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Roy Hodgson: What's the verdict?

England may be out of Euro 2012 but Roy Hodgson (pictured) has instilled belief and optimism in an England team that had previously looked devoid of both. Total Football runs the rule over Hodgson’s tenure so far.

Hodgson’s tactics

When Hodgson was appointed manager it was clear what style of football England were going to play. His sides play with two deep banks of four sitting behind the ball with two strikers, one dropping slightly deeper, staying high up the pitch. Making a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 formation.

His primary concern is to stay compact and disciplined in defence and midfield, invite pressure and then break to the wings on the counter-attack before the opposition’s defenders have time to reorganise.

Did it work for England?

Broadly speaking, yes. As a collective unit England were mostly strong, although a few key individuals did not reach expectations.

Hodgson has had six games in charge and, penalties aside, remains unbeaten with four wins and two draws. He also has four clean sheets, which he will undoubtedly be pleased about given that his teams are based upon defensive discipline and he only had a short time to prepare the squad.

There were question marks over certain players’ ability to fit into the rigid system that Hodgson demands, the main one being whether Steven Gerrard has the positional discipline to play deep in a midfield duo. Gerrard was one of England’s best performers and seemed to thrive in both his captaincy and new role.

Another was whether Glen Johnson too had the positional awareness to perform at right-back. Overall, he had a good tournament but Hodgson always selected James Milner over Walcott on the right side of midfield. Milner is stronger defensively and it indicates that Hodgson might not trust Johnson to play without someone in front of him who can cover when he gets caught out.

Wayne Rooney was disappointing in the two games he played in. He looked off the pace against Ukraine and against Italy failed to close down Andrea Pirlo. He was clearly given the job by Hodgson as he would often look to get goal-side of the Italian, but would only do so half-heartedly.

Hodgson and supporters will be alike in hoping that it was a simple case of not being match fit because in such a defensive formation, Rooney will need to be on form to put away the few chances he gets.

Ashley Young was also disappointing. He didn’t appear comfortable playing so deep in his own half; when he received the ball he didn’t have the pace to carry it high up the pitch. He is much better when his starting position is higher up so he can use his acceleration and skill to greater effect.

The future

The mood surrounding England seems more upbeat than ever, even in defeat. Perhaps is to do with the lowered expectations but there is a genuine level of quiet optimism for the future of the England team.

The old stalwarts like Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Scott Parker have shown that they can perform well in Hodgson’s system and the impressive performances of Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hart suggest that England have solid foundations to build on for the future.

However, there are areas that need work. Hodgson will need to improve England’s transitional play from defence to attack. When teams play on the counter-attack the first pass out of defence is crucial and it too often went wayward in this tournament.

For Euro 2012, Hodgson’s focus on a prosaic, functional system was justified, especially when he had such short time with the squad beforehand. However, such a reactive style of play will not win tournaments without a huge amount of luck.

If England are to become genuine contenders in the future Hodgson will need to find a way to become more creative and proactive in attack.

By Nathan Holmes

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