With Euro 2012 starting in roughly three weeks time, Roy Hodgson only has training sessions and two friendlies to assess 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, â€œHodgson prefers a 4-4-2 with one striker a bit lower to cut off the holding midfielderâ€. 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,â€œWith 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 defenceâ€.
As manager of Fulham, Hodgson often played a 4-4-1-1 with the withdrawn striker Zoltan Gera playing behind Bobby Zamora.Â He has a preference towards a bigger striker as he has shown with his fondness for Zamora and his attempts at signing Carlton Cole for Liverpool as nobody at the club was suited to the role. Peter Odemwingie is not a typical target man but his pace meant he could threaten the back four alone under Hodgson. The lone striker will be key since Hodgsonâ€™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, therefore it will be very difficult to play it out from a deep position against better quality sides who press high up the pitch. Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck will need a high work rate to chase early balls – as will the wingers will be, who, defending deep, will need to make the transition from defence to attack quickly by getting up the pitch quickly.
One of the reasons Liverpool did not suit Hodgsonâ€™s tactics is because of the lack of pace at the club at the time – Liverpoolâ€™s wide players like Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk 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 Fernando Torres, however the fact that England possess quick players like Ashley 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 Fulhamâ€™s Clint Dempsey (who had to come on for Zamora due to injury) and Gera became increasingly isolated as Fulhamâ€™s wide players tired and couldnâ€™t provide support quickly enough, putting a lot of pressure on Fulhamâ€™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. A better â€œback to the wall defenderâ€, Terry heads, tackles and blocks which is all you really need to do when playing deep in your own half, but he may find life difficult 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, Englandâ€™s lone striker and wingers could be the key in quick counter attacks. Large sections of the media were disappointed at Hodgsonâ€™s appointment but his strategy may well work since England have the likes of Welbeck, Carroll, Theo Walcott and Young to execute it.
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