England 0-0 Scotland- Urgent changes are needed to stop England from slipping

England 0-0 Scotland- Match Review- Southgate needs to change if England want any hopes of winning the European Championships.

England played their second EURO 2020 group stage match yesterday knowing that a win would secure their advancement to the round of 16. However, this win would prove elusive for England who were pedestrian and shaky throughout the game. Scottish fans were more than happy to celebrate the result, the same cannot be said for English fans who were universally disappointed and angry. In this article, I will go through the events of the game then explain faults in Southgate’s system and how they also weren’t helped by his changes.

Key Moments:

3’ Scotland have a big chance as O’Donnell pulls a really good ball back to Che Admas but his shot from the penalty spot is blocked by John Stones.

11’ After a hopeful shot that was blocked on the edge of the box from Mount, a corner is given to England. From which, Stones has a free header which ricochets off the post.

17’ A direct ball from Kalvin Phillips finds Foden in behind the Scotland defence but his shot is wide after cutting behind the defender. However, this wouldn’t have counted anyway as the linesman raises his flag as soon as the ball goes out of play for the offside,

28’ Kane attempts a diving header on the 6-yard box but the ball is always bouncing away from him on the wet, slippery surface so the shot goes wide.

29’ A lovely ball is floated to the back post by Kieran Tierney and O’Donnell’s fantastic strike is saved brilliantly by Pickford down to his right who could be viewed as being fortunate Che Adams didn’t do more with the rebound.

54’ Reece James receives the ball on the edge of the box from Harry Kane and has a strike at goal but he slices it and fails to get it on target.

55’ A slip from Mings allows Lyndon Dykes to have a strike which fumbles to Che Adams who can’t get his feet sorted so a fortunate England clear their lines.

61’ A corner is whipped in and brilliantly headed off the goal line by Reece James after a good half volley from Lyndon Dykes.

90’ A goal line scramble ends up with a bit of a pile up consisting of Rashford, McTominay and David Marshall which eventually is given for a foul to Scotland.

Full time: Frustrating for England who missed the chance to guarantee their place in the round of 16 but delight for Scotland as their hopes of advancing are well and truly alive.

This game had many chances that could have fallen either way however, at the end of the game, both teams had to settle for a draw. While this is good news for Scotland, England have decent grounds to be somewhat disappointed with their team’s performance. 

So, what went wrong?

The night started off poorly after the teams were announced. Southgate chose to make two changes to his team following the Croatia game. These changes came in the form of Shaw and Reece James replacing Trippier and Walker respectively. In isolation, these changes make sense when playing a team like Scotland who are less likely to hold an attacking threat as strong as Croatia’s, allowing England to have more valuable possession higher up the pitch with less risk. However, Southgate chose to stick with the same front three of Kane, Foden and Sterling. This gives rise to the issue of a disconnect between the philosophy of these two areas of the pitch. I will primarily focus down the left hand side however these same issues were also shown down the right hand side once Southgate made subs later on which i will discuss.

So, what created the disconnect between full back and front 3? Mainly the complete difference in ideas when it comes to how each player wants to attack. For example, Luke Shaw is incredibly proficient at linking up with a wide winger with his inside runs from a wide position following up on a 1-2 that tend to lead to him having a free run at the backline. Sterling however will like to start centrally and drift wide in order to find space and dribble inwards or make runs around a full back. This complete opposition in styles means when Shaw would try and progress possession in a wide area, Sterling’s tendencies and England;s set up would massively congest this area of the pitch, reducing their effectiveness.

In this example we see Mount operate in the wide areas and Kane filling in to complete the furthest forward point in the triangle. This means Shaw cannot follow his pass as the area of the pitch is far too congested and so, when Kane turns, it is only him and Sterling in a dangerous position which weakens the attacking threat. 

These issues in the wide areas were also made worse by the midfield not exactly being ideal for a game like this. This is due to neither Rice or Phillips being the best progressers of the ball which loses England a lot of penetration and verticality therefore reducing the supply of passes to those forwards in advanced positions.

We can see here from the heat map that we were, in a sense, trying to go around Scotland rather than through them. This lack of attacking impetus in the midfield means players like Foden, Mount and Grealish (when he later came on) were getting the ball in areas that were not optimal for their ability, giving England their slow, at times, boring possession play.

Finally, one of the most common issues brought up by England fans was the selection of substitutions made by Gareth Southgate. Given what we already know that England are going wide but struggling to develop meaningful possession, you would assume Southgate’s subs would hopefully help us get out of the sticky situations we were putting ourselves in. However, Southgate used two subs and neither helped to achieve these goals.

Grealish on for Phil Foden:

The vast majority of England fans were calling for Grealish to be set free from the shackles of the bench as soon as the drab first half ended. Unfortunately, this change wasn’t made until the 63rd minute. This substitution aimed to allow England to be more direct and hoped to strengthen our left-hand side as Sterling was also moved to the right. The issue here arises from the fact that there were still issues with Mount and Kane drifting into areas from which players like Shaw and Grealish would have preferred to operate in. This made the areas more congested in wide areas which makes Grealish have issues dribbling as Scotland can put multiple players around him at once. The fact that Grealish still managed to complete two dribbles in the final third and win 4 free kicks in the opposition half is a testament to his talent however.

Personally, I would have chosen to bring on Sancho into this wider area as a developed winger would’ve been able to hold the width more and allow Mount and Kane to take more central positions. Also, Sancho has come off a brilliant end to the season with Dortmund and surely his quality would be enough to create more in the game rather than simply being a spectator.

Rashford on for Harry Kane:

This was potentially even more questionable than his first substitution. The goal of this, I assume, was to give England some pace in behind and try to pin the Scottish defense back with the threat of Rashford’s pace. However, Southgate had failed to previously fix the wide distribution in England’s play and our lack of penetration through midfield. This made England mostly resort to long balls which would force Rashford into aerial duels which he had little chance in being effective with given the fact his best asset is the amazing things he can do with his feet. 

The substitution i would have done here would have been either: 

Rashford on for Sterling as one final attempt to add some ability for consistent link up play in the wide areas.

Image
Rashford in action against Denmark – https://twitter.com/iF2is/status/1316469204758003713/photo/1

Or.

Calvert-Lewin on for Kane as if Southgate was not satisfied by how often Kane would be high up the pitch, the best solution is the Everton striker who has been exceptional in the role of target man for Everton this season and this would have made our long balls much more effective, potentially leading to more chances.

It has come to the point with England where Southgate has to make a decision. He has to stop rewarding loyalty from a tournament that was three years ago and he needs to recognise the remarkable talent he has in his team. At the moment, having this talented squad under the watch of Southgate is nothing short of a waste and Southgate needs to adapt and let this team play and stop standing in the way of progress.

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