Following their embarrassing capitulation against Germany at the World Cup in 2010, and the most one-sided 0-0 you'll see as Italy eliminated them from the European Champions on penalties at Euro 2012, England knew that something had to change.
The finger of blame was pointed in all sorts of directions. Numerous enquiries were held, and a multitude of reasons were offered up as to where things were going wrong in the hope that a solution would eventually be found for England’s constant failings at major tournaments.
The rest of the world, it seemed, had taken to playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. As a result, the brains entrusted with running the England side thought that following suit would reap great rewards.
The only issue though, is that England do not possess the personnel to make such a system work.
In order to have a truly fluid and balanced 4-2-3-1, a side requires at least one of the two holding midfielders to be a ball winner. A player who sacrifices personal glory for the good of the team.
A player who can judge the way his opponent is playing to such an extent that he is more often than not in the right place at the right time to make a timely tackle and win back possession of the ball.
Once he has done that, he simply gives the ball to a teammate who is superior in the creativity department.
England do not possess such a player. In Brazil this summer, the two deep lying midfielders employed by Roy Hodgson were Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson. Neither of these players are defensive midfielders by trade. That position is a tricky one to play, and you cannot simply play any old player there.
Further up the field, a side will require a player who has the vision and passing ability to split defences open.
Again, England do not possess such a player. In fact, only one player springs to mind in the last ten to fifteen years, and that's Paul Scholes.
Ironically, he was more often than not played out wide and out of position. It’s a moot point of course as back then England relied on good old reliable 4-4-2.
Jack Wilshere could potentially play that role, but he needs to start dominating games more. He is too often on the periphery of the action rather than controlling it.
Back to basics
It is painfully obvious that England should not persist with this formation, but I have a feeling that they will do just that.
In the past, England have managed to make the quarter finals of tournaments quite comfortably, playing a standard 4-4-2.
That was always deemed as failure for some reason though. Personally, if I were Hodgson, I’d revert back to 4-4-2 and stick to what England do best.
England have always been strong, quick and athletic. Play with wide men and get crosses in. It isn’t pretty, and it is incredibly old hat, but if it works, then don’t be afraid to use it, rather than trying to emulate more talented neighbours.
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