This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Just two games into the new Premier League season and questions are already being asked of Roy Hodgson, and rightly so.
Criticism was aimed at the former England manager from some sections of the Crystal Palace supporters last season for a somewhat negative approach to games, whilst his substitutions have also left a lot to be desired – some fans have already expressed their displeasure at one switch this term.
Hodgson can be negative, although you can’t blame the 72-year-old for wanting to see his admittedly limited side – from a technical aspect – start by putting defence first and then seeing if they can counter-attack.
What Hodgson can be blamed for, however, is setting the players up in the wrong system.
As you can see above, the former Liverpool boss used Max Meyer as a left-midfielder against Sheffield United, where the diminutive German struggles to get involved if he doesn’t drift inside.
Hodgson also plays Wilfried Zaha as a centre-forward, which is an area where he also struggles to utilise his best asset of taking people on – his goal return from last season as a wide man was also much healthier than in the centre.
With the Ivorian and Christian Benteke up top with no real central attacking-midfielder close to them, the gap between midfield and attack is often huge and results in a number of long balls being hoisted up to the Belgian’s head – the Eagles played 65 long-balls, whilst WhoScored’s analysis stating that Palace ‘favoured long shots’ is telling.
Benteke himself has admitted that he thinks more ‘animation’ is needed from his teammates as well as more chance creation – here’s how we think Hodgson should set his side up to get the best out of them.
A solid midfield duo of Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur – or any of Cheikhou Kouyate, James McCarthy and Victor Camarasa – would provide the security needed for Meyer to do less defensive work and focus on being productive in the final third.
Having been at the club for almost two years now, you would have expected Hodgson to know how to get the best out of his players, but he clearly hasn’t grasped it yet.
Playing the system we detailed above is a mere case of simply moving a few players around and making them feel more comfortable – the Premier League’s oldest manager is, to put it lightly, a stubborn man.