Roy Hodgson: Tactical Review of the Game Against Norway
England won 1-0 with a lackluster performance against a poor Norway side that has not qualified for an international tournament since 2000. This was Roy Hodgson's first game as England manager and there was admittedly a lot of fine-tuning to do. The same old problems were visible, and I would go so far as to say, exacerbated by Hodgson's tactics.
Hodgson's effect on the team
Hodgson's England are a rigid, functional side which are compact in two banks of four behind a pair of forwards. The team maintained their shape excellently in this sense, as Norway didn't have a substantial opportunity all game. Space between the defense and the midfield was monitored and closed down as Henriksen, Norway's great white hope, and Morten Gamst Pedersen struggled.
They maintained the majority of possession, for three reasons:
a) Ball retention is not one of England's strong points, and that especially shows when teams sit back, as quick penetrative passing is vital for a counter-attacking side.
b) England's 4-4-1-1 meant Ashley Young played off Carroll. Ideally, the attacking midfielder closes down the defensive midfielder, but Tettey was largely free to play the ball here. Hodgson likes to maintain his two up front, so he let Young stay forward and feed off scraps, which made the formation more like a 4-4-2 anyway.
c) Hodgson told his side to stay deep to open up space on the counter, which means there is a lot of aimless passing around. Tettey and the back-four recycled the ball around, to little effect.
However, while Hodgson will be branded as a defensive, reactive manager, it is important to remember that we got some glimpses of how the system was supposed to function through Young's goal. Lescott knocked played the ball forward to Carroll and, thanks to England sitting back, Young had acres of space to go one-on-one with Hangeland, and then score.
Milner had a few opportunities as well, again coming from direct balls from midfield.
England had controlled possession towards the end of the first half, with Gerrard and Parker making some good combinations with the forwards and the midfield. The second half saw England slightly more desperate than usual, struggling to create with Norway pushing forward. If it were not for England's compactness, they could easily have equalised.
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