Slovakia draw reveals England's lack of versatility up top

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England once again dominated the ball and had most of the chances in Monday's final group outing against Slovakia but failed to make much of an impact in the final third.

Roy Hodgson's side were clearly the better on the day as they have been in all three of their group games, but inefficiency and lack of adaptability in the forward ranks have yielded just one win so far.

Although blessed with ample talent, England's group of strikers are much the same kind of players. Generally, they want the ball at their feet and like to run behind the defence with lethal finishing skills in those situations.


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There is no problem whatsoever with that when the game is open and there is space for these gifted players to do what they do best, however, when a side like Slovakia stack men behind the ball and close spaces up in front of the strikers, it becomes very hard for them to have an impact on the game.

Whilst nobody wants to see England playing aimless long balls into the box, some height and aerial prowess would be very useful to this side in games like last night's to offer a different threat that isn't nullified by their opponents keeping 10 men behind the ball.

Harry Kane is no small man at just over six foot and one inch but he isn't really a dominant aerial threat and doesn't have the athleticism to worry defenders in the way that someone like Andy Carroll would.

The issue with Roy Hodgson's group of strikers is that they all offer a very similar skill set and it was evident on Monday that something a little different would be required to better a very stubborn and organised Slovakian defence.

The selection of Marcus Rashford ahead of Carroll is somewhat questionable in light of this performance as the teenager sat on the bench all night and is unlikely to play any significant role in the tournament as he is clearly not first, second or even third in the pecking order. So why is he there?

Having yet another pacy front man who brings the same kind of threat as Vardy and Sturridge isn't beneficial in crunch games where teams are piling men behind the ball, something England are likely to face in their last-16 game, unless they come up against Portugal.

Having the threat of Carroll to bring off the bench and offer a completely different kind of threat to opposing teams would be of great benefit to England and Hodgson has really missed a trick by leaving the West Ham man out.

Carroll is sensational in the air and no centre back pairing would enjoy the sight of him entering the fray in the closing stages of a game.

And that's all it would be, Carroll should by no means be considered for a starting role but when games are tight and teams are playing with men behind the ball there is no better man to bring on. He isn't just a scoring threat either as his ability to knock balls down for others and hold the ball up would also bring England's other forwards into the game more.

It was clear on Monday that England lacked an aerial threat as Martin Skrtel and the rest of the Slovakian back four easily dealt with the few crosses that were put in. The midfield players were forced to continue to try and break down a wall of Slovak players with intricate balls along the ground in the final minutes of the game when it was abundantly evident that this approach wasn't working, they simply had no other option.

And where was Marcus Rashford? That's right, on the bench. The Manchester United striker is extremely talented and may well be England's star front man in the future but his inclusion was a mistake from the outset and his place could have gone to Carroll who might have made a real impact on this tournament as a substitute.

Few other teams have the option of a lethal aerial threat and against better sides England will only continue to struggle to produce chances at this rate. It is a real shame that Rashford is just sitting on the bench, taking up a spot that might've gone to Carroll.

Hodgson must now take a hard look at the way his side play going forward and realise that without two slightly fortunate goals against what is honestly an average Wales side, England would be on their way home right now.

There needs to be more urgency and efficiency but above all, adaptability.

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Wayne Rooney
Euro 2016
England Football
Andrew Carroll
Marcus Rashford

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