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England: Tactical Advancements Roy Hodgson Should Make Immediately

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMay 31, 2013

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Manager Roy Hodgson of England directs his players during a training session at St Georges Park on May 27, 2013 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

England hosted the Republic of Ireland in an international friendly on Wednesday and played out a drab 1-1 draw.

It was a poor result for the home side considering their aspirations in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and Roy Hodgson needs to make some serious tactical advancements if his side are to even qualify for the tournament proper.

Let's look at what the boss must do to improve the situation.

Dig a hole, put the 4-4-2 in it

When it became clear England were playing a loose variant of the 4-4-2 formation against Ireland on Wednesday, many sighed with despair.

It was essentially the same formation that got the team nowhere in Euro 2012, scraping through the group stages before being bettered in every possible way vs. Italy.

The BBC's Phil McNulty sounded off on the tournament with some fantastic quotes from Roy Hodgson, and the general theme became clear: We didn't have enough time to train, so we stuck to the simple stuff.

The only problem being, 4-4-2 isn't simple anymore; It's an archaic formation that's rarely used and to force players into it only created more work than necessary.

Fans received the impression it was finished after the Euros, but that's clearly not the case. Hodgson has to put that formation in a safety deposit box and throw away the key.

The irritating thing is, toward the end of 2012 and start of the 2013, the manager was showing real tactical progress. The Three Lions bettered Brazil at Wembley by using a 4-2-3-1 formation to start with, then switching to a midfield diamond.

The diamond allowed Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to play in the same team and not get in each other's way—arguably the first time that's ever happen since they began representing their nation simultaneously.

Reverting back to the dark ages, as the BBC's Gary Lineker calls it, only served to heighten the impression England are far from the glory they crave.

Introduce flexibility

It is no longer acceptable to have one formation.

The 4-4-2 England used against Ireland was crying out for Jack Wilshere—who has emerged as Hodgson's key player going into the World Cup—but due to injury concerns he wasn't in the squad.

To ask a 34-year-old Frank Lampard to do the same job carrying the ball upfield as a 21-year-old box-to-box dynamo is the definition of madness, and two or three backup formations must be devised.

From there, Hodgson must pick his fittest and strongest XI and use the appropriate system, rather than shoehorning Michael Carrick into a formation where no one else plays to his strengths.

If you lose the player your system is built on, you can't just soldier on and hope for the best. At least try and work around it.

Make some tough selection calls

England have a truly disappointing habit of selecting players based on their reputation, not form.

Every manager that walks through the door at Wembley will always profess his intention to pick those who are playing well at club level, which is fine, but if they continually under-perform on the international stage then their places need to be considered.

Glen Johnson has had a season to remember in a Liverpool shirt, turning in consistently excellent performances to wow the crowd at Anfield. Unfortunately, whenever he pulls on an England shirt, his showings instantly become worse.

It's difficult to remember the last time Johnson translated his club form to international level—bar the opening four minutes against Italy in Euro 2012—and he's one of several players who should be under more pressure than they are.

England might not have the biggest selection pool—The Daily Mail's John Edwards revealed just 36 percent of players in the English Premier League are eligible for the national side—but there are at least three players for each position nonetheless.

An injection of fresh blood is needed, and those sat on their laurels must be warned in a way they dare not heed.

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