Apologies to my American readers, but things are going to get European and football-y over the next few weeks.
So, England. This 4-4-2 diamond thing needs to die off. Quickly.
Yes, I’m using it in my challenge to win a major tournament with England, but that’s because it’s a game and I’ve played enough Football/Championship Manager to know you get the best players you can and ram them in to a formation that can accommodate them all.
Real football doesn’t work like that, though.
Football is about playing to your strengths, but England’s strength is that we have 5 quality strikers and I don’t see anyone advocating we play 5 up top against Russia.
Instead, strength comes from taking what works for you, pointing it in the right direction and discarding what doesn’t fit. In terms of tactics, it comes in the following forms:
- Playing a formation the players are familiar with
- Playing individuals in a position that they are familiar with
- Not playing players that don’t fit with the greater need of the team
Given that most of our players’ clubs play a variation on the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 that is so popular with the cool kids these days, play that. The players will automatically know how to do it because they do it every day. Trying to retrain footballers on such short notice is like trying to train a monkey to play the saxophone. Let it do what it can do. Pick it’s own a*se, probably.
All this farting around with a formation that the players don’t understand so we can crowbar a couple of players in is madness. Any success we will have using a system like that will be in spite of the tactics, not because of it.
With a formation the players understand, you then put the players in the position that they are most suited to. Play Kane up front on his own because he’s scored about 5,000 goals from that role for Spurs in the last two seasons. Alli is best as an attacking midfielder (don’t call him a No.10) and has a good relationship with Kane, so play him there. Dier has a good relationship with Alli from deep, and knows how to cover for Walker and Rose when they bomb forward, so play the three of them in those positions. It’s not rocket science and/or brain surgery.
Vardy’s had a great year, but he can’t play left week or up front on his own, so don’t pick him. Leave him on the bench, fill him up with Vodka Red Bull and let him loose with 15 minutes remaining when we need a goal.
And leave Rooney out. For the love of all that is holy, how have we still not learned the lessons of the last TWENTY YEARS? Since Euro ’96 we have tried to force a square peg in to a round hole because that particular square peg is a name, and “you don’t leave this square peg out of the team”. Paul Scholes playing left-midfield was twelve years ago, for God’s sake.
If Rooney is such an unsuitably-shaped peg for this particular hole, don’t mash it harder until the hole is no longer circular and the rest of the pegs are deemed useless as well.
That’s not to say the diamond formation might not be useful when there’s 15 minutes left and Jamie Vardy is p*ssed up and ready to run about like an 18 year old on his first night out. If we need a goal and want to go hell-for-leather then sure, throw all your exciting players in to one team and tell them to go a bit mental in the hopes they score.
But shoving everyone in to one team and forcing a formation the players aren’t familiar with and doesn’t play to their strengths is only going to blunt them. I’d sooner we got a 6/10 player like Lallana to fill a role in the team that helped the likes of Kane, Alli and Wilshere play at 10/10, rather than turning everyone in to a 5/10 player so we can draw 0-0 and say that Rooney and Vardy both got to start.
Still, nothing like a bit of optimism before a major international tournament, huh?
This was a special Euro 2016 post. All other reviews are posted every Monday, so make sure you check back in then. You know, if you want.
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