The general consensus about England’s first Euro 2016 match against Russia was that the Three Lions had played well, deserved to win, and were unlucky to be held to a draw.
Other popular opinions were that Wayne Rooney was a success in midfield, Harry Kane was poor, and that Roy Hodgson made poor substitution decisions late on in the game.
England had dominated the entirety of the match, but only took the lead 17-minutes from time, when Eric Dier fired home a free-kick from just outside the box. Sadly for the Three Lions, they couldn't see out the win as a 92nd-minute header from Vasili Berezutski meant both teams were leaving with a point.
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Here are five reasons why England fans should be worried about what they have seen so far from Hodgson's side.
Roy Hodgson still unsure on best XI
Despite two years of qualification, more than a month of tournament preparation, and three international friendlies, Roy Hodgson clearly still does not know his best starting XI.
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The eleven players that started against Russia had never played together in a match in that formation before. How can it be that England are still experimenting when the tournament has already begun?
This must surely be one of the many reasons behind why they did not manage an opening game victory. Can players really be expected to gel together when they haven't familiarised themselves with the formation they are playing in?
Russia are a really poor side
It could easily transpire that Russia are by far the weakest team in Group B. Slovakia beat them more comfortably than the 2-1 scoreline suggests, and Wales will expect to follow suit. Yet England managed just a solitary goal against them and it was from a set piece.
There were no goals and few chances in open play, and rarely did England’s attack get behind the Russian back line.
England’s football might have looked good at times, but they were not put under any pressure by a very average team and still failed to create enough clear chances to win the game.
Wayne Rooney’s performance masked perhaps England’s biggest problem. Rooney had a good game against Russia in midfield, this cannot be argued, nor can it be argued that he is not an excellent player with brilliant technique who deserves a place in the England squad.
However, Rooney’s continuing presence negatively impacts the team’s overall performance. When he was out injured towards the end of the Premier League season, it seemed like it could be a blessing in disguise; in internationals without him, the England team flourished.
However, since his return, Hodgson has continued to shoehorn him into the starting XI, at any cost. It is this one fact alone that causes Hodgson to continually change his formation. He has recognised that Rooney is no longer England’s number one striker, but he does not seem to have realised that he is not England’s best number ten either, nor is he the best central midfielder.
Rooney is not to blame, he is one of England’s most talented players, but his inclusion weakens the team overall. Who is to say that if Jack Wilshere had played in Rooney’s place against Russia, that he wouldn’t have done an even better job and helped England win the game?
Against better opposition, Rooney will be found out in midfield and it might be too late for England’s Euro chances by then. It is interesting to note that Hodgson eventually brought Wilshere on for Rooney, so perhaps he has these thoughts himself but is too afraid to act upon them decisively?
Dele Alli and Harry Kane under-performed
Dele Alli and Harry Kane are two of England’s leading lights, but were both well short of their best against Russia.
However, it could easily be argued that there are avoidable reasons for this. Hodgson continues to play Alli out of position to England’s decrements.
It was interesting to see Lothar Matthaus’ tweet after the Russia game:
Alli not being where he should be has a knock-on effect on Harry Kane. Alli is often the lifeblood upon which Kane feeds. Their combination at Spurs so often untied defences, but without Alli right behind him, Kane does not get the same service, space or opportunities.
The solution is to get Alli into the ten role behind Kane, but this probably means dropping Rooney or pushing him further back into midfield.
Short of form and matches going into the tournament, it was a bit of a gamble to take Raheem Sterling to the competition, let alone put him in the starting XI for the opening game.
He was picked to provide some attacking width and pace on the counter attack, but he looked a shadow of the player he can be.
His poor performance cried out for him to be replaced during the Russia game, and certainly for the next game against Wales; but the ideal replacement, who is in great form and has proven England credentials, Andros Townsend, is sitting at home watching it on the telly with the rest of us.
There is no other player in the England squad who could play well in the role Sterling was picked for against Russia. It seems bizarre that having settled on the formation and method of play that he did for the first game, that the squad Hodgson picked does not provide effective back up in case plan A doesn't work.
How do you rate England's chances at this summer's European Championships? Let us know YOUR thoughts in the comment section below!
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