Frank Lampard’s close-range strike ensured Roy Hodgson’s side shared a draw with Ireland in Wednesday’s friendly at Wembley.
Shane Long’s expert header had given Giovanni Trapattoni’s side an early lead before the Chelsea midfielder pounced for England’s equaliser.
Here, The FA’s Peter Glynn analyses the alternative attacking strategies on display.
The merit of adopting different playing systems has dominated the post-match discussion in the aftermath of England’s draw with Ireland at Wembley.
Although England Manager Hodgson, admitted he was “disappointed” with the result, suggestions England were restricted to a rigid 4-4-2 formation throughout have been largely unfair.
On the whole, reducing match analysis to a series of numbers can be a dangerous approach. Two teams may both adopt a similar basic positional arrangement, but adopt significantly different approaches to creating a goal when in possession of the ball.
The strategies and tactics deployed in the attacking phases offer greater opportunity for insight into a team’s attacking method and design.
These are the moments when overlapping surges, supporting midfield runs or clever positional movement and rotation see formations change fluidly and quickly.
It wasn’t movement or positional arrangement that was absent for England here. If anything the hosts required greater composure when making decisions in the final third.
Unlike many international friendlies the opening of this tie moved with intensity more fitting of a domestic cup tie. International football is often characterised by deep-lying defences posing a challenge to the team in possession to pick their way through such a compact arrangement.
Here, however, Trapattoni’s Ireland side were willing to press Hodgson’s charges rather than admire patient build-up play.
Ireland’s forward pairing of Robbie Keane and Long harried England’s backline, preventing attacking moves from deep areas.
When possession was regained Trapattoni’s men looked to quickly release their lively attacking duo with Jon Walters and Aiden McGeady providing ample support from deeper areas.
Reward was the result of the direct approach. After 13 minutes Long slipped between Gary Cahill and Glen Johnson to expertly steer Seamus Coleman’s deep cross past Joe Hart into the far corner. It was a fine header.
In contrast, the home side were more considered in their build-up. Much of England’s most progressive play came in wide areas.
Before injury cut short his first international start Daniel Sturridge had interchanged position effectively with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on England’s left. With Oxlade-Chamberlain regularly seeking involvement in more central positions, Sturridge drifted into the vacant space.
It was an approach mirrored on the opposite flank, where Theo Walcott regularly varied his receiving position.
A further benefit of England’s wide players routinely moving inside was that the full-backs, Ashley Cole and Johnson, were given licence to maraud forward to exploit the space. On his 102nd international outing, and captain for the evening, Cole, needed little invitation to surge forward down the left.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game which helps young players develop their attacking movement (attacking play in a small sided game 17-21)
To balance the adventure in wide positions, security was necessary in central areas. For large parts of the game, Lampard and Michael Carrick operated as deep-lying central playmakers.
By attempting to control possession in central areas England’s forward division had the opportunity to rotate position, creating the space for the full-backs to launch late, deep runs. Lampard, in particular, looked to release club-mate Cole with longer, raking balls hit from deep.
Both central midfielders would play a part in the equaliser. Ten minutes after Ireland’s opener, Carrick - so often the unrecognised source of attacking moves - guided a lofted ball into Sturridge who had interchanged position with Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Sturridge’s curling delivery found its way to the onrushing Lampard who prodded home from close-range.
Encouragingly, the second period started brightly for England. Wayne Rooney, who appeared more influential when his natural energy and appetite for possession saw him scheme from deeper areas, dropped off before turning and dinking a ball over Ireland left-back Stephen Kelly to the onrushing Walcott.
The winger’s composed volley would have found the onrushing Cole only for the vital interception of Sean St Ledger who diverted the ball over David Forde’s bar.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game which helps young players to receive the ball in deep-lying attacking positions (breaking the block 2 – 17-21)
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game which helps young players develop their crossing skills (crossing and finishing 17-21)
The ability to build a goal is a necessary skill in the modern game; requiring creativity and craft to open up massed ranks of defenders.
With the game entering into the final stages Rooney produced a deceptive reverse pass, which, courtesy of a deflection off John O’Shea, arrived at the feet of an unmarked Oxlade-Chamberlain.
When composure was required the youngster failed, snatching at the shot and allowing Ireland’s influential goalkeeper Forde to add another important save to his evening’s collection.
Advice for grassroots coaches:
- Encourage forward players to become comfortable playing in a variety of attacking positions: centrally and wide
- Dedicate time to crossing and shooting practices, emphasising variety, deception and creativity when both shooting and crossing.
Peter Glynn is the Editorial Manager at St. George's Park and editor of The Boot Room, The FA's Coaching Magazine. Peter is a journalist and has been with The Football Association for six years and holds the UEFA B Licence and The FA Youth Awards 1 and 2.
The Future Game Tactics Column discusses the evolution of the modern game, linking to practices from The FA's Future Game philosophy and providing advice and tips for grassroots coaches.
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