England: Time for a Change part one: Inquisition
“England did well to get as far as penalties because the gulf in class between the two teams was embarrassing. Big hearts can only take you so far and I think the quarter-finals was the furthest England could go”
Alan Hansen on England's Defeat to Italy.
Perfectly summed up in two sentences, the lack of quality when in possession of the ball witnessed these past two tournaments is clearer than Ukraine’s disallowed goal last week. A tough game of football is made even harder when you don’t have the ball and that has been England's problem in recent years. There is no denying England have plenty of quality, but if England are to make a bigger impact on the world stage finding the right way to best utilise the players is a dilemma Roy Hodgson must solve. The first riddle to decipher is where did England go wrong and what can be done to fix it.
The English defence was perhaps the main positive to take from the tournament but this was more so due to their cautious approach sacrificing attacking flair for defensive valour and organisation. Terry, with a looming court appearance hanging over his head, was a warrior at the back and showed that Roy Hodgson made the right decision by picking him over Rio Ferdinand, but it could be his final appearance for England if the courts do find him guilty. A replacement will surely have to be found and perhaps this will be Phil Jones' time to step up and fulfil his potential.
In attack Danny Welbeck’s performances have been one of the highlights of the tournament for me. Great close control and link up play, quick and powerful in the air capped off with a great goal against Sweden all at the tender age of 21, you have to believe he has a bright future ahead of him and couldn’t be at a better place to develop as a player.
So far so good but now let’s put the midfield under the microscope. Everyone I am sure would agree that England's biggest problem is retaining possession of the ball. Let us examine why that is. Gerrard was perhaps England’s best player throughout the Euros, but it is hard to do it all on your own. His direct style of play combined with his natural instinct to attack and always attempt that killer pass hinders a team’s ability to retain possession, making everything else seem rushed and uncontrolled. This creates a problem especially when you have players like Scott Parker and James Milner, who give every last ounce of themselves but lack any quality when in possession of the ball.
Ashley Young was England's shining light in previous games but he did not live up to expectations. He seemed to freeze on the biggest stage and with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hot on his heels he will have to improve significantly if he wants to keep his spot in the starting 11. This is the area England will need to improve upon if we are to ever compete against the best teams in the world and Hodgson needs to realise this as soon as possible.
Despite the disappointment we all share it is perhaps best to look at England as a team in transition. That being the case something has to change. We need to build our game around possession and demonstrate a different attitude to the way the game is played. I will address these ideas in the second part to this article and discuss possible selections and formations that will improve our game.
Article written by Dave Gwill
Calling all England fans: Do you agree with Dave? Is it time for England to change their game and put more emphasis in ball retention? What would you do in Roy Hodgson's position? Whatever your views we'd love to hear from you.