Tag Archives: Adam Lallana

England Analysis: Hodgson’s negative substitutes stunted solid display

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Rooney worked well in the midfield and was the impressive heartbeat of the team. Source: Daily Star

As usual in tournament football, supporting your team can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride and yet again, England did not fail in getting the heart pumping. It was a bitter pill to swallow in the end but not one England cannot come back from and while there were plenty of good moments, there are issues that need to be fixed.

Starting with the positives, England overall put in a strong performance. They controlled the game and possession, limiting Russia to scraps for long periods of the game and even though there was not enough clear cut opportunities, they did create some chances at goal.

Wayne Rooney was great in the midfield, controlling the pace of the game and creating the big diagonals that spread the Russians thin, putting them under great pressure. Both Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were excellent too, working down the flanks to support the forward play as well as earning their keep by tracking back.

Eric Dier also showed his importance to the team with the man of the match display. He stopped any attacks coming from the Russians, breaking down play and keeping possession well, with his goal being the icing on the cake.

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The system also worked for long periods, especially for the likes of Adam Lallana, who impressed in the first half. In the second period, Harry Kane became too isolated and Raheem Sterling was often running into avenues without much support, so mixing it into a 4-2-3-1 going forward might give the team a better balance.

The big problem arose after 70 minutes, when Roy Hodgson finally made some substitutions. They were a little late in the game to affect much and they were very negative, especially given England’s position in the game and that he would have not made them if the team were still searching for a goal.

Taking Rooney off seemed suspect even if he was slowing in the game and his replacement, Jack Wilshire, was like-for-like and he did his best. Bringing James Milner on for Sterling showed everything you needed to know, England wanted to sit on the one-nil lead they had and take the three points home.

It’s right that they were still unlucky to concede at the end to an opposition that had not turned up for the other 90 minutes but in football you create your own luck. With them likely to push on, bringing on any of the forwards on the bench would have kept them on the backfoot and susceptible to the counter attack.

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Milner coming on was too negative and it cost England. Source: Yahoo

What was more worrying is the fact that there wasn’t just one option to put in that role either. Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford would have pressured the aging Russian defence as they tired and pushed for an equaliser. They all could fill a role out wide too if needed, so he did not even need to switch tactics to bring them on.

That negative attitude to hold on cost England dear, with Milner ever rushing out too far that allowed the cross in to the box and the biggest lesson they should learn is that their positivity was what got them into a winning position in the first place. Hodgson needs to trust his attackers and in a key derby game against Wales, England need to make a statement of intent or face more embarrassment from a team that are just as desperate to win.

In fact, this game could be do or die for Hodgson. Win and he can hopefully see the light to set course for greater victories down the road but if he fails to, he could be heading for disaster which would mean his head would be on the chopping block.

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A look at Liverpool’s transfer committee

The transfer committee, eventually, helped sink Rodgers but he agreed to it.  Source: Sky Sports

The transfer committee, eventually, helped sink Rodgers but he agreed to it. Source: Sky Sports

While I’ve wrote in the past about the benefits of a director of football, it’s too tempting not to have a look into a different style that one team in England has gone with for quite a while, Liverpool’s “transfer committee”.

To summarise what we have been told, a group of higher-ups at the Anfield club write up a shortlist of who they will look to obtain. According to their former manager Brendan Rodgers, this is paraphrasing, if they did not get their top target, they would get one of their 20 or so names on that list.

They would tend to prioritise young players, aiming at 24 or younger, with the view that they could add value to them and if needed, sell them for a profit. Obviously there would be exceptions and the option to veto but every single transfer came through a similar kind of process.

Balotelli may always be the poster boy for it not working.  Source: 101greatgoals.com

Balotelli may always be the poster boy for it not working. Source: 101greatgoals.com

Before getting into the negatives, there are certainly some positives. Both Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were signed after the scheme was implemented in 2012 and the likes of Emre Can, along with Roberto Firmino, are showing enough promise that the system may be worth it.

However, there have been some poor mistakes. Even Rodgers admitted that the Mario Balotelli experiment was a huge risk as he didn’t fit their system but the board saw it as someone they could potentially make a huge profit on.

There’s a number of signings they have made that just never worked out. Iago Aspas looked, and still does back at Celta Vigo, that he would fit perfectly but since he was probably just another name on a shortlist, he never saw the time on the field to adjust and therefore was doomed to fail.

Of course, we should remind ourselves that these two were also bought under the regime.  Source: vavel.com

Of course, we should remind ourselves that these two were also bought under the regime. Source: vavel.com

You can argue that Rodgers still got what he wanted in most cases, as highlighted by the signings of Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, but neither lit the world alight. None of them have quite adjusted to the level required at a club of that size and it makes it seem like it’s too much of a scattered approach to signing players.

The worry begins when you hear that Rodgers felt that he had Alexis Sanchez in the bag. That somehow did not happen, it would have been perfect for the club  and in the end, they brought in nowhere near the same quality he thought they had sealed early. That killed the momentum they had from the previous season and the team still hasn’t recovered yet under Jurgen Klopp.

In the end, I feel that this method feels like it’s too many cooks spoiling the broth. You can say that the manager would always get someone on the list, therefore justifying a transfer, but when you go into the shop for a chocolate bar and come out with mint imperials, it can be still be good but just not what you needed.

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England’s selection headaches

Hodgson needs to start sticking to a line-up or they'll come unstuck against better teams.  Source: The Guardian

Hodgson needs to start sticking to a line-up or they’ll come unstuck against better teams. Source: The Guardian

Another Euro 2016 qualifier, another win. It’s hard to argue that Roy Hodgson isn’t doing a good job but at the same time, there’s still a lingering headache with fans with his incoherent team selection.

It began with the starting eleven, with Phil Jones starting at right-back instead of the natural full-back Nathaniel Clyne. Despite Jones having a few good games in the position, especially at club level, it’s not a natural fit and common sense would suggest that when you have someone of Clyne’s ability at your disposal, it makes the choice even more suspect.

Then after Jones was removed due to injury at half-time, Hodgson decided to move Jordan Henderson into the back four and bring on Adam Lallana. It’s an attacking change and England needed more impetuous after going behind, it still didn’t make much sense to weaken the middle of the park just to add another dimension in the final third.

Can people stop playing Phil Jones at right-back, please?  Source: The FA

Can people stop playing Phil Jones at right-back, please? Source: The FA

That’s not a slight on Lallana, who did make a difference, or Henderson, who did a capable job, but it only got more absurd when Clyne finally came on just after Slovenia’s equaliser. It almost felt like a token appearance, five minutes isn’t enough time to really impact the game and questions have to be asked about how England set up.

It’s not just the right-back position that was at fault, how Andros Townsend was chosen over Theo Walcott will boggle the mind for days. Townsend, who can’t get a game for Tottenham Hotspurs, has had a few decent performances for England which surely justifies his place in Hodgson’s mind over the in-form, FA Cup winning Theo Walcott.

If England are to take anything out of the game, it’s that they need more tactical flexibility and they need to start picking a consistent defensive line-up. Wayne Rooney had a pretty poor game but at the same time, all too often he was the only player in the box at any given time and that needed to change.

Walcott, even in a rich vein of form at the end of the season, can't get a look in.  Source: The Guardian

Walcott, even in a rich vein of form at the end of the season, can’t get a look in. Source: The Guardian

Adding Lallana was better, he tried to fill in the gap behind him along with Jack Wilshire but Townsend provided no width on the right, coming too far inside and staying out of the box. With Michael Carrick injured and no other quality options in his absence, Hodgson needs to be confident enough to play a 4-2-3-1 so that there are more choices for playmakers in the final third.

The defence also needs solidifying as his chop-changing style isn’t helping anyone. Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill is probably the ideal match-up, both because of age and style, but they need to play together regularly. He also can’t keep switching who’s at left-back, Kieran Gibbs was poor on the second goal and Ryan Bertrand didn’t do too much to be dropped so he needs to choose a solid line-up at the back.

Having pretty much qualified for Euro 2016 with a win, Hodgson now needs to use the games in the Autumn and next year to solidify the team, add the flexibility and make sure they’ll be ready against quality opposition. The mistakes made here will be severely punished by bigger teams and rather than wasting the time to test out players, Hodgson needs to use the valuable time the team have together to make them a better outfit ready for tournament football.

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