U-21 Tactics Expose Weaknesses of English Football

By John Nicholson
Those of us who are still clinging to the wreckage of the 2006/07 season in Europe are all watching the Under21 European tournament in Holland and fascinating watching it’s proving to be, especially for England fans.

England has drawn both their games. A tedious 0-0 v Czech Republic and a 2-2 against Italy after being 2-0 up.

These games have writ large both the strengths and the endemic problems of English football as played by Englishmen.

For the first game they tried to play a 4-3-3 system for about an hour. This had worked for them under Taylor previously and came highly recommended by the previous manager as the only system to play at international level. In the Tv studio he reiterated how important it is not to be out numbered in midfield. You need to play 4-5-1 without the ball and 4-3-3 with it he said.

The trouble is when England play the best sides, they seem unable to make 4-3-3- work. The Czech’s were well disciplined and pressured the ball. This soon made England play the long ball game and not the wide expansive game that 4-3-3 is designed to give you. England soon atrophied into a 4-5-1 even when in possession and resorted to booting it long for Nugent to knock it down to…well to no one because no one else was there.

The traditionalists of English football will tell you English players only know how to play 4-4-2. It’s compact and they feel comfortable with it. This is probably true but therein lies the problem. Their inability to adapt and play a different system leads to the problems we subsequently saw in the Italy game where we went back to 4-4-2.

Italy is fairly weak defensively at Under21 level and we totally dominated the first 25 minutes, scoring two goals and it could have been 5. This is the good side of England. The attacking high tempo pressured game that can steamroller a side not prepared for it.

However, it’s impossible to keep that kind of pace up and as we had the lead we soon sat back and Italy soon spotted what to do to stop us. They slowed the pace of the game down when in possession and went 4-3-3, when they lost possession they played 4-5-1 and even 4-6-0 in order to win the ball back. We were over-run in midfield and when we did win the ball had no outlet for it and soon ceded possession again.

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One Response

  1. Anonymous June 16, 2007

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