Tighe's 2014 World Cup Tactics Board: Analysing Roy Hodgson's England

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Tighe's 2014 World Cup Tactics Board: Analysing Roy Hodgson's England
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Welcome to the first in a new series where we will take a tactical dive and explore each and every one of the 32 qualified World Cup teams.

First up is England, a team managed by Roy Hodgson and expected to make some waves in Brazil by an ever-expectant public.

 

Qualifying

England qualified for the FIFA World Cup by topping Group H in the UEFA zone.

They went unbeaten throughout the process, accumulated 22 points from six wins and four draws, scored 31 goals and conceded just four.

It was far from the easiest group, with testing tussles with Ukraine and Poland giving Hodgson many a headache, but their overall record, in the end, looked rather strong.

In preparing for the World Cup, though, the Three Lions lost 2-0 to Chile and 1-0 to Germany at Wembley in November. Fans will hope that serves as a severe wake-up call for the management.

 

Formation and Style

England have chopped and changed formations very effectively since Hodgson took charge, and the former Internazionale gaffer has done a fine job in working through different systems with the players at his disposal.

Perhaps the biggest mini-success story of his reign so far has been his ability to get Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard working well together in the same side (to an extent) without shifting either one to the left wing, Fabio Capello-style.

England have largely played a 4-3-3 formation with Gerrard sitting deep as a regista to create. It separates his zone of activity from Lampard's very well, with the Chelsea man left to play a more box-to-box role in the channels.

Tighe
England's 4-3-3, with Gerrard deep (regista) and one-man shuttling.

Who partners Gerrard in midfield will be a hot subject of debate leading up to the finals, as Jack Wilshere, Lampard, Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley and more will be vying for two spots.

The emphasis has very much been to shift the Three Lions into a possession-based template, with Wayne Rooney dropping deep from a forward's role when possible to link play.

Hodgson looks set to go with one natural winger to provide width (Theo Walcott) and one inside forward from the left to cut inside. The battle for the left forward's role will be just as intense as the battle for the middle.

The transition from purely defensive, strict banks of four at Euro 2012 to an attempt at free-flowing football in 2014 is admirable, but will it be effective?

 

Reasons for Hope

Man for man, England have a better roster than most teams entering the World Cup. Should it click on the day, they can beat anyone, but if it starts badly, it can descend into some woeful, horrific displays.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Gerrard is churning out consistent, world-class performances for Liverpool in his regista role and is effectively translating that to the national side. He is now the heartbeat of the Three Lions formation, and everything good flows through him.

Rooney is a game-breaker and Sturridge, barring injury, is catching fire at just the right time in his career to make a serious impact on the world stage.

Hodgson's tactical and formation tweaks have us believing that he can and will adjust things on a game-by-game basis, and despite settling on the 4-3-3, he leaves himself a number of options to switch to.

The 4-4-2 diamond, 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-3-1 have all been utilised over the past 18 months, with the diamond in particular seeming to work wonders at times.

 

Reasons for Concern

When under pressure, England consistently revert back to the "deer in the headlights" stance of thumping it upfield in a panic.

A passing template can be emphasised by Hodgson, but when the pressure's on in a World Cup quarterfinal, natural instinct takes over and the English punt it clear.

The temptation to drop into two banks of four and defend for their lives also remains.

Tighe
England's strict banks of four sat back and allowed Pirlo to rip them to shreds (Euro 2012).

The right-back position is a massive concern, too, with neither Glen Johnson or Kyle Walker impressing universally in their defensive skill set. Johnson, in particular, has been found out by a number of top-class left-wingers.

Against stronger teams, the base 4-3-3 will struggle to move forward progressively and struggle to find the appropriate attacking outlets. The players who can essentially solve this issue, Barkley and Wilshere, may not start many games.

 

Conclusions and Predictions

With England, it's customary for them to reach the quarterfinals and bow out.

They'll want to forget an absolutely horrific campaign in 2010 where they struggled to score, drew with Algeria and were smashed 4-1 by Joachim Loew's German machine.

Brazil's climate will be tough to deal with, and as always, the nation will place huge pressure on each player's shoulders. But for once, there isn't an expectation to win the tournament.

It's possible that that might lead to a more relaxed atmosphere among the players and in turn lead to a few decent performances.

Pre-draw Prediction: Quarterfinals

Post-draw Prediction: Knocked out in Group Stage

 

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