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England: Where Did It All Go Wrong This Time, Roy?


And so, as sure as night follows day, an FA inquest follows England’s early departure from a major tournament.

England’s defeat at the hands of Iceland (yes, Iceland), is a low point in a series of lows. A top heavy FA will now decide where we go next. They may already have a man in mind but the customary inquest must come first.

The reality is the options are few. The list of names uninspiring to say the least. The word on the street is that Gareth Southgate could be the man.

Southgate, having previously managed the Under-21s, would represent ‘synergy’, or ‘consistency’, or whatever other David Brent-isms the FA can think of.

THUN, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 26: Gareth Southgate manager of England U21 looks on prior to the European Under 21 Qualifier match between Switzerland U21 and England U21 at Stockhorn Arena on March 26, 2016 in Thun, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

Martin Glenn and Dan Ashworth must first analyse the most recent failings before announcing a new manager, and no doubt a whole list of sweeping changes.

And what will the latest inquest throw up, what vital ingredient was missed that will be added in next time?

The FA will look at the team’s preparation; where they were based, how they moved around, the friendlies they played beforehand, and a whole host of other things, the impact of which, in terms of England’s performances, will have been negligible.

There’s only so many ways to skin a cat though. Only so many things you can change, and the FA have tried the lot.

Sharing a hotel with the WAGs (2006) – check. Complete isolation (2010) – check. Based in the middle of town (2012) – check. Mix of all three (2016) – check.

In terms of the manager, they’ve tried everything as well. Legendary ex-player (twice) – check. Hardline foreigner – check. Matey-matey coach – check. Dithering conservative – check. Horny Swede – check.

England’s failings are far simpler: Wrong manager. Wrong squad. Wrong tactics. Wrong mentality.

Roy Hodgson oversaw a thrilling comeback against Germany in March. Since then, how many times has that 11-man team shared a pitch? Not once. How many times have they played that way? Not once.

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Roy Hodgson manager of England looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

England played without fear and with a youthful exuberance of a team unencumbered by years of failure. They moved the ball quickly. They weren’t afraid to engage. They pressed high up. They harried. Bullied, even.

Dele Alli was outstanding. As good an individual England performance as any in the past 20 years. He looked fresh, always willing to get up and beyond Harry Kane and ask questions of the German defence.

Where was that in France? Alli was shackled. Conservative Roy and his conservative ways.

Somehow, Hodgson has managed to take that fearlessness, that youthful exuberance, and turn it into panic and pressure.

England looked like they were running in concrete at times. Walker and Rose the only two who seemed to have any licence to break forward with anything resembling reckless abandon.

The team was grossly unbalanced. England took one winger, with the intention of playing 4-3-3, with Andros Townsend left at home in favour of Raheem Sterling.

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Raheem Sterling of England and Birkir Saevarsson of Iceland compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Sterling was the only player to come home from Brazil two years ago with credit in the bank, but now he is shot. His head is gone. He clearly was not in the right frame of mind to go to this tournament. His fragile relationship with the England fans may now be irreparable. Say thank you to Roy, Raheem.

Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere was picked ahead of Danny Drinkwater. An in-form player at the very pinnacle of his career, vetoed for Roy’s mate, his little buddy. To say Wilshere’s performances were ineffective would be a massive understatement. He played as though he had been out injured all season. Funny that.

Hodgson was considered bold when he chose five forwards. This is a team with goals in it, he decreed. But only Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy were deemed worthy of the lone striker role. Daniel Sturridge was, inexplicably, deployed wide on the right. Were you short of wingers, Roy?

Hodgson will say he was given licence to come inside on his left foot but it’s rubbish. Sturridge gave himself licence to get in the box once against Wales. He scored.

Square pegs in round holes is nothing new. England invented it. But Hodgson took it to another level. Sturridge isn’t a winger, he’s a striker. There are better options on the right hand side. Townsend and Theo Walcott to name just two.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Andros Townsend of Newcastle United and Idrissa Gueye of Aston Villa compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on May 7, 2016 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

All too often Hodgson felt the need to have the best eleven players on the pitch rather than the best team. Sturridge needs to play? Fine, stick him on the right. Rooney won’t get in the team as a striker anymore? Put him in midfield, then. Danny Welbeck has magically healed himself and is ready to play? Stick him in goal!

Why not bring Nathaniel Clyne on at right-back and put Kyle Walker wide right? The complaint is that Walker’s weakness is defending. Take the responsibility away. Get up there Kyle, and stay there. You wouldn’t have needed to tell him twice.

Twice in this tournament England had four strikers on the pitch, occupying roles in midfield and attack. Don’t ask me what role Marcus Rashford was given against Wales. Whatever it was, Hodgson got away with it. He gambled and it paid off. But it was always a gamble. Every game, every selection.

After four years in the job, Hodgson still had no idea what his best team was. His favoured system seemed to be 4-3-3, but the intricacies of how that worked still eluded him. He looked clueless on the touchline. Attacking options at his disposal but no idea when or how to use them. The look of defeat was on his face when he got off the plane.

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Roy Hodgson manager of England shows his frustration after his team's scoreless draw in the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Slovakia and England at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on June 20, 2016 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

And what now for Rashford? The teenager has approached every challenge so far with a shrug of the shoulders. He seems unphased by everything. Even against Iceland, asked to come on and salvage something, he went at them without fear. The boos from the crowd suddenly stopped every time he touched the ball. But what will a month in Hodgson’s company have done to him? Would you be surprised if he comes back from France a nervous wreck?

When England lost a World Cup qualifier to Germany in 2000, Kevin Keegan reportedly quit on the toilet. 20 minutes after England’s latest failure, Hodgson did his business in public.

The fact that he had a written a prepared statement was worrying. When was it composed? Was it hand-written or printed? Would we have been surprised if it had been laminated? Was it already in his hand luggage when he boarded the plane to France?

But what could we expect of Hodgson when his paymasters had made it clear failure was acceptable. A quarter-final defeat, against a decent team, would have been enough to earn Hodgson another crack at it.

Don’t take my word for it. FA chairman Greg Dyke said as much.

Mediocre was the standard set down by the FA and Hodgson happily pitched his tent there. Why wouldn’t he? It always came so naturally to him. And he was getting so damn good at it.

Robb Graham, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.