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53 minutes ago, Otley Owl said:

Emma Hayes' article this morning I read:

 

Emma Hayes: Why England should play two holding midfielders at Euro 2020

By Emma Hayes Jun 12, 2021 190 

 

Indulge me for a moment. There is a way England could squeeze all their best creative influencers into the same line-up at Euro 2020 and, on paper at least, it is a mouth-watering prospect.

They can have Phil Foden, such a wonderful talent with the world at his feet, as that “inner-corridor” player drifting in off the left into the half-space as he does at Manchester City, and a left-back bombing forward on the outside into the area the midfielder vacates.

They could ask either Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford to provide some proper width as an out-and-out winger pinned to the right flank. His task would be to stretch the pitch and open up space for team-mates. Yes, that may not be either player’s natural game, just as it isn’t for Jadon Sancho. All three may prefer to dribble inside. But, if instructed, they could hug that touchline for the good of the team.

They can use Mason Mount pushing on from midfield as he’s done so effectively for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, the oil in the machine to keep everything ticking over. And they can incorporate Jack Grealish, another of those instinctive in-to-out players who craves the freedom to charge forward, as a second progressive No 8. He has been outstanding for most of this season, so encourage him to play his intricate one-twos with Mount, as well as interchange and link up with Harry Kane through the middle.

The captain, the one player in the squad who absolutely guarantees you a goal, has already publicly acknowledged that he plays with Grealish better than anyone else in this squad. They read each other’s game. The Aston Villa player is the closest thing we have to a Son Heung-min in terms of that relationship. He can drop the shoulder, go round a player, burst away and put a ball into the box. He can be Kane’s foil in the national side. It might bring the best out of both.

Declan Rice would anchor midfield and, to ensure he is not completely outnumbered if there is a turnover, you ask Kyle Walker to tuck inside from right-back to help close down a counter-attack. He is rarely an overlapping full-back at Manchester City any more, but plays that inverted brief, one of three counter-players in possession of the ball. He knows what it entails. Indeed, lots of the personnel involved are used to playing these slightly modified roles for their club sides, and Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland have made a habit of picking up some of the best tactical innovations from the day-to-day of the Premier League and applying them to international level.

Do that and you’ve probably got all your best, creative attacking talents on the pitch at the same time. These are all wonderful players, the kind I love, and the fact we’re playing the vast majority of our games at the tournament this summer at Wembley — in familiar surroundings at home — does make it more plausible as an approach. Against lesser opponents it might be a no-brainer. The thought of those sharp exchanges between Mount, Foden and Grealish slicing through an opposition leaves you salivating. Think of how much damage you could inflict in possession.

 

It’s what my heart says England should do.

But then reality kicks in and my head is screaming something very different. That you’d be asking a hell of a lot of Rice and, behind him, Walker, not to mention a back line likely to be without Harry Maguire for a while longer. Whenever we lose the ball, alarm bells would ring. I can hear my assistant at Chelsea, Denise Reddy, saying, “You want to play all those tippy-tappies in there? Who the fizz is going to put their foot in?” She would have a point. Are we really going to risk handing over the centre of the pitch to Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic?

And as much as it would leave me absolutely gutted, accepting as much may have serious implications for Grealish and the make-up of the England attack.

The original brief for this column was to examine what kind of blend you need to ensure a front three clicks, but that felt too simplistic. The make-up of your forward line has to fit into a rounded team structure. It has to complement the shape of your midfield, and even the framework of your back line. It has to reflect the resources at your disposal at any given moment.

The duties you assign those front players depend upon whether the team are seeking to build attacks with maximum depth and width, or whether the balance works better with one player pinned wide with instructions not to stray and his team-mate on the opposite side drifting infield off the flank. It is dependent upon the characteristics of the players in your squad, and where they do their best work, but also those of your specific opponents and where you spy their weaknesses. How can you best open them up? Where do you press them? How do you stop them dominating the ball and nullify the dangers they pose?

It also hinges upon the threat you want to carry from set pieces, and how you best repel the opposition’s own free kicks and corners. So many of these major tournaments are won and lost at dead balls. I sat down with Steve Holland for a one-on-one on that topic recently, discussing the painstaking preparations he put in around the World Cup in Russia back in 2018, and why they were so productive at the finals. Mark my words, it’ll still be a prominent feature of their game this time round because you can never pick 11 players without thinking about your set plays.

And, in truth, that team picked with my heart would be dying defensively with so many shorter guys in the side.

So you take all this into account when determining your shape and, within that, you pick your forward line. At Chelsea I instruct my No 9, Sam Kerr, to stay in the penalty box where her real strength is. The last thing I want is her running the channels. My whole system is based on her staying central — something I would impose, too, upon Kane — and I never compromise her positioning. Fran Kirby has a tendency to drop into those inner corridors. So, too, does Pernille Harder. But they both know that, if we’re building an attack and the full-back isn’t bombing on down the flank, then it falls on one of them to go into that wide area and stretch the play.

I am constantly impressing the importance of pitch geography. Drilling on the training ground, so critical to everything, ensures they all know their phases, their roles, the patterns of play and what is expected of them in any context. It’s about playing to your strengths, but your strengths to beat a specific opponent.

Foden, Kane and Sterling could make a balanced front three 

Like Southgate, I am blessed with options. Arguably England’s greatest strength at this tournament is their depth. This is a group who are well schooled in starting with a back three, one that might see Walker or Luke Shaw tuck in as a third centre-back and ask wing backs to provide the width. That system probably best suits the defenders and midfielders at the manager’s disposal, though not the attackers. England lack a centre-forward who wants to run the channels and stretch the play, a Timo Werner-type. You need that in a 3-4-3, a striker who extends the pitch vertically and provides some depth, opening up areas in which the team can play. Kane’s instinct is actually to go the other way and drift into midfield, as he does at Spurs. You simply can’t make the pitch short, and clogged up, if you want that formation to work.

Even so, it is a group who can adapt within games. Footballers nowadays are far more tactically cute. They’ve been exposed to more systems at club level, and their roles have been developed to take on more. Walker tucks inside and plays as a central midfielder in possession. John Stones has those tricks in his locker that allow him to play as a libero or even a holding midfielder. Kane is not just the clinical goalscorer but can be the key assister.

But it still needs a structure that provides the best balance between attack and defence, allowing you to excel with the ball and, if you lose it, win it back smartly and quickly. To get that right, you sometimes have to make sacrifices for the good of the group. Which brings me back to my fantasy line-up.

The reality is that, if you don’t win the middle of the park, you don’t win games at this level. Sure, with that selection, it would be lovely when we have the ball. We would thrive in possession. But what happens when we lose it? All the opponents we come up against, starting on Sunday against Croatia — an eastern European version of Spain and masters of short-ball football — are strong and organised, and will sit and protect the centre.

Against those who want to monopolise the ball, England will need players who can claim it back. Against those who are intent on sitting in a low block, drawing the full-backs forward and then springing upfield at pace, England will need players to stifle the counter-attacks. Rice will get stuck in. He will hold his position. He will do all the dirty work going backwards. But on his own? Really?

No, to start with that line-up would feel incredibly brave. The moment the ball is turned over, you’re chasing shadows.

There is a reason Mount, a player whose energy and quality neither club nor country can do without, does not play in central midfield at Chelsea, and that Tuchel still feels the need to have N’Golo Kante and one of Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic in there. Those players have to put in a shift in central areas to give others the platform to do their stuff. They stop opponents countering and give you a chance to get in among them.

For the same reason, this England team would need Jordan Henderson or, if the man Southgate trusts as his on-field leader is not fully fit, Kalvin Phillips as a second defensive option alongside Rice to help manage the middle of the park. And, if you play Henderson or Phillips, you need Mount’s drive in there to knit it all together. He is fresh off the back of an outstanding season at Chelsea, in which he was integral to winning the Champions League and provided dynamism and goals. He has become so reliable.

In that context, and as much as it pains me — I can’t stress that enough — it may be that Southgate has to look at the bigger picture. For me, Grealish misses out from the start.

Cue all the accusations of negative tactics and an unambitious approach. Of picking two defensive midfielders for group games England should be aspiring to dominate. But you can’t just fling all the perceived best players into the side at once and simply assume the blend will work because, all of a sudden, you’ll find the collective doesn’t function properly. The creative free spirits you hoped would flourish have no foothold in the game without a defensive platform behind them and are starved of possession without ball-winners wrestling back control.

Or the play becomes too clogged up centrally without someone providing genuine width to open up the space. England have been guilty of cluttering up the middle too often of late, with players’ instincts always to dribble infield, leaving our best attacks reliant upon counter-attack transitions, such as the move which led to Bukayo Saka’s recent winner against Austria. They need players to open it up, to bring the best out of each other. Hence pinning a player — a Sterling, Rashford or Sancho — to the wing to drag a full-back out of the centre and free up some space. That may not be their natural game either but, in pursuit of balance, you sometimes need to make sacrifices for the good of the group.

The more I coach, the more I realise it all boils down to structure, structure, structure. The more I coach, the more I realise you can never compromise on that front. If you don’t have a proper structure, you’re in trouble.

Croatia will have it. Italy will have it. France will have it. Germany will have it for sure. Joshua Kimmich will play right-back for them even though he’s a world-class midfielder. Why? Because they have enough brilliant central midfielders and they’re not risking their overall structure just to incorporate him in the middle as well.

The same applies to England. Offering some of our supremely gifted and technical attackers a platform upon which to perform may have some people up in arms. Some will see it as pragmatism gone mad, others as overly cautious with such a talented group at our disposal. But it may actually be the best way to bring out the best of the collective.

mek us a sandwich love.

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20 minutes ago, HIGHERSTATE said:

haha i did the same in the psg shop..got a badge i bought 20 years ago.

 

i wore an ajax bobble hat during the winter in groningen..2 months later someone told me it was a really bad idea.

 

i was in Paris about 25 years ago and it was really cold one day

 

I couldn't take it any longer as we were wandering along the Champs-Élysées - i ducked into the PSG shop and bought a fleecy to put on

 

It wasn't that pricey but it has really stood the test of time and i wear it still to this day - and it's so much more classy than the typical football merchandise we used to get

 

I love it

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For all the talk of how bad the pundits are, remember we don’t need them at all. What is the point of all the cliches? Goes for all levels of football, when Garry Monk et al comment on us.

 

Highlights without any analysis would suit me, I hardly know who any of the players are outside of SWFC these days anyway.

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1 minute ago, Lincowl said:

For all the talk of how bad the pundits are, remember we don’t need them at all. What is the point of all the cliches? Goes for all levels of football, when Garry Monk et al comment on us.

 

Highlights without any analysis would suit me, I hardly know who any of the players are outside of SWFC these days anyway.

sure you can do it on sky?

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Watching what I can, missed the England game today though cos was on a boat on the Norfolk broads, enjoyed the Holland game tonight though. 

 

 

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1 minute ago, HIGHERSTATE said:

boast post 😉

If I had one of the houses on "millionaires Row" I'd be bragging like fuçk, I did keep an eye on the score though. 

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17 minutes ago, devonshire owl said:

Think Jonathan pierce is the worse commentator,all he gives us is facts and figures about the players,dos'nt talk about the actual game.when he's commentating I turn the sound off.

Imagine Pierce commentating, with garth crookes in the studio. That's a line up to proper pass people off!

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Watched the England match and will probably watch a few others. I enjoyed England’s performance today. Good selection from Southgate. Mings, Phillips and mount all impressed. 
 

england are realistically the only shot of me seeing actual silverware in my lifetime so I’m gonna cheer them on and hopefully we can go far. 

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I honestly couldn’t tell you who was commentating or commenting last night. I tend to ignore it. I’ve managed perfectly well watching Wednesday for 50 odd years without a commentary. Tend to switch off at the final whistle unless there’s been something controversial I want to see again. Really don’t see that it matters whose talking over the game. Let’s be right, the bulk of footballers aren’t particularly blessed in that department.  

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9 hours ago, Lincowl said:

For all the talk of how bad the pundits are, remember we don’t need them at all. What is the point of all the cliches? Goes for all levels of football, when Garry Monk et al comment on us.

 

Highlights without any analysis would suit me, I hardly know who any of the players are outside of SWFC these days anyway.

I like it when Monk is a pundit for our games, causes a meltdown on OT it’s hilarious.

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14 hours ago, LondonOwl313 said:

It’s ridiculous.. it’s like they have an equality quota on everything. I feel like we’re losing this culture war, it’s now fully acceptable to have these women who nobody knows who they are yapping away like amateurs. I have to turn the sound off sometimes.. might as well find people who played for the dog and duck as it’s the same standard. 

It’s only a culture war if you choose to see equality between male and female and race equality as something you don’t wan’t. 
 

I agree it’s an odd thing to say the Men’s England team and the Men’s Ashes squad etc....but the world has to change and improve. The world will be a better place for it. I know you’re delighting in using the term wokeness that right wing people use, but Southgate has a social conscience and uses his position well to say important things. This is not about annoying do gooders, something much bigger is happening. The Euros seem to be something that shouts inclusivity and togetherness, a lovely antidote to the dangerous nationalism and withdrawing we have seen rise in recent years.

Nice tournament. 

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Having read this thread I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone is a proper grumpy arse 

 

lol

 

It’s just a commentator - if you don’t like em turn it off or turn it down and put some Vera Lynn on your stereogram and fap yourself silly over how good the old days used to be 

 

ffs

 

Lighten up, get outside, stop moaning and enjoy life!

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Owlstalk Shop

 

 

 

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Ignore my last post 

 

I’m nearly at Blackpool only to find its started chucking it down and there’s a wintry hailstorms and lightning on the way

 

FFS

 

Never used to get those in Blackpool in the olden days - the young hipsters really have wrecked this country havent they 


 


Owlstalk Shop

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, @owlstalk said:

 

 

It's gone from a thread about The Euros, to basically how women should be cooking tea and keeping their mouths shut

 

 

Amazing

PS _ For anyone reading the views of some of the dinosaurs in this thread do NOT represent this site

 

lol

 

My wife does neither. 

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