“English football is decades behind the continent” says Raymond Verheijen

“English football is decades behind the continent” says Raymond Verheijen

raymond_profileRaymond Verheijen is a Dutch football coach who has hit out at the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in particular, and the quality of coaching on display in England in general.

Verheijen alleges that the Wenger way of managing has been overtaken by others and that the English game in general is decades behind football played on the continent.

The one time caretaker manager of Wales has been part of the coaching team at three World Cups and European Championships, for Russia, South Korean and his native Netherlands.

He has worked for clubs in Russia, England and Spain, including Chelsea, Manchester City and Barcelona.

When it comes to personal fitness, he has worked with Craig Bellamy and Arjen Robben. Verheijen is author of the book ‘Complete Handbook of Conditioning for Soccer.’

So he is well placed to comment on the relative ability of coaches working around Europe. He spoke to Mark Chapman on BBC Radio 5 live and began by pointing the finger at Wenger, his success rate and the number of injuries sustained by Arsenal players.

Verheijen said: “It is not only this season, it is something that is repeating itself for several seasons. They have a very hard pre-season, almost like in the Marines, and the players have to do extremely hard training. It’s a well known fact that, in conditioning, if you train players too hard in pre-season you increase the injury rate. Secondly you develop short term fitness, in other words fitness that lasts for only three or four months.

“Twenty years ago Arsene Wenger arrived in England & was seen as revolutionary but, first of all, he was relatively revolutionary because he was revolutionary compared to what the people in England were used to. But if you compare it to what the people on the continent were used to in the 1990’s, he was only doing what we already knew in Spain, Germany and Holland.

“And the second thing is that the problem with most revolutionary people is that they are only revolutionary once in their life, and not consistently. So if you are revolutionary twenty years ago, but from then on you keep doing the same thing then, after ten years, everybody has caught up and you are average. Then, ten years later, people have passed you and now you are behind. That is exactly what is happening at Arsenal at the moment.”

Asked if Arsenal players suffered from a greater number of injuries because they spend more time on the ball, Veheijen said: “Within this injury disaster of Arsenal in the last decade they have suffered serious impact injuries and then what we have left is a massive majority of soft tissue injuries, muscle injuries, and that is something that has nothing to do with being in possession most of the time.

“Regarding Aaron Ramsey I don’t what to expect. If you look at his rehabilitation in the last few months, it has been a complete disaster. After three setbacks his rehabilitation took more than three months. Arsenal should be very careful with Aaron in the coming weeks or else he will suffer a fourth setback.”

arsene wenger now grey

The experienced coach was then asked how far he thought the English game was behind countries such as Spain.


“England is decades behind coaching on the continent. Sometimes the truth hurts.

But if you don’t address problem, you’ll never solve it.

“The problem in English football these days is that coaches are behind those in Spain, Germany and Holland and that has to do with the fact there are are big gaps in the education of coaches, and one of them is fitness training. Most English coaches don’t have understanding about conditioning.

“And then you have this gap, and what you see is all these sports scientists from outside football, they jump into that gap. Without any understanding of football. All these people from universities step into the football world and don’t have a clue about the game and they try to compensate for the lack of knowledge of coaches.

“In reality your are solving one problem, but creating another problem.

“You have all these football coaches who don’t understand conditioning. And you have all these sports scientists who don’t understand football. So you have this vicious circle and if you don’t break the circle the pattern will repeat itself.”

Strong words indeed.

It reminded me of my discussions with the former FA Coach John Sitton. How to coach players features large in his forthcoming autobiography.

In the book Sitton says that when he was coaching he found himself being overtaken by “teachers who have never laced a ball in anger.”

The comments by Verheijen about sports scientists suggest that a similar problem exists today.

The Dutchman may have an axe to grind with Arsene Wenger, I don’t know. He may even be putting himself in the frame as the next Arsenal manager. But even if he has an ulterior motive, much of what he says is spot on, writes Vernon Grant.

Since 2003 I have been able to regularly watch Spanish football at all levels. Children playing over the park (though the facilities on offer are much better than that), the B teams playing below La Liga and, of course, the top flight football in the country itself. Throughout the age groups, and levels of football, the technique on display is superior to anything I see in England.


English football can be the most exciting to watch. But it is light years away when it comes to the ability to retain possession, passing, skill on the ball and technique.

True, some home grown players have learned skills from their foreign colleagues. But too many potentially talented young British born players have been thrown on the scrapheap due to the influx of players from overseas. I speak not of the dozen or so good or great foreign players we have seen in the Premier League.

But of the multitude of average overseas players clubs sign simply because their agents are on the telephone offering them at a cut price rate.

The price British football paid for getting into bed with SKY has been a far higher one.

** What say you? Is Verheijen right to criticise the under fire Wenger? Have your say on this feature below.**

1 Comment

  1. John bird 6 years ago

    certainly behind the times in dealing with young footballers – very little medical oversight so that immature bodies are over-training and over playing; they are almost treated as if they are adults. And then we are surprised at the amount of injuries – and wastage of talent -when Todd young players reach the elite level.

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