Roy Hodgson Blows Growing Respect with Tactical Stubbornness and Rigidity

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 26, 2013

We were just coming around to the whole Roy Hodgson being England manager thing.

After a shocking Euro 2012 in which a string of tactical obscenities meant the Three Lions were never going to be a contender, vast strides were made in the games following the tournament that smelled a little like genuine growth.

Abandoning the 4-4-2, Hodgson looked at several different shapes—all positive—in an effort to better retain the ball and control the tempo.

The 4-2-3-1 looked good, the 4-3-3 with Steven Gerrard in a regista-esque role even better. He even tried a 4-4-2 diamond midfield, effectively playing Gerrard and Frank Lampard on the same team without them interfering with each other—a possible world first?

Things were looking up, right?

Wrong. All that progress is forgotten, as evidenced by a succession of unsavory tweets in the aftermath of a very, very disappointing draw in the Podgorica City Stadium Tuesday.

Football is a fickle, fickle world as we know.

There are always going to be overzealous claims, knee-jerk reactions and such when a disappointing result comes your way. England played very well for 45 minutes, but that's forgotten. Wayne Rooney could have had two goals inside six minutes ... but again, that's forgotten.

Across 90 minutes, England disappointed, and Hodgson is to blame.

Strolling out after the break up 1-0, Michael Carrick was called into action within the first minute, stretching to block a fizzed cross from the left.

What followed was four minutes of sustained pressure—the first period of it created by Montenegro in the entire game—and it was clear the Three Lions were struggling.

Alarm bells should have been ringing, but the national boss remained stone-faced on the touchline while giving the ball his very best thousand-yard stare.

What tipped it? Why did the Brave Falcons come roaring out?

Tactical changes came from Branko Brnovic, of course: He switched Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic around until he found a shape that worked. But England failed to answer.

There's a reason why managers are getting younger and a reason why 35- to 45-year-old managerial figureheads are getting big jobs without vast amounts of playing time in their career.

They're students of the game—they make tactical decisions and stay on top rather than just focusing on time with the players on the training ground in the week.

Hodgson's substitute (Ashley Young for Danny Welbeck) came in the 79th minute—one minute after  the equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic.

That. Is. Astonishing.

From the 49th minute, it was clear something had to give. The pressure increased; Montenegro came forward in waves; the post was struck; what seemed like 100 corners were conceded. Still nothing.

The goal was scrappy—a scuffed effort on the third time of asking after Joe Hart made a stunning save—but deserved and inevitable.

Why did nothing change?

After all this good work post-Euro 2012, England were left looking exactly as they did when defending their own penalty area against Italy in the summer—foolish, naive.

A point in Montenegro is not a disaster. If England win all of their remaining games—including the home tie against the Brave Falcons—they will qualify in first place.

But England just left a bad taste in the mouth, and it's a taste we've experienced many, many times before.