Written by David Robinson
Last night England slumped to a 0-0 draw with Slovakia meaning the Three Lions finished second in Group B behind a Wales side who England had dominated in their last match. While ultimately the nation have qualified for the knockout stages, the performance leaves a frustrated and bemused feeling to the end of the group campaign having previously put in two lively and positive performances. Roy Hodgson made 6 changes to the starting line up which meant he would be under scrutiny should his side fail to win. This was the case following plenty of possession against a side who were willing to drop deep and defend throughout which made it even more unsatisfactory that we lacked the spark to cause more trouble to their back line. I give my opinion on where the problems lied for the nation yesterday.
Initially in terms of team selection, changes to the starting line up had to be made with the likes of Kane and Sterling hugely under performing in the last two games. Hodgson made 6 changes and while some were obvious moves, he made others which would have raised a few eyebrows. Bringing in Vardy and Sturridge looked the obvious choices up front with a previously ineffectual Kane dropped to the bench. While both did actually have little impact on the whole, Hodgson can not be made accountable. Likewise for Jack Wilshere who I thought deserved a chance following a couple of average displays from Dele Alli. The Arsenal man however put in a very poor showing which didn’t help the cause.
With the other 3 changes, Hodgson has made himself available for criticism. Jordan Henderson effectively took Rooney’s place where the captain has been superb in the middle of the park dictating play. The Liverpool captain however has had injuries in the build up to the tournament and is not a huge influence at the best of times. This decision didn’t pay off with Henderson largely wasteful and ineffectual meaning the choice looked more bizarre when you would’ve imagined the Manchester United player to have made more of an impact while gathering more form for the leader of the team, would’ve been ideal going into the knockout stages.
Both full backs were swapped going into the game which for me has ended up being a very poor decision. With the diamond formation deployed vs Slovakia, there was a lack of natural width meaning the full backs were the greatest source to exploit the flanks where most of the space was available. Rose and Walker had previously excelled from full back and provided a great attacking threat. West Ham boss Slaven Bilic made a good point reacting to the game saying no one was willing to go past their man, meaning having lots of possession was not hurting the opposition. Walker particularly has stretched deep defences so far and while Clyne did a solid job going forwards, in hindsight you feel Walker and Rose would have given Slovakia more problems defensively.
In Game Management
I don’t think the Three Lions did dominate the game against Slovakia despite having lots of possession and attempts. The opposition looked comfortable for periods with England void of ideas. I also believe Hodgson didn’t make the best impact in terms of finding the winner. Taking off Lallana was a poor decision with the Liverpool man impressing so far in the Euro’s, being a creative force and creating opportunities for the side. His Liverpool teammate Daniel Sturridge was also taken off which I thought was the wrong decision. His less talented strike partner Jamie Vardy was non-existent in the second half and should’ve been swapped for Kane. While Sturridge was having a poor game, he does have the quality and willingness to keep having a go, something, most of his team mates were not willing to try. While obvious subs were made, the likes of Rooney coming on failed to have the desired impact. This of course is partly down to the player but it was difficult for the Captain to get into a rhythm with little time to spare with the pressure to change the game also a likely impact on his performance.
Tactics aside, this England team should’ve had enough to get past Slovakia. While the first half performance was no disgrace you would’ve expected England to really turn on the pressure in the second period but this was not the case. The players must take some responsibility for not finding the answer but I do feel it tells a story. Not enough genuine quality showed and the fact that England have come second in a poor group by not beating Russia and Slovakia shows that England should not be considered one of the favourites for the tournament. Hodgson has a good side at his disposal but nothing more than that although you feel the manager is holding the squad back. With the right tactics and a good side, a team can make strides in the tournament. Question marks will no doubt be answered in the knockout stages.
Who was to blame for not winning yesterday? Let is know in the comments below!
featured image by Nazionale Calcio