Five things we learnt about Hodgson’s England
1. Euro 2012 should be John Terry’s last tournament
In a telling moment in the England Sweden game, Zlatan Ibrahimovic – hardly the world’s quickest footballer – accelerated past a lumbering John Terry. Last night, a lapse in his positioning was only saved by a blundering official. It illustrated just why this should be Terry’s last international tournament for England. Never the quickest, Terry’s advancing years and injuries are only going to diminish his speed. In recent years, Chelsea have compensated for this lack of foot speed by having the right defensive partner alongside him. However, it’s a problem that his club and country now need to address. As AVB discovered last season, Terry’s lack of pace is a tactical impediment to a whole team – stopping his plans to maintain a high defensive line, enabling Chelsea to press aggressively in the opposition’s half.
Ultimately, with a court appearance looming next month, the decision to phase-out or ditch Terry may be taken out of Roy Hodgson’s hands.
2. Playing in straight lines will take us straight out the tournament
England play in straight lines, with the holy sacrament of English football continuing to be the desire to play in two banks of perfectly symmetrical four.
This rigidity, coupled with England’s poor ball retention, will not take us much further in the tournament. You can choose the strength of your own adjective (inept, poor, disappointing) to describe England’s performance at this competition, but we can all agree that haven’t played well. We’ve failed to dominate a single game, and the tactical ease with which a very average Ukrainian team gave us the run around, highlights how limited we are as a team.
We can only look on enviously at the tactical fluidity of Slaven Bilic and the Croatian team. Their performance against Spain, and their second half showing against Italy – after a half-time change of formation and tactics – have been two of most impressive showings at Euro 2012. But then Croatia are out the tournament and England are still in, so hey, what do we know?
3. Johnson’s defensive frailties are limiting who gets picked in front of him
The fact that Johnson is not a great defender is nothing new. But the absence of Walcott or The Ox starting directly in front of him suggests that Hodgson simply doesn’t have enough faith that England won’t be torn apart without a more defensive-minded right-winger. While James Milner ‘puts in a good shift’ (i.e. runs around a lot, normally to cover for the AWOL Johnson) he often seems like a worker-bee in a flower-free environment – lots of buzzing around, but no nectar at the end of the day.
Does Johnson really offer more going forward than one of the attacking wingers not in the side?
4. Gerrard is excelling as captain
The best player coming out of the group stages. It’s remarkable to think that giving Gerrard the captain’s armband was even in question not too long ago. He’s clearly relishing the role, and now anchored in that central role he’s delivering the goods – leading by example in each of the three games so far. Which makes you wonder why we didn’t do both things years ago.
5. Lescott has greatly exceeded expectations
With all the brouhaha about Gary Cahill’s injury and the exclusion of Rio Ferdinand from the squad, Joleen Lescott’s promotion to first team duties have gone somewhat under the radar. Which is unfortunate, as the Manchester City centre back has been an assured performer in all three matches. Given the way that England have made heavy weather of the group, no-one can claim he has yet to be properly tested. As we’re unlikely to win the tournament with attacking flair, defensive solidity is our best hope of progressing further – and Lescott has contributed as much as anyone towards that.
Written by James Albion