Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics


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England doesn't use their spices

English food is bland, but English football, due to exports from other nations, is not. The Premier League is a giant melting pot of tactical ideas from around Europe, but the national team was detached from those ideas before.

It’s like when the British colonized lands for their spices and then never used them in their food. The Premier League colonized all these tactics from other lands, but their national team didn’t want to use them.

Although the execution is not there, the way Gareth Southgate has them setup in the EURO’s is super close to what you would expect if you wanted to replicate the tactics used by the top teams in the Premier League. That’s why I said “the national team was detached from those ideas,” keyword was, past tense.

Michael Cox from his article “From Scholes to Iniesta to Ozil: How successful tournament teams often compromise on the left wing” in the Athletic:

Tactically, the frustration and the fascination of international football comes from the same concept: a manager is stuck with a specific and limited group of players to choose from. Whereas weaknesses in the club game are addressed by new signings, in the international game you simply have to cope.

And so there’s a common dilemma for managers with a problem position: do you opt for a player who is accustomed to playing in that position, but probably isn’t at the level of his team-mates, or do you select a top-class player who is excellent in another role, and ask him to adjust?

The perhaps surprising lesson from international football, at least over the last couple of decades, is the latter.

To me, this was more of an England issue than an international issue. The main problem I see is that over the past 20 years, tactics have become more complicated. The league with the most money and the most competition is the Premier League, where the majority of the English players play.

The tactics in international football are not complicated. There are very few instructions. Therefore, the English players train and play in a completely different environment from that of their international team, more so than players from other nations.

When I watch Spain, they use similar structures and systems when compared to the teams in La Liga. When I watch Italy, I see the Serie A. When I watch Germany, I see the Bundesliga. When I watch England, I don’t see them playing in a similar style to the teams at the top of the Premier League. The culture of football in that nation is not bland anymore. The cultures of many nations are rubbing off on them.

The manager dumbs down their approach because everyone thinks you must, but I think it’s harder for the players to adapt when the environment is unfamiliar to them. The players look more comfortable when you copy the familiar systems of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Chelsea, Newcastle, or Manchester United.

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