Roy Hodgson said England will play with style in Euro 2016 and insisted it was a “good problem”, only a week before their opening game of the tournament, that he was still trying to find a system where Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy could flourish in the same team.
Hodgson’s tactic to use Kane and Vardy as split strikers, with Rooney operating in the No10 role, struggled to take off in the 1-0 win against Portugal on Thursday, and the England manager must decide whether to keep his midfield diamond or revert to a 4-3-3 formation against Russia on 11 June.
Kane and Vardy were asked to double up as wide players, marking the Portugal full-backs, when England did not have the ball and Rooney’s position at the forward tip of the diamond meant removing Dele Alli from his best role. Hodgson was irritated by questions about what he called “the Wayne Rooney show” and made it absolutely clear, yet again, that his captain would be a mandatory starter in France. “You’re talking about the player who has played 111 games for England and scored 52 goals, so perhaps his best position is anywhere on the field,” he said pointedly.
Rooney’s preference when he is not starting as a striker is to operate on the left side of midfield, believing he can see more of the game and therefore exert a greater influence from that position than in the No10 role. “It’s a good problem to have, shoehorning in attacking players,” Hodgson said. “I don’t think I’ve had that for a long time – a lot of good attacking players to shoehorn in – so you won’t find me complaining.”
Hodgson goes into the tournament knowing his job is on the line, with the Football Association waiting to see how England play before deciding whether he warrants another contract. One of the mandates is for him to deliver a team who play attractive football and Hodgson has been stung by the criticism of the team’s performance against Portugal.
“We do try to play with style,” he said. “We’ll always try to play with style. If you watch the game again, you will see some very good moments in our attacking play. We do it because we think it’s the best way of winning – pushing our full-backs forward, getting our width in that area, trying to get midfield players into the pockets, trying to get our front players behind the opposition’s back players. We don’t lump the ball into the box, hoping for the best. We try to recirculate the ball and that’s what we did [against Portugal] on many occasions. It gave me satisfaction.
“Would I have liked to have seen more goal chances? A little bit more success with the final passes? More composure in the final third? Of course I would. But this is 11 players playing against 11 others – 11 human beings. Some had good games and others didn’t have such good games, and that’s going to be my fate going to this tournament. We don’t have hindsight. We don’t know how well or badly each player, when we select the team, is going to play.”
Meanwhile Harry Kane has admitted England struggled to implement their diamond formation effectively against the Portuguese as the Tottenham forward and Vardy drifted too wide to accommodate Rooney’s presence in the middle. “We’d been working on it in training, trying different systems, and we went with the diamond but they made it difficult when they wentdown to 10 men,” he added.
“They really dropped off and shut up the middle of the pitch. Jamie and I felt we had to go a bit wider to get the ball and in hindsight, maybe we should have stayed a bit closer together.”
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