Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England's Wing Men Are Ready to Take Flight; after the Solid Display against France, Roy Hodgson Is Planning to Let Go of the Reins for the Clash with Sweden Tonight. James Olley Reports from Kiev

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England's Wing Men Are Ready to Take Flight; after the Solid Display against France, Roy Hodgson Is Planning to Let Go of the Reins for the Clash with Sweden Tonight. James Olley Reports from Kiev

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

OY HODGSON'S teams have traditionally employed narrow wingers to help frustrate the opposition but tonight England are looking to their wide men to find a way past Sweden as they try to shift more emphasis on attack.

England are not about to transform into Spain or Germany here in Kiev this evening but Hodgson's desire for more productivity in the final third is an important aspect of proving they can grow into Euro 2012.

They are, of course, a work in progress at the most formative stage. Hodgson continues to limit expectation with regular reminders of how little time there has been to impart his wisdom yet will not allow England to be considered a part of the tournament's undercard.

There was plenty to like about Monday's 1-1 draw against France, particularly in terms of discipline and concentration. The balancing act now comes in how much of that organisation is sacrificed in an attempt to cause havoc for the opposition.

Those subtle changes will be sourced on the flanks more than anywhere else in the team. With Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker assigned to holding their position in central midfield, England can free themselves up by allowing their wings to fly.

Six of the last seven goals Sweden have conceded were headers -- including two from Andriy Shevchenko in their 2-1 defeat against Ukraine -- and the England camp appear confident they have detected a trend.

"We have watched tapes of them and in the last five or six games they have conceded a lot of goals off crosses," said Gerrard. "It is an area we will be trying to concentrate on.

"We have some wonderful crossers of a ball in our squad. It is one area but there are others as well."

James Milner and Ashley Young are expected to provide that service as the latter reverts to his regular position for Manchester United and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drops to the bench.

Milner is not the most penetrative of wide men but his discipline will be vital as England will be wary of overcommitting players.

After all, a radical alteration is not on the agenda for Hodgson, who remains keen to strike the balance between recognising the need to develop without in turn cheapening the success already created.

"It is only four days since we played, I don't expect miraculous changes overnight and in that time we are not going to change enormously," he said. "Frankly I rather hope we are not going to change too much at all.

"The things we work on should allow us to exploit weaknesses in any team. It is not necessarily a weakness to find crosses hard to deal with if the crosses are of a very good quality.

"Certainly, the first goal that Ukraine scored was a very good quality cross, a good run from Andriy Shevchenko and a great finish.

"At all the clubs I have been at I have always done a lot of work on players getting in crossing situations and movement for crosses.

"Let's hope the message we are trying to put out will help us in that area because there is no doubt if we are going to get behind a team like Sweden, who are very compact centrally, then getting down the wings and in behind them in the wide areas will be an important facet of our play."

While Gerrard insisted a repeat of Monday's performance "would be good enough to win" tonight, an indication that Hodgson expects to be the aggressors this time lies in his identification of Sweden's "compact centre", given France would use the same description of England.

France faltered against such tactics and it is now a problem England must solve, although they will be aided by Sweden's necessity to force the issue at some point given victory is required to restore hope to their Group D campaign. Hodgson's solution is expected to be the bold and unusual step of partnering Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll in attack.

4-2-3-1 Until now, it had been assumed that Young would play behind either Carroll or Welbeck but such is the strength of conviction behind the idea that attacking down the wings will yield success, the former Fulham boss is ready to throw the pair in together for the first time. …

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