Why Roy Hodgson Is Destined to Fail as England Manager
On May 1, 2012, Roy Hodgson was appointed England manager and awarded a four-year contract by the FA. He is now firmly on the road to Brazil 2014, but, as with all England managers, he is eventually doomed to fail.
The well-travelled and well-liked manager was the surprising successor to Fabio Capello, who resigned in February 2012 following John Terry’s removal as England captain by the FA.
He succeeded the Italian just one month before Euro 2012, and headed to the tournament with an England side unhindered by the baggage or expectation that has weighed down previous teams in years gone by.
However, even with this free pass, he still managed to draw criticism from the media about England's lacklustre performances and their negative style of play that saw them eliminated by Italy in the quarterfinals.
During the game, in which man-of-the-match Andrea Pirlo was simply sensational, Italy dominated with a possession percentage that sat at 65, and produced 20 shots on target compared to England's paltry and solitary one.
To say England were outclassed would be something of an understatement.
The eventual runners-up, Italy, gave Roy Hodgson's team a football lesson, despite the end result only separating the two teams by penalties.
England's performance at Euro 2012 gives us a crucial insight into what Hodgson has to work with at an elite level.
Can England win the World Cup in 2014?
Possession wise, and this gives us an idea at the lack of technical passing ability in the Premier League, England only exceeded the 50 percent mark once during their four-game tournament.
Against France, Ukraine and Italy their possession rates were 40, 42 and 35 percent respectively and against Sweden, a nation with a very "English" style of football, it rose to 52 percent.
Crucially, the two England players who passed the ball most against Italy were Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney with 41 and 43 passes respectively. Altogether, England completed 364 passes between 14 players, with goalkeeper Joe Hart, at 29 passes, passing the ball more than seven outfield players.
Italy's top four passers, Andrea Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo, Federico Balzaretti and Leonardo Bonucci, at 130, 94, 82 and 78 respectively, passed the ball more than the entire England team put together—substitutes included.
Further inspection of passing during the quarterfinal reveals that England's average passing rate was just 76 percent, while each and every single Italian player, with the exception of Antonio Cassano's poor rate of 63 percent, hit a passing rate in the high eighties and nineties. Overall, Cesare Prandelli's side had an average successful pass rate of 90 percent.
What this simple comparison shows us is that England are very much a direct team who are heavily reliant on fitness, temperament and the honesty of battle to win their matches.
That, though, brings a far more worrying factor into play for England fans and Roy Hodgson.
Because at Euro 2012—as in South Africa 2010, Germany 2006, Japan/South Korea 2002 and Euro 2004—England were one of the least physically ready teams in the tournament.
In years gone by, superior physical fitness was always a factor associated with technically inferior English teams.
This combined with their honesty, integrity and never-say-die attitude on the pitch always compensated for their deficiencies in other areas.
This is clearly not the case any more, as even the most technical of teams—take Spain or Italy, for example—can now boast incredible levels of fitness to match and surpass even the best of sides.
As fitness and technical issues surpass England and make them certain also-rans in an elite tournament, the very set-up at England also conspires to make them second best.
The coaching employed by Hodgson is simple and easy to follow but it is for that very reason that players often turn off and fail to pay attention.
When Hodgson sets up a session, he usually concentrates on one aspect of formation, set-piece or set-play. He then walks through the play explaining it minutely and slowing before allowing it to take place at full-speed.
This is a relatively simple coaching tactic used by every single coach in the world worth their salt, but what separates Hodgson from the usual chaff is that he refuses to finish the session until the play is exactly 100 percent right.
In layman’s terms this means an incredible amount of repetition.
Quite often, his teams will spend hours just working on a counter-attack on one side of the pitch; if players on the other side fall asleep or fail to take up their correct position as the play develops, he brings it all back to the start.
This type of coaching system has been enjoyed by Hodgson throughout his rich and varied career, but many journalists and fans, particularly Liverpool’s, will point to the fact that most of his career has been with lesser teams and therefore lesser footballers.
The inclination here is that elite footballers are too good to be treated with such kid gloves and given such specific instructions.
However, the real truth is that footballers at any level crave knowledge, instruction and attention and that they will accept any coaching system once it brings them success.
If it does not; they will down tools like any other footballer.
The problem with Hodgson’s style is that it provides a relatively short-term solution.
By this I mean that giving the same instructions and using the same type of coaching sessions time over time over time eventually erodes the balance between player and coach. In short, players get bored and stop listening.
A simple look at Hodgson’s resume reveals an outstanding manager who has coached all over the world.
But it also reveals a man who rarely stays in one place for too long.
With England, Hodgson is now at his 21st team since he started his coaching career in 1976 with Halmstad in Sweden.
While it is far too simplistic to say that his previous teams became bored with his style; it is a factor that needs to be considered.
Ultimately, Roy Hodgson will lead England to Brazil 2014 with the weight of an expectant media and nation behind him.
However, certain teams will be waiting once England get to Brazil.
Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany are already hot favourites.
Behind them will be Colombia, Italy, France, Mexico and Holland.
Whilst the likes of Team USA, Belgium, Croatia and Uruguay will be waiting in the long grass to ambush any unlikely team who comes to the tournament unprepared.
At Brazil 2014, Hodgson will be a man caught between a rock and a hard place and, in essence, he will be taking a knife to a gun-fight.
England, quite simply, do not have the players to succeed at a major tournament.
The English media's symbiotic relationship with the Barclays Premier League does not allow them to criticise the lack of technical ability on show in the Greatest Show on Earth.
However, once England start playing, every single journalist associated with the Premier League turns their attention towards the national team, which transcends everything else.
The attention is macroscopic, microscopic and intrusive, and in the end it usually only serves to undermine a manager who is already on rocky ground because of the institutions he ultimately represents.
When all is said and done; Roy Hodgson is doomed to failure because England’s players are not good enough.
They aren't good enough because coaching systems at youth level marginalise talent over physicality and push conformity over imagination.
He will fail because once expectations are not met, it will be open season for the media, and from there the fans will turn against him.
The reality of expectation for England is that a successful World Cup will bring a quarterfinal exit at best or a semifinal berth if they are incredibly lucky.
To expect more is madness; and that is why Roy Hodgson is ultimately doomed to fail.
You can follow and contact me on Twitter @WillieGannon
Statistics from WhoScored.com
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