England defeat: Five issues for Roy Hodgson to address

What should the England manager do before the crucial game with Uruguay?

After losing to Italy in Manaus this Saturday, England must face up to the fact that they will almost certainly need to win both their remaining games if they are to qualify for the next round.

With Copa America winners Uruguay and tournament surprise package Costa Rica to come, Roy Hodgson does not face an easy task if he is to turn England's fortunes around.

Here we look at five issues the England boss needs to address...

1. Be bold, but not impetuous

Much was made of the fearlessness of England’s youth and the early shot from Raheem Sterling that flashed into the side-netting laid down a marker.

However, too many players were tempted to follow suit, especially as the match wore on and England became frustrated by the Azzurri’s deep defence. Gianluigi Buffon may have been absent but his replacement, Paris St Germain ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu, is no mug and he made sure when he parried, as he did often, the rebound went well away from danger.

Salvatore Sirigu makes a save Salvatore Sirigu makes a save

The Brazuca flies true, but too many of England’s shots were from unfeasible distances and taken when there were better passing options.

Better decision-making comes with maturity – Cristiano Ronaldo used to shoot whenever he could see the goal – but that takes time. For now Roy Hodgson has to find a way to temper his young guns’ impetuosity, while retaining their adventure.

 

2. Up the tempo in attack

Given the conditions in Manaus it was understandable both teams slowed the game down at times, but in the last half-hour, when Italy circled the wagons, England’s passing tempo was too slow.

They had good width, especially when Antonio Candreva’s departure enabled Leighton Baines to push on, but too often of their passing was sideways in direction and ponderous in execution.

Rooney was ponderous in attack Rooney was ponderous in attack
England constantly recycled the ball in front of the Italian lines but too rarely sought to play it in behind them. Space was tight, but quick one-touch passing, allied to good movement, could have created chances.

Not that this was unexpected. Cesare Prandelli had his tactics spot on. He must have watched England against a ten-man Honduras in Miami a week prior and thought, ‘if they cannot get break them down, they will never open us up if we draw back’. He was right.

 

3. Should Wilshere start against Uruguay?

One of the players most capable of playing the quick one-twos around the box that penetrate tight defences is Jack Wilshere and there were signs, as he drove towards the Italians on Saturday night, that his fitness is coming on.

Wilshere makes things happen in a way that Jordan Henderson does not. However, he is also more likely to concede possession and be caught upfield when opponents break. Uruguay do not, however, have an Andrea Pirlo to police.

Jordan Henderson does not offer the same in attack as Jack Wilshere Jordan Henderson does not offer the same in attack as Jack Wilshere
Indeed, their midfield was one-dimensional against Costa Rica and far more rigid than England’s. Wilshere’s inclusion is probably a risk worth taking.

 

4. How to protect the flanks?

Coaches call it the ‘short-blanket syndrome’ Just as a short blanket cannot keep both shoulders and feet warm, so few midfields possess a mix of players capable of protecting the back four and supporting the front players.

This was England’s problem on the left on Saturday night. A narrow midfield was deployed to cramp Pirlo (with limited success) but that meant space was left on the flanks, which Candreva and Matteo Darmian exploited to the full.

Less than three minutes had gone when Pirlo fed Candreva who drew Leighton Baines and fed Darmian. It was the portent of a long night for Baines who was given insufficient support by his left-sided attacker, whether it was Wayne Rooney or Danny Welbeck.

Leighton Baines Leighton Baines
However, England’s goal came after Rooney made use of the space left by a Darmian sally so there were plusses as well as minuses.

Adding another attack-minded player in Wilshere will exacerbate England’s defensive vulnerabilities, but Uruguay’s overlapping may be limited. They will be playing a stand-in right-back in place of the suspended Maxi Pereira and on the left Martin Caceres, like Giorgio Chiellini on Saturday, is by nature a centre-back.

Uruguay do have width in midfield, but unless Luis Suarez plays, which seems unlikely, their attacking movement is not as intelligent as Italy’s

 

5. Who is fresh for Uruguay? 

Barely an hour had gone when the first England player succumbed to cramp (Sterling) and several followed. This was worrying when Italy’s older side seemed largely untroubled.

Sterling was the first to succumb to cramp Sterling was the first to succumb to cramp
Hodgson will have to assess carefully how quickly his players have recovered from their Amazonian ordeal and select a starting XI accordingly. The judgement has become more complicated by Saturday’s results. England’s defeat, and Costa Rica’s victory, means key players cannot be rested from the third group game as qualification will hinge on it - unless, of course, England lose to Uruguay on Thursday, and Italy and Costa Rica draw on Friday, in which case England will be out.

 

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