Ian Watson looks ahead to England's Euro 2012 game with Sweden and hopes Roy Hodgson reacts to the run-around his midfield was given by France.
England's opening draw in Donetsk gave them a hard-earned point but, as usual with the Three Lions, opinion was very much split as to whether the performance was as creditable as the reward.
Roy Hodgson's men safely navigated what, on paper, looked to be their toughest Group D assignment. However, fancied France appeared as content as England with a single point. Les Bleus were happy to lay off the Three Lions, with Karim Benzema strangely reluctant to stretch John Terry and Joleon Lescott.
Hodgson is very much learning on the job with England and, predictably, is keeping things as straightforward as possible for his new players. As Mike Bassett, England Manager once said, "England will be playing four, four, ******* two" - and it has almost been the same instruction from the new manager.
The attraction of 4-4-2 for Hodgson is that it is not a difficult system to understand. But neither is it a tough code to crack. At the top level, such a shape will likely lead to a 90-minute chasing for England, as Hodgson hopefully observed against France, and Bassett discovered in Brazil at 'World Cup XVII'.
Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard did most of that chasing, and both suffered as a consequence. Parker was spent long before he was dragged off 12 minutes before the end and Hodgson admits that he is asking a lot of both players, 31 and 32 respectively, to repeat the task every four days. Even when they had the ball, Parker and Gerrard were too worn out to do anything with it.
Stopping the opposition is Parker's strength, but it is certainly not Gerrard's. Earlier in his career, the Liverpool captain was one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the game, but as age and injuries have taken their toll, he has had to streamline his efforts. Gerrard can hurt any opposition, but not from where Hodgson is asking him to sit. In their current set up, England can barely afford for Gerrard to support the attack; neither can the skipper rely on his legs to get him there and back.
In a major tournament which is likely to be Gerrard's last, his driving runs should be reserved for bursting beyond an England striker, not wasted on doing shuttle run after shuttle run, chasing the ball England struggle to keep.
Of the current 23, Phil Jones may be better suited to that role, or even Jordan Henderson, with either pair of young legs and lungs able to take the strain off Parker. The Tottenham midfielder needs help to patrol the crucial area in front of Terry and Lescott; the zone where Sweden's main threat, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, can wreak havoc. Prevention is always better than the cure, and in Zlatan's case, the safest method is to cut his supply line - a responsibility which should not be placed on Gerrard and Parker alone.
While Zlatan is Sweden's creative force, Hodgson is trusting Ashley Young to do the same for England. But versus France, Young - a left winger for his club - looked out of his comfort zone. Neither he nor Danny Welbeck impress with their backs to goal, and due to Young's inability to find his club mate - just one pass found its way from Young to Welbeck, with only two going the other way - the front man dropped deeper into areas where he is simply not a threat. Could Welbeck and Gerrard combine to greater effect against Sweden, with Young patrolling his usual beat on the left side of England's attack?
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ploughed that flank against France but, despite his hard work, did he really do enough to keep his place in the XI? The Arsenal teenager spent most of his time against France dealing with the forward runs of Mathieu Debuchy and while he defended admirably, his raw talent was not unleashed on the French to neutralise their attacking threat. At this stage of the tournament, and his career, Oxlade-Chamberlain may be more useful as an impact substitute.
Of course, after Sweden in Kiev on Friday comes hosts Ukraine next Tuesday and the return of Wayne Rooney. Hodgson has yet to indicate where he will use Rooney but, like Gerrard, the Manchester United talisman does his best work the higher up the pitch he goes. The Scouse duo have previously shown a good understanding at international level and if England are to be competitive beyond the group stage, Hodgson has to embrace what progress was seen to be made under his predecessor, Fabio Capello.
Capello had his critics but prior to his acrimonious exit, he had England set up in such a way that was hard to beat and difficult to stop. Hodgson's England side is unlikely to be either if he persists in overworking Gerrard and Parker during the coming six days.
You can follow Ian on Twitter at @ianwatson1.