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England vs. Spain: New approach, Same England.

Wednesday 16th November 2016
I don't want to be negative and say 'same old same old' but I'm struggling not to. Yes, the result was disappointing as normal, but I suppose the performance did offer some signs of encouragement.
In part two of the Gareth Southgate audition, England squared up against a former great nation. A nation that is now getting used to an era where they're no longer the number one footballing nation. Spain has failed woefully at the past two major competitions, so Southgate & his men knew there was nothing to fear here. What followed was a game of two halves that showed the different sides of the England national team.

The lineups suggested change. Spain experimented with a back three, using the game to allow their fringe players to find their feet in a new system. While with Wayne Rooney on the sidelines, Southgate opted to revert back to a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 with Adam Lallana at 10 to clog up the midfield and deprive Sergio Busquets of space.

Direct & Focused:



England had a clear game plan. They wanted to expose Spain's tendency to push up high. At any given chance, England would play a long ball over the top for Jamie Vardy to run onto. The Leicester forward positioned himself on the shoulder of the last defender at all times, knowing his pace would be a great asset to expose Spain.

England sat relatively deep with the intention of counter attacking a Spanish team they knew would have most of the ball. Whilst sitting, the England front three would pick & choose when to press and when to hold.
Spain's advanced technical ability allowed them to freely play through England's stretched press. Busquets being the intelligent player he is, kept himself in positions that would aid his back three in build up play. With two or three passes Spain would already be in England's half on the front foot.

However, despite dominating possession, they created only a handful of clear-cut chances. Spain controlled the flow of the game but England looked threatening on the break and constantly looked to overload Spain's back three.

Fragility vs. Possession:



Julen Lopetegui opted for a change in approach in the second half. Isco & Alvaro Morata were brought on and afforded Spain more incision & aggressiveness. They had dominated possession throughout the game but the substitutions quickened the tempo of their passing. Busquets positioned himself higher up the field, nearer to Jordan Henderson & Eric Dier to supply these new attacking options. All of a sudden, Spain were slicing England open with ease. The waves of attack were relentless.
Southgate reacted to the pressure wrongly. On came Aaron Cresswell perhaps to reinforce England's attacking width, instead it cost them. Cresswell's positioning on both goals was a shambles, the West Ham LB was nowhere to be seen and his recklessness left his teammates exposed. Spain pushed England further & further towards their own goal as English legs began to tire. Eventually, they turned over the two-goal deficit, if the game had gone on for another ten minutes, I'm sure they would have scored a third.
I suppose a 2-2 draw against Spain in most situations is positive. But let's not kid ourselves here, this was a severely depleted Spanish team. Being 2-0 up at 85 minutes and not seeing out the game is criminal and doesn't bode well for the future. What is it about these overpaid Premier League players that makes them crumble on the International stage? Game management went out the window and fragility settled in, again. If Southgate is to become the next England manager, we can only hope & pray he goes some way in addressing the mentality of his talented squad.
Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with ample amounts of passion for both Cristiano Ronaldo & Real Madrid. I'm one of those bandwagonist hipster fans that will claim to know everything about football, but only watches the El Clasico outside of the Premier League. Forgive me, I'm trying. Oh yeah, #WengerOut. 


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