Last time out, we managed to qualify for Russia 2018 after a string of decent results and a well-fought draw against Slovakia. So that leaves us to get ready for a summer in Russia, but it only being October means we have a way to go. To break up this time, we have a couple of friendlies, I will also have a look at the three tactics I will be trialling ahead of the world cup. We also have the world cup draw to look forward to, let’s hope it’s kind…
So first selection for the friendlies… it is the exact same as last time, why? Well, two reasons. Reason one, we are only playing Peru and Macedonia, reason two, I forgot to bring a couple of players I wanted, such as Sturridge.
Apparently, the media had a campaign for me not to choose Glen Johnson? Maybe if he transferred to Barcelona, but don’t worry media, it didn’t cross my mind. There also is some criticism regarding my selections of Rashford over Deeney, and Hughes over Noble. Well, media, you are as just wrong, please stop.
With the media’s dagger successfully ignored its time for tactic test one against Peru:
First up, we have the 3-4-3 kinda, the idea here is to make the most out of our dearth of full-backs and centre-backs. We also have two strong attacking midfielders in Lallana and Alli, if this gets the best out of them we could look to use this shape against teams of a similar stature. The idea tactically is to load the middle of the pitch and then allow our full-backs to exploit the space out wide which should be created by the central overload – in theory, let’s see in practice what happens.
The stats might not quite reflect the result, but on the pitch, this tactic worked perfectly. For the first goal, Walker broke into the box from the right before his deflected shot found the back of the net. The next goal once again saw Walker involved, this time crossing for our other full-back Shaw to head home. Alli then powered home from the edge of the box from a Kane pass. Alli then returned the favour, passing to Kane just inside the box who powerfully picked out the top corner. In the second half, Walker was once again involved crossing for Kane to head home.
As you can see, the plan to get the full-backs involved worked almost perfectly (Shaw could have got an assist I guess…). The front three also combined well although Lallana didn’t create as much as I expected him to. One change was made to the tactic before the game, I accidently had Henderson as a BBM, I then changed this to Ball Winning Midfielder to add better stability to the middle. One concern is that Peru is not really representative of a team at our level, and so we should not read into this dominant result too much.
Next up Macedonia, and the tactic will be:
We are pulling out the old 4-2-3-1 that served us well in qualifying. The reason? It has already proven successful at breaking down lesser teams, something that has been something of an Achilles heel of the England national team at major tournaments lately (Iceland, Costa Rica, Algeria, USA). The plan in this shape is to control the game, Wilshere’s role is to sit deep and dictate, Henderson will hassle higher and carry the ball forward. Walcott will look to push beyond the defensive line and cause problems for his full back, hopefully, allow space for Clyne to push into to deliver the cross. On the other side, Rashford will support Welbeck, with Shaw exploiting the space he vacates.
Again, that’s the theory, let’s see how it pans out this time.
Should have seen this one coming, the tactic has still got it. Rashford struck first, following Walcott’s attempt that cannoned off the post. Welbeck then did a Messi, like this, but against Macedonia instead of Real Madrid. Welbeck then scuffed a Clyne cross into the path of Rashford to add his second. Followed by Rashford completing the hat trick from a Lallana pass.
Nothing to really learn here that we did not know already. Whilst it is unlikely a team as weak as Macedonia will be in our group, I believe this tactic will be effective against teams such as Nigeria, Algeria, USA, Denmark or Japan, teams we could realistically find ourselves up against in the group.
Speaking of teams we might draw in our group, here is the group stage draw, in which we have been put in the fourth pot, alongside Albania and Romania… esteemed company. Looking at the other pots, there is a real mix of strength, with pot one being the strongest with Argentina, Brazil and Germany in there, but also Austria and Russia… Anyway, to the draw:
Not catastrophic. France will be a tough, tough game (tournament favourites), their squad has a huge amount of quality and this will be a game we will need to prepare for, potentially I will look to play a 4-3-3 here and hit them on the break. Iran and Senegal should be games we can look to win, and I will try to play on the front foot with the 4-2-3-1, maybe the 3-4-3 against Senegal once I have a closer look at them.
Elsewhere, Brazil may have the easiest group ever with Albania, Egypt and South Korea, and group A has three Spanish-speaking teams… and Russia.
I have looked to set up pre-tournament friendlies against Holland and Cameroon, which should be a closer representation to our group stage opponents and let us see where our tactics stand. Any suggestions for tactics? Let me know before we meet next at De Kuip for our game against the Dutch, tot de volgende keer.