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Monday, 14 November 2011

Thompson Talks Tactics: England 1-0 Spain (12/11/11)

By Sam Thompson

On a night where England’s doggedness in defence was too much for Spain’s flair and movement, here are ten observations from Wembley…

1. Spain’s right wing in the first 20 minutes
In the first 20 minutes, with David Silva operating the right wing, a common move from Spain when attacking down the left hand side was for Silva to move right across the gap between England’s midfield and defence, over to the left hand-side. This left Spain’s right back Arbeloa with plenty of room. Rather than keep three at the back, all marking Darren Bent, Arbeloa went forward, playing as a right winger at every Spain attack, but Spain didn’t use the switch pass enough. What would have happened if England had two strikers playing; would Arbeloa have held back?

2. David Silva’s positivity
David Silva does one of two things when he touches the ball, without failure; either play a pass that is quicker than the pass he received, or change Spain’s direction of attack.

3. Two teams’ pressure
England only defended in their own third and were more than willing for Spain to keep the ball – the defence essentially remained very narrow and defended the eighteen yard box. Spain were given far more license to close further down the pitch than England. At one point Busquets sprinted from a defensive midfield position over to Ashley Cole at left back, 30 yards in his own half, as Spain had a lack of men on that side

4. Spain’s limited touches
Spain use one touch passing in short triangles and movement to get around the pitch, very rarely were crosses ‘whipped’ in the air or was there a switch of play.

5. Central midfield dovetail for Spain
Busquets and Alonso were both holding midfielders but Alonso was given slightly more license to attack – had he been in the more defensive role perhaps there would have been more switches of play from one side to the other, e.g. from the left wing to Arbeloa (see point 1), instead he got frustrated in the second half.

6. The role of Phil Jones
Phil Jones didn’t really contribute towards an England victory. He shuttled in between the two 18 yard boxes, making a few surging runs forward – the definition of a box to box midfielder – but contributed little in either 18 yard box. Without the ball, it was Parker who dominated the midfield for England, and when on the ball Jones was far too cautious e.g. failing to shoot in the first half, instead opting for a needless pass that lost momentum, and he used a lot of sideways passes at half-pace that slowed down attacking moves

7. Scott Parker’s influence
At the heart of everything positive was Parker. Not because he was the playmaker but because for nearly every Spanish attack he was either the destroyer – who nicked the ball and played it out - or due to his close role with the centre backs got on the end of loose balls around that area and played the ball out. He won most of his tackles and bossed Xavi in front of his two centre backs. Man of the Match.

8. Two strong performances from two left-backs
Jordi Alba and Ashley Cole both looked good. Cole confirmed he is much more than a good attacking full back by showing he can defend – but was initially caught out by Silva’s runs from right to left (point 1). He had to decide whether or not to follow Silva’s run from one wing to another or deal with the proposed, but nothing more at that stage, threat of Arbeloa.

9. Joe Hart’s differing goalkeeper distribution
In the first half Hart looked to play the ball to Bent who lacked support or most often hit the right wing and use Walcott up against Alba. Walcott is not strong in the air – but did win more headers than his opponent – so this seems like a strange choice of distribution. Perhaps it was simply to exploit Alba’s lack of presence in the air? Either way, in the second half Hart’s distribution was noticeably shorter at goal kicks and he took quick free kicks to his defenders. Was this because England were failing to secure possession higher up the pitch?

10. Darren Bent’s movement
Darren Bent failed to make himself an option. When England’s wingers got the ball in the Spanish third they were typically up against three or four opponents – a fullback, the centre back on that side and then either a defensive midfielder, winger or both. Lampard’s role was not attacking, the full-backs were often pinned back on their eighteen yard box and Jones was box-to-box, so what was needed was support from Bent, but instead of making runs in front of the nearest centre back to play (diagram on the right), and therefore having just a full back in between himself and the player with the ball, Bent’s runs were to the far side of the second centre back, so instead between him and the player he needed to support was a full back, the inside centre back and the outside centre back (diagram on the left).

Thompson Talks Tactics will be a fortnightly feature on Monday's about my tactical observations from the weekend’s action.
I am by no means a tactical wizard and all of the above are just my observations – you may agree with some and disagree with others! 
If you have any feedback please don’t hesitate to leave your comments in the box below.
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1 comment:

  1. Sam, do you think Capello's changes at half time influenced the game more than Del Bosque's seemingly negative changes?