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Tactical Analysis: England’s Blue Print For 2014 World Cup

As I start writing this,  the Three Lions have dropped to 16th in the FIFA rankings, their lowest in 12 years, while the ever so ‘Grumpy’ manager of the National Team has hit back to Gary Linekar over ‘awful’ jibe and has defended his Long Ball Tactics. The Former England striker rightly criticized England’s awful passing  against Ukraine, expressing concerns on why the team’s ‘best passer’ Micheal Carrick was warming the bench. However, even though Linekar later back tracked claiming he was fully supportive of Uncle Roy’s tenure at the helm, his tweets seem to have blown the lid off the pressure cooker.

“When you see England pass it like they’ve never been introduced to each other, it does make you wonder why Carrick doesn’t feature” – Gary Lineker

Sides of the Same Coin?Gary Linekar and Roy Hodgson


As Telegraph’s Football Correspondent Henry Winter rightly points on the fact that the Country’s second highest Goalscorer has certain authority to use ‘Social Networking’, there is no doubt that new FA Chairman Greg Dyke would be wondering what on earth he had meant when he claimed, ” England can win the 2022 World Cup“. If Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier against Ukraine provides any indication, there is one thing crystal clear in front of us. This team wouldn’t even be able to stomp their authority over major teams, let alone winning the World Cup. For that matter of course, Hodgson has to believe Football isn’t a game of going to a long drive with your wife on your Porsche. Harder the road, tougher the brakes. But can Roy ride a bike? Well, We’ll leave that discussion over a cup of coffee at Wembley.

What was quite alarming on Tuesday night was England’s inability to play our from the back, the midfield appeared disjoint with Wilshere and Gerrard in the middle, both of whom had forgettable outings.  Defensively the least said, the better, Ukraine could have had a penalty with 40 seconds. Up front, Lambert looked lost in oblivion. On the sidelines, Hodgson had appeared aged, under pressure, before the game, although his humour was still in place.

Now having read till here, you must be wondering what’s the point of this article? This is where exactly my column begins. This is not a piece in proving who was right or wrong, punitive or affluent, brilliant or classles, rather consider this as England’s tactical blue print for the next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Here I will try to dive into methods, which might lead England to overachieve, at least fulfill their ‘Goals’ rather than be hurled with the ignominy of disdain.

To get started I will Pick a pool consisting of 30 players, who will be on the plane to Samba land as of now.  This is what the list can certainly be:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, John Ruddy, Jack Butland

Defenders: Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Phil Jagielka, John Terry, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines

Midfielders: Steven Gerrard, Micheal Carrick, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Ross Barkley, Ashley Young, James Milner, Theo Walcott, Raheem Sterling, Adam Johnson, Alex Odale Chamberlain

England arrive at the Donbass Arena-901251

Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Ricky Lambert, Connor Wickham

The only notable exclusion is Jermain Defoe who has been replaced by Connor Wickham, the Sunderland youngster who would be twenty one years old in 2014. Also its likely that John Terry will come out of retirement to feature in Brazil. Into the Mind of Roy Hodgson: Picking up the Starting Eleven as of now

The Starting XI
The Starting XI


First things first, John Terry would inevitably walk into the side if he decides to come back, else Phil Jagielka would start alongside Gary Cahill in the heart of the defence, while Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson would be the two wing backs deployed in the 4-2-3-1 setup as shown. Micheal Carrick is a must for the team, for his immaculate ball retention ability in the middle of the pitch. Steven Gerrard would form the other half of the double pivot in the crux of the team. Jack Wilshere needs to play in the CAM role with James Milner and Theo Walcott alongside him. The reason why I haven’t picked Frank Lampard can be pin pointed with what Micheal Cox reports in ESPN and I quote.

In the easy 4-0 victory over Moldova on Friday night, Steven Gerrard was the perfect man to play at the base of England’s midfield triangle. He could sit deeper than Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere and put in a tackle on the rare occasions Moldova threatened to counterattack, but primarily focused on distributing the ball efficiently into the final third. He also came up with a superb, swerving drive in off the post to give England the lead. However, the situation changed away in Ukraine, when England spent the majority of the time without the ball. When forced to concentrate upon defending, Gerrard is poor positionally in that holding role — straying too far from his centre-backs, and getting dragged towards opponents unnecessarily. There was one moment during the second half that summed it up — Ukraine hit a long ball towards striker Roman Zozulya, who attempted to knock it back for attacking midfielder Roman Bezus. In the end, Zozulya was correctly punished for handball, but it was bizarre to see Gerrard casually wandering back, fully 25 yards ahead of his centre-backs. Bezus was, as the attacking midfielder, broadly the man Gerrard should have been tracking — if not literally marking him, certainly keeping the distance between himself and the defence to a minimum. It was a common problem throughout the game, and England would have been punished against better opposition. It’s easy to feel sorry for Gerrard – now 33, with more than 100 caps and the captain’s armband — yet not being played in his best position. At Liverpool he’s adapted admirably to a deeper role, but has the protection of Lucas Leiva alongside him. Gerrard is not a Lucas — and it’s increasingly difficult to understand why Michael Carrick isn’t used in that deep role, with Gerrard pushed slightly higher up.

You can read the full article here: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/tacticsandanalysis/id/1805?cc=4716

Now What I mean to say is Gerrard can be the perfect base for England ‘s starting XI against weaker teams in Group stages of the World Cup if Roy doesn’t want to play Carrick. Together with Wilshere and Lampard its the perfect triangle that any side could dream of, but practically it seems s no brainer. Solving the Gerrard-Lampard Conundrum and importance of James Milner: Consider the following snap:

Not Defending Space against Counter Attacks
Not Defending Space against Counter Attacks


Say England have the ball in the middle of the field with Gerrard distributing the ball to either of the wing backs. This creates a snow ball effect. Wilshere moves forward with Lampard in the attacking role. Suddenly England lose the ball, Gerrard at this age, 33, fails to put in a ball winning tackle, the wing backs are caught out of position and the back two is exposed. (Area denoted with the Circle). This is why Micheal Carrick needs to play irrespective of the opposition and James Miner also comes into the picture. A few months ago, I had read an article on James Milner’s importance to the England National Team and I must say, I couldn’t agree more.

An Unattractive style of play, however with a professional ethic and the willingness to walk the extra mile, makes him the pundits favourite and the unsung hero. Still he is the vital cog in England’s wheel if they are to have any chance of at least getting into the quarters or semis in Brazil in a year’s time. Even though, One goal in 41 caps proves he has not been employed to be England’s all-out attacking outlet, he is what I call the perfect man for doing the dirty work. Tracking back, getting your pants dirty, winning the ball and running the extra mile. The following heat map shows just that.

James Milner Heat Map
James Milner Heat Map


England had gone to Ukraine to collect a single point and Milner was instrumental in Uncle Roy’s approach.  Needless to say there will always be debates on why Lampard and Gerrard can or can’t feature together. Let’s move on to a different avenue and I bring into the picture, Ross Barkley. He has shown immense composure, maturity beyond his years both on and off the ball and also has the awareness not to be caught off guard. Roberto Martinez, the new Everton Boss also highly rates him and this might just be the beginning of something special.

As far as changing or tweaking tactics is concerned, Hodgson prefers a rigid 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 to invite his share of critics but for me neither of the system is going to work as a whole. Yes there will be suggestions on Wilshere roaming in and around spaces and drawing deep allowing Gerrard and Lampard to move up front but the same question lies on who will screen your back four?


A moment of truth lies in front of England and as Hellen Keller had once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”. however, a few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough. The Golden Generation of English players with the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and Terry are still to make an impact in the International Arena.  The only question is will Uncle Roy budge or everything’s going to fall apart?

If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.


Published in permission with Tamojit Chakraborty