Why Eng­land Gets Bet­ter After Every Game

Why Eng­land Gets Bet­ter After Every Game

The Three Lions will con­test their first World Cup semi final in 28 years after see­ing off Swe­den 2 – 0. Not only have they become an attrac­tive side to watch, they are improv­ing after every match. Our guest ana­lyst from the EFL looks into the rea­sons why.

This team is com­fort­able in possession

Pri­or to this game, Swe­den had, quite right­ly, received con­sid­er­able praise for being excep­tion­al­ly dis­ci­plined out of pos­ses­sion; their rigid 4 – 4-2 for­ma­tion requires co-oper­a­tion, co-ordi­na­tion and team­work, all of which are under­pinned by a tire­less work rate to keep oppo­si­tion teams at bay. 

Swe­den were again hap­py to have very lit­tle of the ball. In the first 30mins of their encounter with reign­ing cham­pi­ons Ger­many, Swe­den enjoyed only 27% of the ball and then against Switzer­land, they oper­at­ed with only 32% of the ball all game and sim­ply looked to unset­tle their opponent.

Our Sports­code out­put win­dow below shows that Swe­den held a much more respectable 45.4%, but Eng­land held the ball on aver­age 1.9 sec­onds longer per pos­ses­sion and com­plet­ed 126 more pass­es, this show­ing England’s abil­i­ty to get on the ball and play.

John Stones is essen­tial for Southgate’s Eng­land side as he has the qual­i­ty to start plays from the back. Stones passed the ball at 93% accu­ra­cy in the match.

Our Sportscode output window shows how much England dominated the ball in terms of time per possession and total number of passes.
Average positions for Sweden players vs Germany and Switzerland show how deep Sweden defend. A tough side to break down.

Eng­land respond­ed to Sweden’s defen­sive tac­tics well

Swe­den set up to dis­rupt and it was clear from the way Eng­land built their play through the defen­sive and mid­field thirds that they would offer a seri­ous threat in wide areas. 

With no Swedish press to con­tend with, Eng­land wing­backs Young and Trip­pi­er need­ed no invi­ta­tion to get for­ward in sup­port of the team’s attacks. The full­backs com­plet­ed 11 cross­es between them in the match and were a con­stant threat on the overlap.

Sweden’s offen­sive strat­e­gy was to play direct, but this again played into England’s hands due to the aer­i­al dom­i­nance that they enjoyed in this match.

Har­ry Maguire lost just one of his 11 aer­i­al duels and fel­low cen­tral defend­ers Walk­er and Stones com­plet­ed anoth­er 19 between them.

Sweden’s compact defensive shape 4-4-2, but very deep and narrow to deny central passes.
England's 3-5-2 with wing backs compared to Sweden's compact 4-4-2.

Eng­land are adapt­ing and learn­ing as they go deep­er into the competition

Forego the press — Eng­land opt­ed to not press from the front and instead set up with for a mid block out of pos­ses­sion with the wing­backs drop­ping in to form a back five with Kane and Ster­ling pro­vid­ing England’s first line of defence. 

This forced Swe­den into long aer­i­al pass­es that were eas­i­ly mopped up by Maguire, Stones and Walk­er. Swe­den defend­er Krafth was their match leader in long pass­es with 14.

Trust­ing their build up play from the back – Swe­den ini­tial­ly set up very high to pre­vent Eng­land play­ing out. To counter this Hen­der­son dropped in to form a dou­ble piv­ot with Stones – a move that would give Eng­land 5 vs 3 around their penal­ty area — the numer­i­cal advan­tage here gave suf­fi­cient pass­ing options to allow Eng­land to play their way out. 

Kyle Walk­er led the way in total pass­es with 75. Sweden’s high­est pass­ing defend­er was Lin­de­lof with only 40. Mas­sive contrast.

England’s flat midfield three work across the pitch to prevent Sweden breaking their second line.
England playing out from the back under pressure with a man advantage created by Henderson dropping deep to receive a pass.

Eng­land are util­is­ing their for­ma­tion to the fullest

For the 3 – 5-2 for­ma­tion to be at it’s most effec­tive, it essen­tial­ly relies on hav­ing two wing­backs who can oper­ate on both sides of the ball effectively.

Both Trip­pi­er and Young have real­ly brought this role to life dur­ing this World Cup and were are stand­out per­form­ers against Sweden.

Our Sports­code head to head out­put below shows they com­plet­ed 19 cross­es between them, while also com­plet­ing 12 defen­sive actions combined. 

The most impres­sive sta­tis­tic shown is that 100% of their balls in the attack­ing third were accurate. 

If the full­backs can find this width against Croa­t­ia, they can def­i­nite­ly cause them trou­ble giv­en the aer­i­al prowess the Eng­land play­ers have demon­strat­ed in this World Cup so far.

Our Sportscode head to head output shows another statistically strong match for Trippier and Young.

Post-match review

A strong per­for­mance to get two goals against a Swedish side that are known as extreme­ly res­olute, Eng­land sure­ly would have been thank­ful to score in the first half which caused the Swedish to take a few risks when they need­ed to chase the game.

Swe­den did even­tu­al­ly change the tem­po of their play as they went in search of an equal­iz­er and would have scored had Jor­dan Pick­ford not been in such out­stand­ing form in the Eng­land goal. 

While Swe­den were some­what pre­dictable, Croa­t­ia are unlike­ly to spurn the same oppor­tu­ni­ties and pos­sess a range of attack­ing threats such as aer­i­al (Mandzu­kic), drib­bling (Perisic) and play­mak­ing (Mod­ric). It will be the sternest exam­i­na­tion of England’s defence so far, with the inten­si­ty lev­el sure­ly much high­er giv­en their group stage meet­ing was a game with far less on the line.

Eng­land have become an attrac­tive team to watch, but it’s very impor­tant that they stay true to the pos­ses­sion-based style that has got them this far. 

The Three Lions are learn­ing and improv­ing with every match. Now that they have learned their strengths, it’s sim­ply up to them to exe­cute against Croa­t­ia to give the best chance of victory.

To learn more about how Hudl uses ana­lyt­ics to fuel the mod­ern game, you can sign up to one of our online class­es or check out our pro­fes­sion­al case stud­ies from La Liga club Deporti­vo Alaves here.