It’s not official, but it seems almost certain that Sam Allardyce will be the next England manager, ending weeks of speculation as to who would replace Roy Hodgson. The 61 year-old can be counted upon to deliver a defensive solidity that has been sorely lacking in recent years, but the underlying reasons behind England’s failure go far beyond that. There are deeper attitude problems which Allardyce needs to fix if he is to succeed, and he will struggle to do this. This article will lay these problems out on the table, and show why Allardyce is not the best man for the job.
England expect victory, and Allardyce is not a winner
The English are excellent at being pessimistic, and they have a very interesting attitude when it comes to football. Ask an Englishman what they think of their team and they will rattle off problem after problem, finding flaws at every opportunity. Yet they still think England can win, and it means that exiting after the round of 16 is considered a failure. In all reality, England do not underperform at major tournaments. Their expectations are set too high, and as such they treat an otherwise satisfactory conclusion as a grand disappointment, reacting with a weird mixture of resignation and sadness. Allardyce is expected to change the fortunes of the English team, but to do this he will need to move away from the mentality that he has developed during years of relegation battles in the Premier League. This has proven too much for many managers in the past, and unless he can change his tactical outlook to meet the change in expectation he will not succeed.
Allardyce cannot meet England’s tactical needs
England have some excellent players, but they fail to win matches because they do not have a plan. The game against Iceland, where they came up against one of the best tactical sides in the tournament, was a prime example. They lacked a plan when it came to breaking through Iceland’s disciplined 4-4-2 formation, and as such they were unable to overhaul an early deficit. Tactics are not the top priority for Allardyce, and he does not really have a way of breaking through defences. To be fair, Allardyce is better tactically than his predecessor, but since Hodgson had all the tactical nous of a bar of soap that’s not saying much. The long ball tactics that Allardyce used at Sunderland will not work particularly well against minnows who are set up to defend, and they will leave England with no chance of defeating top sides.
England needed a foreign manager, and Allardyce is English
After Hodgson’s disastrous reign the FA could have taken a completely different route. They didn’t. They could have realised that they had no organisation in attack and decided they needed a coach who was able to play in a manner similar to the best sides in the world: sides in which everyone works together and knows their job. Germany, for instance, had a plan. Italy had a plan. England did not. What the English need is a coach who knows how to win, but they have not recognised the fact that there are no English coaches around who can do this. No English coach works outside of Britain, and the ones who work in the Premier League are generally find themselves in relegation battles every season. Yet the FA continue to promote small-time managers to the top job and then expect the team to win the World Cup. The biggest club Hodgson ever managed was Liverpool, a post he was sacked from after six months because his methods didn’t work. Allardyce’s career in coaching has been even smaller, yet he and Hodgson get the job because of their nationality, not because of their qualifications.
In the end, Sam Allardyce is not the right person to bring England the success that they want because he does not know how to win and he has no real plan for breaking down a defence. He will make the defence very solid and he will motivate his side well, but he was not the right man to replace Hodgson. His first test will come when England face Slovakia in early September, their first game of World Cup qualifying. Slovakia will be licking their lips.