On June 2nd, 2016, England managed an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Ronaldo-less Portugal as Smalling scored in the 86th minute.
When the line-up boasts the likes of Vardy, Kane, Alli and Rooney, you hardly expect a defender to head in the only goal of the game. The reason was simple – terrible management. With such an excellent squad, all you need to do is put everyone in the right positions, manage dynamics, and let them weave the magic. Roy Hodgson has failed in that.
Hodgson used a diamond formation, with Rooney playing at the hilt, behind Vardy and Kane. But as it appeared, Rooney was playing as the central striker while Vardy and Kane were pushed out to the wings. The two deadly strikers, who had 49 Premier League goals between them last season, were left hugging the touchlines.
Clearly, the dynamics were unbalanced. A player who has committed to being a midfield general for the rest of his career was being forced upfront and the two players who flourished as central strikers were playing wide, finding it hard to cut inside and take a shot. They’re the ones who are used to being at the receiving end of crosses and key passes, not the ones making them.
Instead of pushing the forwards wide, Hodgson should’ve pushed his full backs higher up the pitch.
When I first saw the squad list, I was impressed by it. I felt England had a genuine shot at winning. But after the Portugal match, it seems tough.
Instead of pushing strikers out wide, Hodgson needs to find a way for them to be inside the box and finish off chances and not bench Rooney. The England skipper may not be enjoying the form of his life but he is very important on the field as a leader. His long balls and defensive contributions in the deep are excellent. To pair him, both Dele Alli and Eric Dier would be good options. The only difference is that Dier is a much better defensive cover while Alli is of an attacking disposition. Alli could also be used down the left, where he started 6 Premier League games for Tottenham, scoring 2 and assisting 3 goals. If Alli is used in the midfield, though, Raheem Sterling would be the man to take the left flank. He has been struggling with form and fitness but if he performs well, he would be invaluable to the team.
Another interesting tactic could be using Walker and Rose as wing backs rather than full backs.
The advantage this sort of formation would bring is that not only could Rooney play as an attacking midfielder, where Hodgson wants him, but also that Vardy and Kane can still play centrally. Milner could be used in the midfield alongside Alli, who gets to play centrally, where he is obviously more comfortable. Rashford could replace Milner in the latter stages of the game and exchange places with Rooney to act as a catalytic super sub and bolster the offensive game. Alternately, Alli and Rooney could both play as attacking midfielders with Dier playing deep between them and the defence.
One look at England’s squad and you can tell the sheer amount of talent that oozes from it. If despite having this squad, Roy Hodgson delivers such unconvincing results, the problem is not with the players. The team represents a fine balance between young blood and experience and there is no dearth of match winning players. All they need is a tactical effectiveness and a system that is comfortable for everyone.