Roy Hodgson received some criticism for England’s defensive approach against France on Monday. The match ended 1-1 with France have 65% possession and registering 21 shots compared to England’s five. Personally I’m not shocked that England played that way. France were always going to have more of the ball and in past England have been guilty of not defending as a team. It was a solid performance and one that, whilst sounding cliché, they can use as a platform.
Their next match is against Sweden and there have been calls for England be more attacking against them. I honestly think it was Hodgson’s intention to remain solid and contain France and then play more aggressively and offensive in this match. It was important not to lose the first match and while we would all like to see England beat France 3-0 that was never going to happen. Hodgson is a realistic manager and knows the limits and potential of his squad. His first aim was to impose the shape and structure that he wants into the team. Once that is ingrained into the players the next goal is to add an attacking dimension. In this game we should start o see that.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain preformed well against France, he added a bit of flair to the line up but his influence on the game started to fade in the second-half. Hodgson may want to use his pace and directness late in the match as an impact sub. Ashley Young should replace him on the left-wing.
- Up front Danny Welbeck will be expected to start but with Ashley Young moving to the wing he will have a new partner in attack. Either Jermain Defoe or Andy Carroll. I’d like to think Hodgson will start with Defoe as he is more mobile than Carroll. Carroll is more of a physical presence but as Hodgson said in a recent press conference England need to be more clinical in front of goal. With that in mind, Defoe would be the favourite as he is a more natural finisher then Carroll. A partnership between Welbeck and Defoe also seems a more natural fit then having Welbeck and Carroll.
- Carroll is the more likely candidate to start against the Swedes. He and Welbeck went through a series of drills together during England’s training sessions. His height is an advantage as Young and Milner will look to exploit the space on the flanks that Sweden left open against the Ukraine. Sweden’s defenders are physical themselves and Carroll’s strength will see him start ahead of Defoe.
- There are question marks over the fitness of Gerrard and Parker. Parker looked exhausted after 78 mins and was replaced by Henderson. Hodgson has said he will assess the freshness and fitness of his players before naming his starting eleven. Parker is expected to start but if not than it could see a start for Jordan Henderson or James Milner could moved infield. Milner covered more ground than any other England player against France (11,800 meters) and that sort of industry could be useful in the middle of the park.
- If Milner starts in the middle then expect Walcott to start out on the right.
- England really lack a playmaker in the middle of the park. A player in the mold of Pirlo, Modric or Xavi. That is why England look like they lack ideas in the middle of the park. The role of creator will rest on their captain Steven Gerrard. He is not a natural playmaker and is more of a box-to-box style midfielder. But he does still have the ability to split the defense with a pass or switch the play with cross field balls. England’s performance will be linked to how well he plays.
- One of the biggest problems for England could be compliance. Sweden’s Andres Svensson has stated that arrogance is a reason why England have not beaten them in their past seven competitive internationals. “I just think maybe you think you are a little bit better than you are – but we are a little bit better than you think we are. Obviously, you have big names, big players. You have a great team, but I think you don’t think that much about the Swedish team and never have. We are a good team, on the same level as England, and have been for a long time.” I think there is some truth in this statement.
- Both teams are very similar in terms of their play. Both like to defend with two solid banks of four and that could see the game become quite dull at times. The big difference between the two is that Sweden have their star man, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on the pitch whilst England will be missing Wayne Rooney who sits this game out due to suspension. Ibrahimovic is a player that divides opinion in England, but despite what you think of him he is a player that can win a match all by himself.