As we move to within 100 days of the World Cup, all eyes will be on the England team this week to see if there are any signs that they can cause an upset this summer. Hodgson’s recent sides have been accused of being overly deliberative and pretty painful on the eye; England squeezed through a group that contained teams unlikely to cause concerns for other teams going to the World Cup. But fear not because Hodgson has promised us change, starting tonight against Denmark.
Criticism has focused on persistence with the old guard and a lack of pace and penetration throughout the team. Something that seems a little ridiculous when we have a talent pool containing the likes of Walcott, Sterling, Townsend and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Clearly there are players here with an abundance of pace and attacking flair, Hodgson just needs to galvanise this within a system. The England boss outlined his strategy ahead of a crucial summer in Brazil:
“After the Euros we were bemoaning the fact there weren’t so many young players coming through that excited us and gave us real hope for the future. But with all these young players emerging there’s an awful lot more alternatives in how we want to set our team up today than there was two years ago. And that’s got to be good.”
“Liverpool have seized upon a system of play which enables them to get their best players on the field in the positions in which they’re comfortable. We have a number of Liverpool players so it’s quite possible for us to ask Steve to play in that slightly more withdrawn position.”
There are suggestions that Hodgson may well start with as many as five Liverpool players tonight something that hasn’t been seen since 1977 and something which will be sure to ruffle a few feathers. Hodgson though is clearly impressed with Liverpool, a side that under Rodgers have played some of the most eye-catching football in the Premier League and a side that has a strong English core to it.
People often criticise the England team for being stuck in its ways and lacking the fresh dynamism of other nations. England have no chance of winning the World Cup playing the football they have during the qualifiers, so change is clearly required.
Liverpool have been both successful and entertaining playing the way they have, and Hodgson’s apparent desire to emulate the Merseysiders makes a lot of sense. In Brazil a lot of the focus will be on conservation of energy and being efficient when you are on the ball. England in recent times have been pretty ineffective with the possession they have and in the heat of Brazil this could lead to them being easily found out. At Liverpool though the emphasis is on breaking with pace and hitting the opposition when they least expect it. With a robust back line and pacey wide men England definitely have the tools to imitate this; and given that during the latter stages they cant expect the lions share of possession this could well work in England’s favour.
For Hodgson though the dilemma surround the level of risk to take in Brazil. The likes of Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain are clearly highly talented, but are they ready?
I am sure this is something we won’t find out until June, but for Hodgson the decision is a no brainer. To go with what has proved to be so mediocre already, would mean failure before the team even get on that plane.
Going with what has worked for Liverpool gives England the chance to spring a surprise this summer, and more importantly give the country as a whole a bit of hope going forward. It could fail, but as an ambitious nation we should be trying new things rather than being content with mediocrity.