Time for England to be more expansive

England manager Roy Hodgson

There is an age-old theory that England basically need to forget about their opponents and concentrate on their own style of play; a traditional English mindset if ever there was one, but not one which Roy Hodgson is currently willing to accept.

The recent World Cup qualifier against Poland, excuses of sleeping pills aside, was a dour reminder of how far the Three Lions are behind the world’s leading nations; and how we struggled to deal with the attacking threat of a side ranked 54th by FIFA.

Hodgson’s decision to start the likes of James Milner and Tom Cleverley on the wings showed the cautious style of his management; as Milner could hardly be described as an attacking winger, while Cleverley is a central midfielder by trade and looked completely lost on the left.

Though this pragmatic style of management does have it merits, with England progressing to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 despite being on the back foot for considerable periods in the group stages; particularly against France and Ukraine, before the inevitable shoot-out defeat to Italy.

It is this safety-first approach which Hodgson seeks to implement for England at the expense of more adventurous players including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Lennon; with the former largely reduced to cameo substitute appearances, while the latter is yet to be given a chance in the latest regime.

So should England become more tactically adventurous? The answer is a resounding yes, especially in the qualifying matches; with many fans eager to see wingers running at full-backs rather than acting as an extra line of defence.

But in order to succeed using this tactical approach, the side needs central defenders who are comfortable playing the ball out from defence so that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick do not have to drop deeper to clear away any danger.

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Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott are both reliable defenders and can make that crucial last-ditch tackle, but neither is well-adept to passing their way out of trouble.

This is something both players need to improve on if Hodgson decides to implement a more flowing, attacking style of football.

Meanwhile in midfield, Carrick in particular is a player whose distribution skills are often underrated; and he can easily pick out a killer pass while playing for Manchester United, but becomes increasing susceptible to mistakes in international football.

He is a player who can cause opposition teams problems, if he is allowed to dictate the pace of the game and find wingers or front men in space.

But there are signs that Hodgson is considering a more positive approach, with the use of Wayne Rooney in a deeper position to supply the likes of Jermain Defoe in the lone striker role.

Although even Rooney needs service on occasion; and was not helped by Poland forcing England to play so deep, but such is his selfless attitude that he would track back and defend, often to the detriment of his own game.

I like every other England fan would love to see the team playing more positively and we certainly have the personnel who can make a difference.

Of course, when playing the very top teams such as Spain and Germany there is credence to undertaking a less gung-ho approach; but in most other matches, Hodgson should use attackingly dynamic wingers like Ashley Young, Lennon and Oxlade-Chamberlain while encouraging his side to play out from the back.

There is no doubt that England are some way from being realistic contenders for any major tournament in the near future, but they will at least win plaudits for being more adventurous and courageous in their style of play; with a willingness to use their own firepower to take on any team.

You can follow me on twitter: @JamesHilsum


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