Although results have made impressive statistics for Roy’s men during the European qualifying rounds, many have suggested those stats will come to an uninspiring end in France this summer if recent performances have anything to do with it.
Be it England have an impressive winning record, their wins have come mostly against much lesser ranked side across the globe. Roy Hodgson has recently claimed this is a ‘side in progress’ and a side he has been building since he took over from Fabio Capello in 2012. There is little doubt Roy Hodgson has steadied a sinking ship after an all but disastrous campaign under the Italian, something he must be credited for. However in the last couple of years, which included a poor showing at the 2014 World Cup to be polite, there has been little evidence of the team making significant progression under his stewardship.
When the squad was recently cut to its final 23 for the European championships there had been some enthusiasm over the amount of attacking intent it showed. Yet after recent showings including last night’s bleak 1-0 victory over, a poor Portugal side, there should be much room for concern.
Roy Hodgson’s persistence towards Wayne Rooney again caused a problem in the teams attacking phases. Rooney, accommodated in behind Vardy and Kane, who scored a combined 49 Premier League goals last season, forced the duo so wide at times with his forward running that they may as well had been sitting with the England faithful in the stands.
This resulted in ineffective performances from the striking duo who could do very little to make an impact in unfavoured positions. Tottenham youngster Dele Alli was also pushed out of his natural central position in order to use Rooney in a central role and the 20-year-old’s lack of influence was also evident.
The inclusion of Liverpool’s James Milner was another negative move, coming in the final game before the competition. Accommodating his favoured players whilst consistently using steady, hardworking and trustworthy players, such as Milner and Rooney, has been regularly demonstrated by Hodgson throughout his reign. He has been giving signs that he knows his best 11 of which will start against Russia on June 11 but if that was supposed to be his favoured side last night then surely Roy will have no choice but to reconsider. Well, we hope.
Roy Hodgson has often favoured defence over attack, not to concede rather than to out-score the opposition. There is obviously nothing wrong with building a strong, stable defensive unit but it has always been the attacking balance of the side that has suffered, despite having the quality of attacking players at his disposal. It would appear that a Counter Attack style suits England’s strengths and this tactic has often been applied and has suited them historically. If England are to play to these strengths then Hodgson must accommodate players in their correct positions whilst engaging players in form for their clubs.
What comes across as staggering is the recent rumours from the FA that they will extend Hodgson’s reign onto the World Cup in 2018, regardless of how England fair this summer. This has to be an all or nothing scenario for the 68 year-old. It has become too easy to state this is a ‘team for the future’ or a ‘side in progress’. Yes, Hodgson has bought stability to the national side but without any real evidence of significant progress, the last World Cup a fine indicator of that. It has been clear to see that England have struggled greatly against the better sides in Europe, which has resulted in their under achievement. The reasons for this have included an inferior pressing game, lack of purpose and ability in possession and a poor balance in the side.
To match England’s ambitions these factors will need to change and this summer is the ultimate presentation of Roy Hodgson’s work over the last four years. This England team has the ability and the players in form to mount a successful run in France but it is ultimately only the manager that will be able utilise them in the correct manner. If England fall again like they did in Brazil two years ago and the FA decide to persist with Hodgson, perhaps those ambitions don’t really exist.
(Image sourced from Sky Sports)