While some pundits and fans have tried to highlight positives in England’s performance so far at Euro 2016, the truth is that they have generally been miserable.
There is no doubt that England have some talented players but you’ve got to feel that Roy Hodgson’s seemingly indecisive nature is holding them back, and it looks like it will cost England dearly against better opposition.
Hodgson should have been sacked after England’s dreadful World Cup showing where tame defeats to Italy and Uruguay dumped them out at the group stage, leaving the squad to arrive home with their tails between their legs and face the wrath of the English media.
People will point to the fact that England cantered through qualification but given the poor opposition they face, that will always usually be the case. It is the major tournaments where England managers need to be judged and like many before him, Hodgson is destined for failure.
On reflection Russia made England look good in that opening game. Russia have arguably been the worst team in the competition, yet England could not manage the game properly and allowed them to claim an undeserved equaliser in the final minutes. Hodgson brought on James Milner and Jordan Henderson to see the game out instead of bringing on a player such as Jamie Vardy or Marcus Rashford, who had the pace to kill off the contest once and for all.
If the Russian defence saw Vardy or Rashford on the pitch, they would be forced to drop deep out of fear. Wales and Slovakia both very comfortably beat Russia, and that paints a very embarrassing picture for England.
The Three Lions huffed and puffed in large parts against their neighbours Wales but received a bit of luck with Daniel Sturridge’s late winner. It is extraordinary to think, however, that without his late winner, England would already be heading out and heads would certainly roll. It may be just delaying the inevitable.
The six changes Hodgson made against Slovakia were extremely bizarre considering that England had not yet secured a place in the knockout round. As a result, they did not look anywhere near breaking down a typically average but well-organised Slovakia side.
Henderson, Jack Wilshere and Milner, for their part, were abysmal in midfield, an area that is England’s most problematic concern. Hodgson is not helping either, and it shows the squad’s limitations when Wayne Rooney is their best midfielder.
Hodgson left better options at home. Mark Noble has had an excellent with West Ham and would have added more drive and tenacity around the pitch. It is also strange to see the experienced Michael Carrick not in that England squad. He may be 34 years of age but he is still England’s best passer and best hope of controlling the tempo of a game. Eric Dier is also a very good defensive midfielder but he lacks the technical ability of Carrick, sometimes that is needed in the role.
Sergio Busquets is the best holding midfielder in world football by far and he offers both the ability to win the ball back and use it in a productive manner. Carrick is certainly England’s closest answer to that type of player. Danny Drinkwater is another that can hit forward passes and was extremely unlucky not to make the final cut for France.
Hodgson’s constant faith in Raheem Sterling, who is clearly not up to it, is mind boggling. Sterling should not even be in the squad, let alone starting. Even an out-of-form Theo Walcott is a much more proven player than Sterling or Jesse Lingard, who has had a stellar breakthrough season with Manchester United.
Hodgson does not know his best players or system and, for me, that is just unacceptable. Most other managers in the competition have a clear identity of what they want. Vicente Del Bosque with Spain and Antonio Conte with Italy are the obvious examples, but even Chris Coleman (Wales) and Michael O Neill (Northern Ireland) know what they want. When teams have a strong identity and know what they are doing, they perform better than the ones that do not.
England will next face the runner up from Group F which may not be the worst draw but will nevertheless become problematic for England. If Portugal get through, Ronaldo is due to find his scoring boots sooner rather than later. Iceland are a very well organised and competent team, something England find difficult to overcome, while Hungary have surprisingly impressed and look like a good technical team. The largely disappointing Austrian side are perhaps England’s best bet.
A potential quarter-final meeting with hosts France could be on the cards for England after that. France may not be overly impressive as a team but they are head and shoulders above England in terms of individual quality.
Hodgson looks out of his depth and based on the evidence so far, it will all end in tears for England yet again.
Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena