World Cup 2014: Preference for team formation over individual flair and fireworks looks like going up in smoke for Roy Hodgson - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

World Cup 2014: Preference for team formation over individual flair and fireworks looks like going up in smoke for Roy Hodgson

 

The supremacy of team shape over individual skill is perhaps too deeply embedded in Roy Hodgson’s football psyche to let him begin letting it go now. It was engrained in there over 40 years ago when he arrived at the Halmstad club in Sweden, at a time when the national team’s failure to qualify for the 1970 World Cup had led the country’s football association to introduce a unified playing style – a German-style libero – throughout the Swedish game.

A very topical section of Jonathan Wilson’s excellent history of football tactics, Inverting the Pyramid, relates how Hodgson and Bobby Houghton – the friend who brought him into Swedish football – had no time for the association’s top-down philosophy. They were only interested in their own concepts: the shape and distribution of players on the pitch, a zonal defence, high offside line and counter-attacking through long passes played in behind the opposition defence.

Wilson quotes a Swedish academic, Tomas Peterson, describing how Houghton and Hodgson “threaded together a number of principles, which could be used in a series of combinations and compositions, and moulded them into an organic totality”. It doesn’t sound like razzmatazz but the system won through, seeing Houghton and Hodgson to five out of six Swedish league titles while Houghton took Malmo to the 1979 European Cup final.

Some players have loved these Hodgson powers of organisation. Jimmy Bullard, who worked with him at Fulham, described him as “the most boring manager I’ve worked with but the best organised”. But maybe it is an awareness that the modernity has gone from these kinds of football precepts that make Hodgson so unwilling to define what his playing style actually is these days. “You can do the defining; we work on attacking and defending,” the England manager said five days ago in response to the question.

That answer seemed to run against the grain of what the Football Association, under director of elite performance Dan Ashworth, is currently attempting to introduce: a consistent English football philosophy, running through all the age groups. Ashworth and his team want to develop individuals who play with fearlessness and technical excellence and they are already establishing a rigorous method of identifying the players who are best equipped to deliver it, by scouting the length and breadth of Britain and the professional pyramid, week-in, week-out. You imagine that Hodgson, who fought off one national association’s attempts to impose a style of play all those years ago, is sceptical about the FA’s current attempts to instigate what the Swedes once did.

But whatever his views, the incontrovertible truth is that “organic totality” will just not do for England in the weeks up ahead. Hodgson’s English conservatism and defensiveness has served him well but now he is entering a cup competition in which those qualities cannot take him and his team as far as they need to go. “You have to go for it from the first whistle,” one former England international says of what lies ahead. “It’s cup football now and when you’re on the plane home there can’t be any ‘if onlys.’ He has to use the players who can get him through and abandon his natural conservatism.”

The evidence suggests that Hodgson may not be willing to do that. His game changers include Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, who delivered more in 24 minutes than most did in 90 against Peru last Friday and yet whose part against the Italians in Manaus 11 days from now still seems uncertain, judging by Hodgson’s apparent irritation with the focus lavished on him in Friday night’s post-match inquisition. It was “infuriating” to see players who come on in the last 10 minutes be compared to those who had played from the start, Hodgson said of someone who has done enough to start against the Italians.

If the starting XI against Peru was – as seems to have been the case – a prototype for how Hodgson will play things in Brazil, then Ross Barkley is another who has reason to have doubts. He probably isn’t the right individual to start against the Italians. The midfielder is not at his most potent when playing against sides who sit deep, as the Italians will. But it doesn’t feel as if Hodgson is ready to unleash him on the world, either.

Events in Miami against Ecuador tomorrow night might tell Hodgson more about what these players can contribute and perhaps also more about why Daniel Sturridge should not be sacrificed to make a five-man midfield behind Wayne Rooney in Manaus. But a view of the history books can also offer an education to England’s most learned manager.

Wilson’s book on the national football team, The Anatomy of England, which is recommended reading for the fast encroaching weeks, tells the story of how England faced Italy in searing heat of Turin’s Stadio Comunale in May 1948, preparations for which included intense stamina training at Stresa, on Lake Maggiore – such were manager Walter Winterbottom’s concerns about his side not wilting.

Their 4-0 win was one of the high points of this nation’s game, achieved amid electric tension and insufferable heat, and was a triumph of the counter-attacking style which Hodgson subscribes to. Of deepest significance was the presence of individualists – Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, Billy Wright and Neil Franklin – with the individual flair to seize the ball and carry England home.

What’s to lose by giving brilliant Buttler a chance?

There are no signs that the changing of the guard is about to inspire England to new heights on a cricket field this summer and banish the desultory memory of that horrendous winter in Australia. And so it was that while the captain Alastair Cook spoke an eminent common sense by declaring that Jos Buttler’s fastest one-day international century was not enough to make him “quite ready for Test cricket yet,” the heart did sink at the prospect of the West Countryman returning to Lancashire when cricket in its long form resumes against the Sri Lankans next week.

Buttler spoke of the “fun” of his 133-run stand with Ravi Bopara, in Saturday’s narrow defeat, and that is certainly a commodity which has gone out of England’s game, with Alex Hales’ omission from the one-day side just as baffling. Buttler’s wicketkeeping is certainly raw but England need players who can do what the Australians did last winter – deliver free-spirited aggression with bat and ball  and shake off the shackles.

Hang all the common sense. Let the boy play.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week