There was a lot of hype surrounding the England national team on the lead up to Euro 2020. In form players like Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, John Stones and of course goal machine Harry Kane fed the media’s narrative. This was England’s best chance to win a first major championship since 1966.
Pre-Tournament odds in all the major bookies made England the joint favourites with world champions France. With all the young exciting talent in the squad like ‘World Class’ Phil Foden this English side were sure to make an impact and entertain.
Garreth Southgate is viewed as the best man for the job. After making the semi-finals in the last world cup his stock rose significantly in the eyes of the English support. A feel good factor that had been missing for years. Exciting times ahead.
Fast forward to the final whistle against the Czech Republic and exciting is the last word you would use for England’s opening three fixtures. In all fairness this England team have been boring beyond belief!
When you look at the stats it backs that up. There are only three teams worse off after the group stages when it come to scoring goals compared to England’s two. Scotland, Turkey and Finland all with one goal and all out of the competition.
Maybe Southgate’s team have had more attempts on goal than others? I’m afraid they lack excitement in this category as well. 22 attempts which leaves them third worst just ahead of Finland and Hungary.
Ok let’s look at teams that have attacked the most so far in Euro 2020. Spain top the list with 209 attacks. England fair better in this one, reaching the dizzy heights of 16th place and 102 attacks. That is one position behind Scotland who had 104 attacks!
So we get it, they are creating very little opportunities. How about defending? Well no goals conceded in three games is as good as you can get. But its not because of their amazing backline or how they work in a aggressive defensive unit. In fact England are third from bottom for balls recoverd on 99 with Holland topping the charts after the group stages with 155.
Where England do excel is in their distribution. 87% passing accuracy gives them 8th place and shows that with no attacks or no defending to do they are mearly keeping possession of the ball in a meaningless manner.
England are just mind numbingly boring to watch. Poor Harry Kane was getting it in the neck after the second game against Scotland. Supporters and the media asking the question ‘Should Harry Kane be dropped?
The answer to that is of course not! If you don’t get the service then you don’t get the chances. England are not delivering any service to Harry Kane and the truth is that it’s not going to bother them or their game plan.
Starting two sitting midfielders in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillps in a squad full of attack minded young gifted players showed us Southgate’s intentions from game one.
That very well may have been because of his lack of confidence in a backline without Maguire in the opening game. But it seems like now with their captain back that it is a formation that is set in stone.
When you look at some of the previous winners of the Euro’s then why wouldn’t England build on a solid centre in front of their goalkeeper?
Greece won the competition in 2004 with a team that counter attacked in a 5-3-2 formation all the way to the final. Only then when meeting Portugal for a second time that tournament did they change to a back four in a 4-4-2. But still two sitting in front of the centre backs.
Portugal basically did the same in 2016. They kept very compact but when counter attacking had more quality in the players to do that compared to Greece.
Greece were shocking to watch in 2004. But they came with a plan and it worked. Portugal were similar in their counter attacking style and not a team who outplayed other teams. But they had a plan and it worked.
England have a plan too. When in possession of the ball, keep the retention rate high. The best form of defence is keeping the ball and the opposition can’t score. Play with two sitting midfielders to protect their backline especially in the centre of the pitch if they lose the ball and get countered.
The thing is they don’t attack. They rarely cross the ball. So they just keep the ball. Slowly going from one side to the other as if to wear the opposition down by boring them into a submission of a gap between the lines.
England Front Four
Southgate’s biggest problem is he has no idea who is his first choice attacking four players are. The gifted attacking players at Southgate’s disposal and only Sterling has produced anything near consistency. His forward minded players are really letting him down.
In the first three games Foden, Grealish, Kane, Sancho, Rashford and Mount have failed to impress. Sterling has been decent but most importantly has scored the goals that needed to be scored. Saka has put his name in the hat after his performance against the Czech Republic.
Whatever his team selection up front Southgate knows his plan. Make it hard for the opposition to score by keeping the ball. Have a block of four players (two centre backs an two defensive midfielders) in front of Pickford to prevent counter attacks. Use pace in full back areas to avoid any threat down the wings.
It then comes down to hoping and praying that whatever selection he puts up front clicks from game to game. So far these players have let the England manager down.
England games and performances at this tournament have been painstakingly painful to watch. But Greece and Portugal have shown in the past that you don’t need to ‘attack attack attack!’ to lift the trophy. Southgate’s team can also go down in history as European Champions in 2020 by boring us all the way to the final and lifting this trophy too.