Review of the Euro 2020 group stage in England: what could be better?

Attack Let's start again with the obvious. England scored just two goals, making them the lowest-scoring group winners in European Championship history. Those goals - all two of them - were scored by Raheem Sterling. Harry Kane has yet to break his duck. Unfortunately, in his last 1233600238 games for the club he has only had two....


Let's start again with the obvious. England scored just two goals, making them the lowest-scoring group winners in European Championship history.

Those goals - all two of them - were scored by Raheem Sterling. Harry Kane has yet to break his duck. Unfortunately, he's only had two in his last 1233600238 games for the club. and country since he rushed back from an ankle injury in April. Whichever way you portray it, it's not pretty.

And even apart from the numbers in the headlines, it's not much better. In terms of number of shots, only Finland and Hungary were lower. In terms of xG without penalties, England occupied the lower middle of the table in the rankings with teams from Poland and Scotland all coming out lower.

That's a pretty serious departure from qualification, with England scoring more goals per game than any other team, hitting four or more in seven of eight games.

What has changed? This is at least in part due to Southgate taking a more cautious approach than in the past and scoring games once up front, but England have found no ideas, chasing goals from Croatia and Scotland, who themselves have played relatively conservatively

The Czech Republic were much more likely to press and engage higher up the pitch, which created space for England's attack and suited Kane better, allowing him to go deeper and play with more restraint. A contributing role that we are used to seeing at Tottenham.

At the moment, England appear to be a team that needs space to attack in order to look threatening, rather than one that can explore and overcome a deep-rooted defence. In theory, this should be less of an issue as the tournament progresses, as they will face stronger and more enterprising opponents.

The problem, however, was that Germany and any other potential adversaries had seen how to neutralize England's attack, and they would be difficult to break.

Moving the ball up the field

Most of England's struggles in attack come down to moving the ball up the pitch.

Despite all the defense that Declan Rice and Calvin Phillips provide, they are not masters of passing possession down the field. final third and free throw. Phillips is definitely stronger than Rice in that regard, but it's far from his strongest side of the game. Getting Jordan Henderson's speed back will help.

Edge defenders are also vital to playing defensive game and taking it to the opponents' half of the pitch. England have performed well at the World Cup, but whoever is playing, Southgate's defenders have been more conservative so far in this tournament. Even in the match against Scotland, when there was space left on both flanks, they were strangely reserved.

Luke Shaw was let off his leash against the Czechs

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Luke Shaw was let go against the Czechs

(POOL / AFP / Getty)

Onions Shaw seemed to have more opportunities to get forward early in the match against the Czech Republic, and this improved England's attacking play considerably. Also important is the return of Harry Maguire with his ability to pass and carry the ball away from the back. Two passes - one on top, the other to create a good chance for Kane - demonstrated his importance.

There are tentative signs of improvement, but more is needed. . According to Opta, England are the slowest team in the tournament when it comes to moving the ball across the pitch, crawling forward at less than a metre per second. England's speed of 0.7 metres per second against the Czechs was the lowest in a single game for any team in the tournament.

This slow pace cannot be separated from the deliberately cautious. approach that Southgate has used from time to time, but it also supports England's criticism of generally sluggish ball possession.

Start moving the ball from A to B faster and the attack should look sharper.

Attacker sets

The net games were England's biggest advantage at the 2018 World Cup.

Nine of their 12 That summer, the goals came from deadlocks. They rode the "love train", a routine in which four or six players gathered vertically inside the penalty area and then ran off in unpredictable directions.

One of Southgate's favourite goals during his reign was John Stones' first goal against Panama in Russia. It was a training technique that the players decided to try for the first time in the game. It was the type of pioneering play we came to associate England with that summer - a type we've seen very little of so far.

There were those. Kieran Trippier's quick throw-in and the start of a move that ended with Phil Foden hitting the bar in Croatia's goal was clearly choreographed. Otherwise, it was negligible.

Phil Foden in action against Croatia

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Phil Foden in action against Croatia

(FA / Getty)

"There was the one where Stones hit the post [against Scotland] and it hit Trippier's money and gastronomy. very much in the first game was superb," Southgate admitted. "We haven't achieved that since then. It's an area we can improve on."

Trippier feels key. Having been an almost constant presence in the last World Cup, he's only started one of three games so far, and the winless assists from Shaw, Phillips and Mason Mount have not had the same impact. But then it's also a matter of winning corners when Trippier is on the pitch. England only had one match against Croatia.

Alan Russell, England's attacking coach, was the man credited with working on staged games in Russia, but he is no longer part of the team. Southgate's staff. His departure just weeks before the tournament could also be a factor in the rejection.

Fortunately, Southgate and his remaining behind-the-scenes staff understand the value of standard shenanigans. international tournaments, and know that England could have handled them better.

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