Why England failed (again) at the Euros.
Here we go again, England are out after a underwhelming group stage and a outright failure in the first knock-out round. The Real question is why? Kane and Vardy scored about 25 goals each this season, Rose was in the PFA team of the year, Walker unlucky to miss out and numerous other players who should have taken us much further than they did.
Lets start with the defense – despite his atrocious performances on occasion is safe from criticism here: a good campaign with city and being England’s number 1 for years gives him familiarity. Forster was great for Southampton of course and maybe should have come in for the last game or 2, but from the start at least, he was the right choice.
What about the back four then? Again the selection was probably right – Walker was excellent and so was Rose (for England and Spurs) but the weak point was CB. Smalling had HUGE hype around him in the last year – throughout 2015 he was imperious Mike Smalldini as some fans referred to him as tailed off post January and while he was still good, great he was not. Cahill was equally not great – he lost his place to Kurt Zouma at the beginning of the season and only really was a regular this season because of his injury. Like 2016 Smalling he was fine, nothing better.
But frankly with the other options being Phil Jagielka and John Stones – both being walking defensive errors, again they were likely the right choices.
Now the midfield – oh boy this was bad. Dier was brilliant; alongside Walker the best players for England at the euros. The rest of the midfield… less so. Rooney puts a shift in – and though this is endearing to the public – his lack of short passing and technical ability made him a liability on occasion. The biggest issue with him being his passing speed on his long passes – it is SO slow! Gently lofting the ball towards the right channel repeatedly but not only was it predictable but even if they failed to predict it you could run the width of the pitch and intercept it before it ever reached its destination. Frankly seeing Rooney shouting a his team-mates to keep play moving faster was pretty ironic.
He isn’t a great CM, he isn’t the next Paul Scholes. In fact Rooney has become the new Lampard/Gerrard problem – both wedged ill-fittingly into the team to the detriment of everyone else (including Scholes). Now Rooney is doing the same thing – occupying a midfield berth that should have gone to a more suited player – Wilshere’s creativity, Milner’s work ethic (and underrated on the ball ability) shoul have started above him.
Dele Alli – better, but not good. He was the main threat from midfield – running from deep, receiving the ball at the edge of the box and making clever passes. But it never really came together for him. Him playing at N10 for Spurs has shown that that is his best position; yes though he began the season deep in midfield, he excelled later further forward – displacing Eriksen as Spurs’ central hub.
But that wasn’t the biggest issue. He looked tired for much of the time (like Kane later) and consequently his technical skill as well as his athletic ability suffered. His first touch was inconsistent, his passing equally so and his shooting wayward at best.
The forwards – Lallana was excellent. He played more like a more offensive Modric – always creating chances, opening space and getting the pass before the key pass. Otherwise it wasn’t good.
Sterling should have been selected based on his warm-up games considering he assisted every goal we scored then. But after his first game he should have been dropped instantly and not reinstated so quickly.
Kane (like team-mate Alli) looked tired and ineffectual. Nothing came off for him at the euros – he simply never looked fit nor comfortable (in the system). His alternatives (Vardy and Sturridge) didn’t fare much better though.
Vardy simply didn’t get to play how he wanted – he plays best in a pair with a second striker filling the space he leaves behind chasing long balls. His channel running and ability to chase a ball out wide before beating his man inside are his greatest strengths – and playing the disciplined, solely central role Hodgson asked of him was very different to this and completely nullified his abilities.
Sturridge again had little impact, though also not his fault. He is NOT a winger – he has shown this at liverpool playing a mixed, all round CF – not the RW position he has struggled with at every senior club he has played for.
But even this doesn’t explain our exit. The real issue lay with tactics – 433 was a mistake. Our best midfielder was a number 10 and we only brought 2 natural wide players (or 1 if you don’t count Lallana). The vast majority of players wanted Kane and Vardy playing up front together – and Hodgson tried to implement this in the last warm-up game against Portugal.
The lineup was
Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose, Dier, Alli, Milner, Rooney, Vardy, Kane
To the vast majority of people this looked like a diamond with either Alli or Rooney behind the front 2. But it wasn’t. It played out like this:
It had Rooney pushing so high up the field that Kane and Vardy had to play as wingers (in fact sky sports actually list it as a 433 with rooney at CF). This made both Kane and Vardy completely ineffective and as Rooney only came into the number 9 area by running from deep made him impact less as well.
Essentially this was what convinced Hodgson to avoid the diamond – and with good reason. England were stodgy and pretty bad. But the diamond wasn’t the issue, a traditional diamond would have been perfect – the only reason the diamond failed was it played like a striker deficient 433. If Alli had played behind a narrow Vardy and Kane, with Rose and Walker providing the width it would have worked against all the defensive teams we set up against due to the ability to overload the middle.
Essentially the issue was unlike Spain, Portugal, France and pretty much every other team in the euros, England didn’t have a set system and playing style. And Hodgson’s tactics of lets make it up as we go along simply doesn’t cut it on the biggest stages.