Irregardless of tonight’s result, Greg Dyke should not have even considered handing Roy Hodgson a new contract at the end of Euro 2016. The performance against Iceland will go down as one of the worst in our footballing history, but you can’t argue that it hasn’t been coming.
Much was made of our “100% record” in qualifying, but should that really be such a surprise? I don’t mean to disrespect the nations in our group, but they didn’t pose much of a challenge – then again, we should have swept aside the nation with a population the size of Leicester’s.
So where did it all go wrong? Should Roy take the brunt of the blame, or should we shift it to the players? Or is it a bit of both? Here is 7 potential reasons why:
1) Persistence with 4-3-3
One of the strangest decisions at the Euro’s was Roy’s persistence with playing 4-3-3. He tinkered and tailored with it during some pre-tournament friendlies, and each time we were un-done. The second-half resurgence against Germany saw England adopt a 4-1-2-1-2 formation that played to the player’s strengths, something that we rarely saw happen in France. Lets get this straight, Sturridge is not a wide-man. Neither is Vardy. Neither is Rashford. If he wanted to play 4-3-3 he should have taken Townsend, or played Walker in front of Clyne, but he didn’t. If you don’t know what positions your players excel in, you shouldn’t even be in football, let alone manager of England
2) Reputation over Form
Drinkwater. Noble. Cresswell. Carroll.
Wilshire. Sterling. Barkley. Milner.
The four on the top line should have gone, the four below it should not (although, three left-backs in a Euro 2016 squad isn’t ideal). Much like Sven and Fabio before him, Roy was bewitched by players names rather than whether or not they were in form.
2014 Golden Boy Raheem Sterling has been on a downward spiral since the beginning of his contract stand-off with Liverpool; Wilshire hadn’t even played more than 60 competitive minutes all season; Barkley was severely off-the-pace for Everton after Christmas; and Milner is, well, Milner. I could even add Hendo to the list of players who should not have gone but hey, I like him as a player. He is an effective presser of the ball and looks for the forward ball.
Meanwhile, Drinkwater won the Premier League, whilst named West Ham trio finished the season strongly. I may not be a fan of Carroll, but when we started lumping balls into the box against Iceland in that final 5 minutes, I did wish he was there.
On top of that, deciding to continue with Kane and Sterling after their performances in the group stage shows a man unwilling to adapt (by the way, am I in a minority in thinking that Joe Hart is not the force everyone claims him to be? Fraser Forster has been more reliable week-in, week-out over the past few seasons).
3) Set-piece stupidity
I didn’t know whether to include this under tactical naivety, but seriously, Kane on corner’s and free-kicks? If that is not a sign of desperation then I don’t know what is.
Kane stands something like 6’3″. He is a striker. He just won the golden boot. STICK HIM IN THE BOX!
To be fair, I am surprised we didn’t score more from set-pieces on the occasions that Kane actually beat the first man, because the oppositions defenders were probably more focused on not crying with laughter than getting the ball out of the box.
4) Playing it safe
Aside from bringing on Vardy and Sturridge at HT vs Wales, Roy played it safe. Rather than go for the jugular, he hoped we could hold on. We suffered because of it against Russia, and we did so again against Slovakia. Would you see any of the other top nations “settle” for a 1-0 victory against Russia? With top spot in the group at stake, would you see any other top nations make a host of changes for their final group game? No. Roy played safe and, as a result, we suffered.
5) ‘The Tinkerman’
Ranieri shrugged off his nickname at Leicester this season. Their settled line-up blew everyone away and caused a well-publicised 5000-1 surprise success story. Roy never seemed to know his best line-up, despite every England fan being able to agree on at least 9 or 10 of the starting XI. Which leads me nicely onto my next point…
6) What happened to Vardy’s party?
When you have two goal-scorers in your team who showed they could consistently find the back of the net over the course of a gruelling Premier League season, you’re happy.
When both of those players are English, you’re lucky.
When they combine to dismantle the defence of defending World Champions Germany (albeit in a Friendly), you are blessed.
And yet, Kane and Vardy weren’t given the opportunity to have that partnership blossom. In a pre-tournament friendly, Vardy was shunted out wide in a 4-3-3.
As I have stated previously, he is not a wide-man. The only time we truly saw Vardy flourish as a fox-in-the-box was against Wales. And on that day, he lead the line when being brought on.
7) “Building for the Future”
No England fan wants to hear this. Why would you go into a tournament without the intention of winning it? Don’t play for the future, play for now. There is no time like the present.
The next managerial appointment is crucial and, for the sake of the current crop of players, Greg Dyke must get it right.
The majority of the squad now play under managers who utilise a brand of high-intensity football where the speed of play has an equal footing with speed of thought. And under Ranieri, Bilic, Klopp and Pochettino, they have thrived.
If England wants to see progress, that’s the way they surely need to go. Enough of the safe option, lets be bold, lets be adventurous.
The only question is, who out there is capable of fulfilling that managerial role?