Tag Archives: Wayne Rooney

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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Van Gaal lays foundations that future managers must build on

Louis van Gaal has laid the defensive foundations of which entertaining attacking play can be built on, but probably from someone else.  Source: The Guardian

Louis van Gaal has laid the defensive foundations of which entertaining attacking play can be built on, but probably from someone else. Source: The Guardian

Many people have rightly claimed that the footballing philosophy that Louis van Gaal has brought to Manchester United has made them a dull, relatively predictable attacking team.

While the ideas he has put in place, centring around structure and possession of the football, have helped solidify a leaky defence, it has in turn stifled the attacking flair of which Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams were fondly remembered for.

With that significant comes criticism, rightly or wrongly, for the direction that the team is going in under the Dutchman. Many question whether it will win the club anything and even if it does, whether it would have been worth watching the mundanity of it all.

Some would also argue that the amount of money that United have spent in the last two summers demands trophies. That others have spent similar or less and have achieved results, therefore the same should be said of this current crop of players at Old Trafford.

However, some are forgetting what he inherited. The end of the Ferguson era saw the Moyes era and he simply could not lay the foundations that would stand the club in good stead not just in their immediate future but for many seasons to come.

They went backwards, without a real plan in attack or defence and with a squad that was waning, he could not put enough in place quickly enough to make a stark change.

In came Van Gaal, in came big changes to personnel and for a brief moment, it worked. The autumn was solid but it lead to a relatively bleak winter that saw United begin to dip in form. Unable to defend and with a lack of potency up front, they stagnated.

Then, there was a sign of real life.

United's 3-0 win against Spurs, with Rooney's "knockout" goal, was the real standout performance of last season.  Source: The Mirror

United’s 3-0 win against Spurs, with Rooney’s “knockout” goal, was the real standout performance of last season. ┬áSource: The Mirror

A 3-0 performance at Old Trafford against Tottenham Hotspur was a real marker of what this team can do. There was a real energy when the ball was played forward, the team pressed high and were rewarded with quick counters in the final third that Barcelona have proved in the last few years can be so deadly.

It didn’t require a huge amount of possession, with only 52%, and despite having 11 shots on goal, only three were on target. They all ended in the back of the net, a pretty regular symptom of the new Manchester United, of which that if they tend to work a goal-scoring opportunity, it at least ends in the back of the net.

And again, it was built of the solid defensive play from earlier in the season. Spurs failed to have a shot until the 89th minutes, the on-fire Harry Kane was completely anonymous and they build on top of that with a high-press, quick attacking game.

It lasted a few games before the team ran out of steam. In came a few more signings in the summer, some extra youthful injection as well as some real solidarity in midfield and other than potentially a real solid centre-back, it was the summer the team were begging for.

From the start of the season up until now, the team haven’t set anyone alight.

Van Gaal’s tactics in most games are set up almost not to lose or concede, which seem much more sensible when you consider the plights of Chelsea but seem outrageous when you can’t be adventurous away at Leicester City, a team that have been on quite the run but aren’t the most formidable defensive team.

Instead, they tried to stop the Foxes entertaining attack and for the most part they did, it did not end in a win but the team that was set out, with three centre-backs and two defensive midfielders, although Bastian Schweinsteiger did become more advanced once they went behind.

United were abject against Leicester, bar a solid showing from Schweinsteiger.  Source: Manchester Evening News

United were abject against Leicester, bar a solid showing from Schweinsteiger. Source: Manchester Evening News

What one can learn from these displays is that Van Gaal is at least providing a foundation of which the team can build from. No one wanted to join with Moyes in charge, he has attracted young talent that will grow with the club and their attacking flair will come to the fore at some point.

The defence can now defend properly and if Luke Shaw wasn’t injured, the back line might never have changed all season. Daley Blind has held his own, Phil Jones has impressed when fit and Chris Smalling has been a revelation. If Matteo Darmain can rediscover his confidence, it’s a good unit that is now finally protected by a solid defensive midfielder with good interplay skills in Morgan Schneiderlin.

They have the best defence in the league, conceding 10 goals in 14 games and in an era when defending has become an afterthought for some teams. It’s impressive when heading into the season, people thought they desperately needed a centre-back but all they needed was a firm structure and a bit of consistency.

While it’s clear that he’s restricting the attacking players, which is only more frustrating when you look at the talent and how some performed at the back end of last season, they have a solid backbone. Either Van Gaal will eventually let some of the reigns loose as his team continues to hold off others or someone else will make it so, much like at every other club the 64-year-old has been at.

Barcelona and Bayern Munich are both lauded for their attacking flair but what is also forgotten about, especially under Pep Guardiola, is the fact that they don’t concede many goals either. They had a basis, of which attacking play was then build upon and then the success would come.

It might be difficult to tell at the moment and a little inconsiderate to ask for people to wait for this to work but at least there looks to be a plan. Other teams spend in hope, as have United, but it’s with the intent to advance the team for the foreseeable future.

The days of traditional wing play and counter attacking football is gone, at least for the time being. The club are doing what every other rebuild should do, rebuild from the back and then move forwards, then you can create a team capable of winning silverware on a regular basis.

Whether it will be Van Gaal at the helm when that does happen is unlikely but United fans should not fret too much, the foundations are at least laid for a real identity to be placed upon them sooner rather than later.

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