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Film Focus: Key Areas for England to Improve in Friendly vs. Denmark

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 03:  Manager Roy Hodgson during the England training session at the Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on March 3, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Matt CheethamCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2014

England's friendly with Denmark provides Roy Hodgson with a final chance to tinker ahead of World Cup 2014.

The Three Lions still have a number of friendlies on the horizon, but none before Hodgson reveals an official 30-man squad that will eventually become 23.

Morten Olsen arrives with an experimental party of Danes. Several young, untested players make the trip with no World Cup to scrupulously prep for.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Head coach Morten Olsen of Denmark talks with Lars Jacobsen #6 during an international friendly match against Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 30, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. Mexico and Denmark ended in a 1-1 d
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Therefore, what can England hope to gain out of this friendly? Here's a look at some areas Roy Hodgson must make progress with, using clips from recent friendlies.

 

Control

A key element England must improve upon is their control of games.

Whenever the Three Lions tackle a top nation, or even play away from Wembley, their possession numbers dwindle at an alarming rate. 

In recent home friendlies, Hodgson saw his side enjoy just 43 percent of the ball against Chile and 45 percent against Germany.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Alexis Sanchez of Chile in action during the international friendly match between England and Chile at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In both matches, the away side managed over 100 more passes as England resorted to a higher proportion of long balls; this also left pass completion rates between five and eight percent lower than their opponents.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19:  Sidney Sam of Germany takes on Jack Wilshere of England during the international friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on November 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Having the ball for such restricted periods makes it far harder to construct attacks, find a rhythm, enforce an approach and, essentially, create the chances to win. There won't be any comfortable games at the World Cup if England cannot keep possession better.

So, what's the problem? The main issue is the lack of players suited to a Xavi or Andrea Pirlo role: a metronomic passer, comfortable taking the ball from the centre-backs and altering the team's shape.

As this clip highlights, centre-backs are regularly in possession without an option willing to drop back and slowly move his side forward.

FA TV

The most natural English options in this role would be Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry. With Barry nowhere near Hodgson's plans, Carrick's inclusion is England's best hope of keeping the ball this summer.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Michael Carrick of England looks on from the bench  during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Moldova at Wembley Stadium on September 6, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Whether the Manchester United man is involved against Denmark or not, one of England's central midfielders must take this role and look to recycle possession.

Denmark's likely midfield of William Kvist and Niki Zimling will be looking to disrupt the hosts, leaving an opportunity to dominate time on the ball. Fewer touches, relentless movement and short, sharp passes are the order of the day.

 

Decision-Making

Another aspect to improve upon is England's decision-making in the final third.

As this clip depicts, too often Hodgson's squad are over-ambitious, or overly keen to make an impact as an individual as opposed to a team. This situation should not lead to a shot.

FA TV

The nature of international football and the cosmopolitan climate of the Premier Leagueparticularly at top clubsmakes this understandable. However, strides must be taken to find better unity and cohesion within the team.

Longer phases of play must be constructed with more designed, considered movement.

As this next clip also highlights, England are regularly too eager to shoot from range instead of building an attack more patiently.

FA TV

England managed eight shots against Germany, but not a single one was on target. Unsurprisingly, four were from outside the box, whereas 11 of Germany's 15 shots came from inside the box.

Similarly against Chile, 54 percent of the hosts' efforts came from outside the area, compared to the 25 percent of the visitors.

This makes attacking far more of a gamble. Winning the game because of a clever team move is far better and more repeatable than winning due to individual brilliance.

 

Defensive Shield

Off the ball, England are often far too accommodating to attacking midfielders, not tracking back and picking up runners.

FA TV

As this clip shows, Hodgson's back four are completely exposed by their midfield. Another example is below.

FA TV

If this tendency remains, it will be exploited over and over again at the World Cup by opposing No. 10s.

Better anticipation, communication and awareness must all be shown to prevent this scenario. Denmark must be kept from finding similar space on Wednesday.

 

Manipulate Form

Finally, away from the clips, Hodgson must show a preference to those in form during this game.

His squad selections rarely incorporate this key factor but his starting line-up can make amends. The likes of Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson are in red-hot form and must be involved at some stage.

In contrast, the likes of Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling and Ross Barkley are among those struggling at present and perhaps fortunate to make the squad. Their involvement should be minimal, if at all. 

If some of these aspects can be addressed against a weakened Danish side, England will make important strides ahead of the summer.

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com

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