Hodgson must change for England’s benefit
Becoming stuck in a rut is a habit that even the most content of people hope to avoid. The repetitive nature of circumstances that produce mediocre results is perhaps the most frustrating outcome. In order to progress, one must find ways of escaping this repetitiveness and take advancing steps toward development. This practice is undoubtedly required from Roy Hodgson and his England setup. Too long have England been thwarted at an early stage in International tournaments, never having the technical ability to beat the worlds elite. Bloodied hard work is just not enough sometimes and with Spain’s triple crown glistening above Europe for all to admire, it may be time to ditch the way of ye olde England and take a page or fifty out of Spain’s best-selling book of tactics.
Appointing Roy Hodgson as Fabio Capello’s successor was a surprise to many and an excitement to few. Although, his experience of the game rivals even the most glorified of managers, his popularity on home soil had decreased since his disastrous tenure at Liverpool after which his reign at West Brom was quietly covered. Hodgson’s tendency to achieve success at clubs with smaller reputations didn’t bode well for an England team full of the most famous, outspoken and acclaimed players that the Premier League had to offer.
As kick-off arrived against the French in Donetsk, it came as no surprise to the watching nation that Hodgson chose a rigid 4-4-2 formation. Why would he use this formation? Well, having adapted it to every single club he has managed in the last 36 years, it is as familiar to him as inevitable disappointment is to England fans. Despite obtaining 7 points from a possible 9 in the group stages, England were chasing their opponents in all three games, a 20 minute spell against Sweden where the Scandinavians had to push for a victory was the only period in 270 footballing minutes that we fully controlled. It was our final outing in Kiev that really showed the chasm between England and International glory. Playing the surprisingly superlative Italians, Hodgson once again plumped for a lathargic looking 4-4-2 system. It was totally undone by Andrea Pirlo and his diamond midfield compatriots. More accurate finishing from the Azzurri could have lead to an almighty thrashing for England. The tactics just didn’t surface for Hodgson, especially with the Italians having a man extra in midfield. The fact that the extra man was the metronome of the opposition meant that our two men at the centre of the park, looked as if they were ready to hang up their boots. Steven Gerrard fell with cramp just 70 minutes in and Scott Parker hobbled off the field through exhaustion; face redder than his soon to be eliminated compatriots. Although a 0-0 result was earned through sheer defensive work, no fan at home or in the Stadium that night were surprised when, yet again, the country fell to the dreaded penalty shootout. However, such dire offensive performances were concerning and the stats that shocked so many after the game, really compounded the misery for the Three Lions. Italy tripled England’s passing rate (815-320), dominated possession (61%-39%) and had more shots on goal (20) than England achieved during the entire tournament.
The chasm between England and current World and European Champions Spain’s style of play is almost immeasurable. Granted, we do not have the capabilities and natural ability in our squad to play with the flair that Spain do. However, when your national manager comes out in his first press conference after elimination and says that he believes “possession stats tell you nothing about a game”, you must wonder if he has ever wondered why Spain have dominated so supremely in the last 4 years. If we are to dip our trophyless hands into the fountain of youth in order for our national team to progress, we must not use a system that suggests we are going backwards, relying on dated tactics in order to achieve constant mediocrity. We must take a gamble, move forward and replicate the World Champions style of play, regardless of our supposed strengths. The England squad are no amateurs; 6 of the starting line-up against the Italians are Premiership winners, 4 are European Champions. To discount our ability to play exciting, flair football is to distance ourselves from that current tactic, that has proved so successful, not just for Spain but for countless other clubs and countries around the world.
Thankfully, we have a two year gap before the rigmarole of another International tournament grips the nation with fear and ultimate disappointment. However, to avoid slotting himself in the ever growing group of England managers who have failed to make the grade, Hodgson needs to stray away from his beloved formation and start fresh, with a new system, new players and a revitalised energy. After 36 years though, Roy seems to be set in his ways and in danger of speaking too soon, it may have been the wrong appointment at the wrong time.
England, what do you think? Is Hodgson the right man for the future of our national team? Have your say on twitter @mattpegg1