the three only Barkley to me appears to have the potential to influence a World Cup game at the sharp end of things and should be worth a gamble.

Gascoigne made a late run at Italia '90 and came a hair's breadth from inspiring England into the final.

Wide/attacking players
Whilst it is not entirely clear what formation Hodgson will employ, he does have options further up the pitch.

Andros Townsend for the record is NOT yet a world beater. He has a lot of potential but he is not England's saviour regardless of what the red tops would have you believe. His recent performances for Spurs have been fairly mediocre. If expectations are managed, he could contribute well for England this Summer however.

Jay Rodriguez for me does not look top class although he is undoubtedly a good player. Aaron Lennon may be an interesting option if he is fit and whilst he can be woefully wasteful he can also terrorise teams with his pace and he has an uncanny knack of often bringing balance to a team with his natural width. May be another good option off the bench.

Another player who will certainly come in to contention is Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain. He has been a favourite of Hodgson in the past and should he get himself fit he could certainly find himself in the reckoning for one of the wide berths. He is another pacey and direct player.

Theo Walcott has sadly been ruled out of the tournament - he appears to have some kind of World Cup curse - but in Daniel Sturridge and Danny Wellbeck, Hodgson has two young strikers who offer movement, pace, flexibility and goals.

Ashley Young's poor club form would appear to rule him out of the starting reckoning for England but his United teammate Wayne Rooney will again be England's talisman this Summer. Since his initial burst in Portugal 2004, Rooney has failed to fire at a major tournament with either injury, loss of form through being in poor condition or simply England not qualifying to blame.

Rooney has no doubt had a fine career but if he really wants to be remembered as a great and not just someone who earned 300K a week then Brazil is the time for him to finally produce the goods. We have seen in the past that a single player can inspire an otherwise average team and much of England's hopes could rest on England's premier granny fancier.

My own view is that England could qualify from their group but it will be tough. Uruguay are not for me an elite team but they are playing on their own continent and Cavani and Suarez will a formidable pair to play against. Chile showed up England's deficiencies badly recently and Uruguay will be a tough test.

England must focus on beating both them and Costa Rica as Italy will be tough opposition and England have a poor record against them.

If England do get through the group then I feel unfortunately that they will simply be left waiting for one of the better teams to put them out of their inevitable misery. I simply don't see England as in any way capable of challenging for the tournament this time around and a quarter final berth would be an amazing achievement in my view.

In terms of the formation that Hodgson should employ I would urge him to employ a system that allows some fluidity for the attacking players and some protection for the central defenders. Looking at the players that England have, either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 looks best to me. I would have Hart in goal, a back four of Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill and either Cole or Baines depending on who looks best come June.

In front of them I would employ two sitting players, one of whom would be a more disciplined and less leggy Steven Gerrard. The other would be one of either Carrick, Phil Jones (if you were feeling ultra defensive and were facing a Messi etc) or possibly Jack Wilshire in a deep lying playmaker role.

With the exception of Ashley Cole, none of England's fullbacks are overly defense minded so two holding players would assist in allowing them to bomb forwards.

Playing in a more free central role (hence it's either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 depending on how far up that player pushes, the latter system possibly requiring the wide players to do more defensive work) I would either have Wilshire (if not in the deep lying role obviously) or possibly Ross Barkley if his form continues for Everton.

You could alternatively push Gerrard further forward, the whole point of the system being the players  are interchangeable whilst offering protection for a back four that may require it with the two holding players at all times.

I'd then have a front three of Sturridge and Wellbeck offering wide support to Wayne Rooney. The two of them or maybe even the three of them being interchangeable. The likes of Aaron Lennon, Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Andros Townsend provide a more 'midfield' option in the wider positions depending on the nature of the game and opposition.

England over the years have become far too rigid since Glenn Hoddle left his post. All the top teams are employing fluid fast moving systems and with the likes of Barkley, Wilshire, Sturridge, Wellbeck, Rooney, Lennon and Townsend they have pacey, attack minded and mobile players, England must play to what strengths they have.

As mentioned, England could get out of their group but to do so they will almost certainly have to beat Costa Rica and Uruguay or get one hell of a result against Italy - No Nonsense.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Ashes reviewed.

There have been few sporting contests predicted to be closely fought that can have ended so one sided as when England were almost humanely, quickly put out of their abject misery inside three days at the SCG. There has been much strong language and hyperbole used but quite simply England were pathetic.

Much of this however is to Autralia's dis-credit, as Richie would have said, they were quite simply 'marvellous'. They fully deserve all the plaudits coming their way. And more so because this is far from a great Australian team.

When I was present at the '06 whitewash, the names were absurdly good. Hayden, Ponting, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath, everyone knows the iconic line up. England had lost Vaughan, Trescothick and Simon Jones and Flintoff and Harmison had tuned out. 5-0 was horrible but almost understandable.

This team however is great because it is more than the sum of its' parts. Clarke and Harris are world class, Johnson has been inspired and the likes of Warner, Rogers, Haddin and Smith have batted like trojans.

You can tell when a team is benefitting from playing like one. Nathan Lyon is a prime example. Such has been the hostility being rained down from Harris, Johnson and even Siddle that the England batsmen simply queued up to play shots against Lyon and get the hell out of Dodge. 19 wickets at 29 and change, thank you very much guys.

All around the pitch, the players have fed off each other's performances. Lehmann was much maligned for a lack of a scientific approach but he has galvanised a spirit that has taken full advantage of Mickey Arthur's approach work.

Mitchell Johnson's rehabilitation has been incredible. Let's remember he didn't even feature in this Ashes double header before Brisbane. Many comments had people never wanting him near a Baggy Green again. 37 wickets at a whisker under 14, nothing else to say really.

The question about Johnson was just how much of his performance was down to England offering no contest? Johnson can be unplayable but he is fragile and has been taken on many times before. Nothing should be taken away from his performances but Smith, Amla, De Villiers and co won't run scared so easily. Fantastic performance regardless.

Harris at the other end was also immense, strangling the run rate with Johnson much as Gillespie and McGrath in tandem at their peak did. He is a truly world class performer. Get him well rested up, he is a true weapon.

The batting was good but chinks in the armour remain. Steyn, Morkel and Philander will offer a far stronger examination (admittedly Zimbabwe would probably be tougher than England right now).

In David Warner, Australia have finally found an attacking opener to fill the void left by Matthew Hayden. Whilst not as dominant or destructive as the big Queenslander, Warner has proven to be a fine player since he was reintegrated to the side and should expect to be a mainstay.

Chris Rogers' age unfortunately means he is already towards the end of is career but he has been an excellent foil for the pugnacious Warner and finding (in time) a steady opening partner (much like Langer was to Hayden) for him could give Australia a strong opening platform for some years.

Watson again flatters to deceive and whilst he remains a solid enough option, a longer term no3 solution may need to be found. Clarke will be the no4 for as long as his back holds out. Whilst the Ashes were still being fought for he was superb only tailing off in the dead rubbers.

Steve Smith has most definitely come of age and with Haddin in the form of his life, if a solid no6 could be found then Australia have undoubted depth to their batting line up again.

The bowling attack has been much vaunted and with other seamers in reserve, Australia look in rude health in that department. Nathan Lyon has proven more than capable of holding down an end, the bowling looks in good nick.

Should Australia do as they have done in the past and press on from a winning position and find fresh talent then their future looks infinitely better than it did just six months ago. The players should be commended for a fabulous effort.

England however are in ruins and deserve to be shipped back home, not flown. Cook denies that they simply gave up but what other conclusion can anyone come to?

I have been present in person at many England debacles in Australia dating back to 2002 but the SCG on Sunday was a new low.  To be bowled out in less than 32 overs when all the England faithful were asking for was to at least go down trying was just the final insult.

Alastair Cook must take much criticism. Both on and off the field, his almost laissez-faire attitude to both his batting and his admission and explanation of the team's performances has simply not been good enough. Like the majority of the senior players, Cook has projected an image of a man who would simply be rather hiding in the pavilion.

Whilst Cook clearly has to stand up for his team publicly, his down playing of just how bad England have been borders on the insulting to the fans. England were not just beaten in every test, they were thrashed. Even at Melbourne with the series already gone, England took a winning position and contrived to be soundly beaten by Australia. The captain must take responsibility.

The coaching staff must also accept huge blame. How could they completely miss Jonathan Trott's state of mind? How could Graeme Swann be talked as a match winner only to be accepted as ready for pasture after the WACA?

We are continually told that Graeme Gooch is a wonder batting coach yet England's batting has been abysmal since Steyn and co took England apart over eighteen months ago.

Then there is the curious case of Steven Finn who's participation on this tour was precisely zero. Finn it should be remembered bowled in the first test back in England and has done nothing since. Why was he even here?

England decided Finn was too big a risk at either the Gabba or at Adelaide. After that England were in tatters, undone by pace and aggression from Australia, and we headed to the WACA. A pitch that holds demons for England.

Harris and Johnson were unleashed against England and whilst Johnson didn't do quite the predicted damage, Australia were rewarded again for their bowling aggression. Finn can be expensive (so can Johnson) but he is a huge man and bowls at 90mph. He is a true strike bowler.

England reverted to Tim Bresnan now shorn of what pace he had due to injury instead of Monty Panesar. Bresnan should have replaced Graeme Swann and Panesar either kept or replaced by Finn. Could Finn really have done any worse than the rest?

Bizarrely, the 29 year old Boyd Rankin - a so so ODI player at best - was brought in to the slaughter at the SCG. We are told constantly that Finn is a work in progress with huge potential. Rankin is a better long term prospect than Finn? I would wager decent money that Rankin never plays another test for England and what little confidence Finn ever had has been entirely destroyed.

Aside from Cook, what of England's senior players? KP looks more and more whimsical as to his contributions. He often threatened during this tour but always disappointed. At the SCG he was appalling. How long is he for the test world? No one can be sure.

Bell started promisingly and it may just be that he became disillusioned with the abject failure around him, either way it was not good enough.

The less said about either Matt Prior or Graeme Swann the better. At least Prior had enough self respect and manners to stick around and carry out 12th man duties, he may come again.

Broad and Anderson are England's new ball pair and whilst neither can be proud of their performances, both at least competed and kept going with Broad in particular being able to walk away with his reputation only lessened slightly.

Of the younger players, only Ben Stokes did anything to enhance his reputation and the no6 slot looks his to lose now. He at least showed some heart and simply did the basic things well such as getting bat on ball. His bowling was a welcome plus point also and he was England's player of the tour.

Michael Carberry was always a short term answer and Nick Compton must be wondering exactly what he has done wrong. We were constantly told how well Carberry left the ball but he seemed to leave quite a few that didn't leave his off stump alone.

He also played ludicrously defensively in relation to his natural game. Admittedly he hasn't faced Harris and Johnson before in front of a screaming Aussie crowd.

We are also unsure as to where Joe Root goes from here. He is clearly young and talented but so we were told was Johnny Bairstow. Root has played only two truly quality innings in these ten Ashes tests, Lords and Adelaide and the reality is there was a reason he was dropped for the SCG. Root is no longer a rookie and he needs to start scoring runs soon.

Monty Panesar is not the solution for England in terms of replacing Graeme Swann, he simply does not have the character nor the athleticism to compete effectively in test cricket. For Borthwick, mastering the art of wrist spin at test level may be a bridge too far.

Cook has said he wishes to carry on and to be honest there is no real alternative to his leadership. Cook however needs a change in mindset and needs to start scoring runs again if he is to become an effective captain and leader.

Andy Flower has taken many plaudits for England's success and he must therefore take much of the blame for such abject failure. His lack of humility and acceptance of any blame has been hugely disappointing and one must wonder about his commitment to the cause (other than the pay packet) given the rumours of his leaving ahead of this series regardless.

England must obviously not press the panic button but much needs to be remedied quickly. What is concerning is that once they regroup, this coming Summer on green English pitches and cool weather, they may be good enough to beat India who never travel well. That would paper over cracks as big as on the day four pitch in Perth, England must not be fooled.

Days two and three in Sydney were just abject. Such was the one sidedness, it even filtered into the crowd who were very subdued - other than the constant flurry of wickets - with even the Barmy Army finally succumbing to the malaise.

The last words however should be reserved for the victors who have been truly superb. Congratulations to Australia, worthy winners of this Ashes series. It was men against boys - No Nonsense.