Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

England's simple solution

The common theory is that “complicated” tactics won’t work in international football. No inverting full-backs or center-backs, simple, the least amount of instructions. I would agree that’s true for almost every country, except for at least one, England.

Players from national teams come from different teams, different leagues, different countries and gather as one unit with very little time during a year to train and implement more complex systems of play.

Take for example World Cup winners, Argentina. They had in their squad, five players from the Premier League, two from Ligue 1, one from the Bundesliga, four from Serie A, two from Liga Portugal, ten from La Liga, one from the Argentina Primera Division, and one from the MLS. That is a melting pot of different ideals and ways of playing. Different formations, different roles, different cultures. Cold weather, hot weather.

It is too hard for a team like that to adjust and perform as a team without minimal instructions from the coach. Lionel Scaloni touched on that need for simplicity in an interview after the World Cup.

It’s a lot of reacting. That’s part of what makes international football so interesting. You don’t know what to expect because, one, it’s dissimilar to club football in it’s simplicity, and two, the onus is on the players to “figure it out” in the moment.

The England national team are unique though. They are less of a melting pot. 24 of the 26 players called up during the international break play in the Premier League.

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of my ideal England lineup.

Of the ten outfield players here, ten play for Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United. The other two are Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham.

Those four teams have used this type of 3-box-3 system. These players are used to how it works. They are more familiar now with inverting wingers, full-backs, center-backs. It is a copy and paste from their clubs.

I would argue for England you complicate things by simplifying them. Anything else would be foreign to them, they’d look awkward, but this they are used to.

For me, this is the simplest solution for England to replicate what these players use at their clubs. And to be fair, the only thing that’s new that I’m suggesting is Trent Alexander-Arnold inverting from right-back. Everything else has been tried by Gareth Southgate.

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