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Hodgson’s England: what can we expect?

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With Euro 2012 starting in roughly three weeks time, Roy Hodgson only has training sessions and two friendlies to asses who he thinks can fit into his system for the first fixture against France on the 11th of June.

It is well known Hodgson favours a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system. Jonatan Johansson said himself on Sky Sports, “Hodgson prefers a 4-4-2 with one striker a bit lower to cut off the holding midfielder”. Pundits will probably call it 4-2-3-1 but they will be missing out the fact that the wide players under Hodgson do not often play, or at least initially start, in the same band as the deeper striker which is why it should be classified as 4-4-1-1/4-4-2.

Hodgson himself said,“With 4-4-2 you have the added advantage that whichever striker receives the ball has support at all times and if balls are played forward there is someone to threaten the back of the defence”.

As manager of Fulham Hodgson often played a 4-4-1-1 with the withdrawn striker Zoltan Gera playing behind Bobby Zamora.  He has preference towards a bigger striker as he has shown with his fondness for and the fact that he tried to get Carlton Cole when at Liverpool as nobody at the club was suited to that role.

Odemwingie is not a typical target man but his pace meant he could threaten the back for alone under Hodgson. The lone striker will be key since Hodgson’s teams defend very deep in two banks of four and hardly press the ball. This means that when England win the ball it could be very deep in their own half and therefore it will be very difficult to play it out from a deep position against better quality sides who press high up the pitch. Carroll or Welbeck will need a high work rate to chase early balls as well as the wingers since they will be defending deep and needing to make the transition from defence to attack quickly by getting up the pitch quickly.

One of the reasons Liverpool did not suit Hodgson’s tactics is because of the lack of pace at the club at the time and Liverpool’s wide players like Maxi and Kuyt were suited to starting higher up the pitch and putting their movement to good use rather than running long distances to support a lonely Torres, however the fact that England possess quick players like young could mean this is not a big problem.  It could still be very exhausting if England are in desperate need of a goal. In the 2010 Europa League final Fulham’s Dempsey (Who had to come on for due to injury) and Gera became increasingly isolated as Fulham’s wide players energy levels had greatly reduced and couldn’t provide support quickly enough putting a lot of pressure on Fulham’s back four as they had to endure wave after wave of attacks.

In terms of the defence as mentioned before they may be sitting very deep which is maybe why John Terry was picked over Rio Ferdinand because he is seen as a better “backs to the wall defender” in that he heads, tackles and blocks which is all you really need to do when playing deep in your own half although he can struggle if England were to play higher up as he struggles when the ball is played in the channel for a quick striker. The fullbacks will not be that aggressive and will probably only get forward one at a time.

To conclude England’s lone striker and wingers could be the key in quick counter attacks. Large sections of the media were disappointed at Hodgson’s appointment but his strategy may well work since England have the likes of Welbeck, Carroll, and Young to execute it.

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