by Liam McConville
At last the wait is almost over, in a few hours England’s first game at this tournament will be over as Hodgson’s team take on the heavily fancied France. The opening games of the Euros have been fascinating so far, highlighting the ways that England can perhaps achieve success this summer. It is well known that Hodgson is quite a cautious manager and England are likely to line up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Ashley Young behind a lone striker.
The lone striker berth appears to be a straight shootout between Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck. Here the absence of Rooney will be keenly felt, as England lack a cutting edge up front. Welbeck should land the starting place following on from his clinical finish against Belgium last week. Although questions remain over whether the twenty-one year old can score on a regular basis, Welbeck’s link up play with his fellow Manchester United forward could be key for the Three Lions should they progress into the latter stages of the tournament.
Indeed one thing that is easy to see is that sides with lots of club links are performing better. This might seem quite obvious, having players from the same club makes the transition into international football that much easier. This looks to be paying off for Russia whose side is packed full of Zenit St. Petersburg players. Spain and Germany also have plenty of club links amongst their talented ranks, with the German’s fielding seven Bayern Munich players for their opener. Instead of breeding contempt it seems as though familiarity might be the way to bring success at the European Championship.
England has strong club links themselves with six Liverpool players in the squad and this could provide the spine of a successful national side. I am of course joking there but seriously the Liverpool players aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be, except for Downing of course. Three of England’s first choice back four could have been Chelsea players had it not been for Gary Cahill’s unfortunate double jaw fracture.
Another lesson for Hodgson now and for the future is that he needs a strong plan B. Hodgson’s faith in counter attacking football may yet yield success but as shown by the Republic of Ireland last night, this pragmatism can go badly wrong. Should England go a goal down early they need a better plan than throwing on Carroll. This old school approach of lumping it up to the big man simply doesn’t work anymore and England needs to play to their other strengths.
Something that is always effective in every form of football is pace. Nothing terrifies a defender more than a lightening quick forward dribbling towards them. This is something that England has in Arsenal duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. At the time of writing there are reports that the Ox will make his competitive England debut against the French.
This would be n happy surprise for England fans expecting to see the more conservative duo of Stewart Downing and James Milner on the flanks. Chamberlain is brimming with the confidence and exuberance that a youngster brings. He could make a similar impact to that of Michael Owen in the 1998 World Cup, or Wayne Rooney in Euro 2004.
Sure his inclusion would be a gamble but Chamberlain has shown he can perform on the biggest stage with a sterling performance against A.C. Milan in the Champions League. This England side are intent to play within themselves but they also need to utilise their strengths if they want to reach the knockout stages. So for these reasons I urge you Roy, be brave and unleash England’s exciting new weapon.