“SYSTEMS DON’T WIN GAMES, PLAYERS DO”
The title of this article is a direct quote from England manager Roy Hodgson in the build up to England’s last pre-Euro 16 friendly against Portugal at Wembley last Thursday evening.
Under normal circumstances I would have agreed with him, and twenty years ago he would have been pretty much spot on, but as much as we may not like to admit it international football in 2016 is very much about systems. Ever since Greece won Euro 2004 with a team that the majority of us would struggle to name more than one or two players, defeated Portugal in the final, it has mostly been about getting a system that works and allows the better players to flourish.
What England have are some very good players, possibly over-hyped in the premier league gold fish bowl, who need to have a defined system where most of them are in their natural position and everyone, including the substitutes, knows their role. What they don’t need is a manager dithering around with players and systems in their final friendly before the first game in Marseille against Russia.
If I were an England supporter with cash invested in England to win the competition with my local turf accountant I would be very worried. Fortunately I’m not and don’t, I’m a Scotsman and if I wasn’t so miserable with my cash I would invest a healthy sum on Belgium (available at 12/1 on Betfair but that’s for another blog).
On Thursday night England played the ‘Diamond’ formation with Rooney at the tip and Kane and Vardy as a pair upfront, supposedly. I suspect we wont be seeing this again any time in the near future, at least not with this personnel. It was awful. Most of the time it looked like a 4-3-3- system with Rooney higher up the pitch through the middle and Kane and Vardy on the wings, mostly tracking back to cover full backs because Roy has decided to have a squad with virtually no width. This was blatantly an attempt to see if he could squeeze Kane, Vardy and Rooney into the same line-up. This is fine for a pre-tournament friendly, that’s the time to experiment, but so close to the start of a major tournament this should be about fine details, maybe one or two tweaks, from this display I would struggle to name five definite starters against Russia next Saturday. That’s just not right.
England won the game last night to complete a hat-trick of warm-up friendlies. After the game the manager said the sending off disrupted his plans, of course it did but he did not change the shape, or the system, to take advantage of Bruno Alves’s slightly high challenge on our ‘arry. It was crying out for width and overlapping full-backs, unfortunately Sterling was on the bench and Townsend is probably in a Jacuzzi in Dubai after getting dumped on Tuesday.
I was watching this game on TV and if I had joined it after thirty minutes and wasn’t aware that Portugal were down to ten men I would never had noticed. Portugal, without their Number 7, played with two banks of four and one man up front after the sending off, well I say man up front but I really mean Nani, surely one of the most frustrating footballers I’ve ever watched in my whole life.
Eventually I gave up, turned the sound off and flicked through my iPad for something more interesting to look at. It was only at full-time that I realised that the increasingly erratic Chris Smalling had scored a winner, from a cross from a substitute winger who was supposed to be playing at the tip of the diamond, comedy gold, you couldn’t write this stuff.
Anyway next week’s media coverage will be interesting as we build up to the big kick-off look out for further blogs on Premier Punt throughout the championships.
Over and out,