So, England were “bad” and “hopeless” yesterday in Ukraine. However, they kept a clean sheet and they are top of their qualifying group with their fate in their own hands.
Criticism is aimed at Roy Hodgson but also at British football culture. ”Our youngsters need to be taught to pass and receive, not hoof it long”, critics say. The “familiar” set of failings are being mentioned again. England can’t keep hold of the ball for long, can’t create, wasteful in possession. England are far far away from playing “tiki-taka” – the Spanish pass and move style that is highly effective.
Possession football is about finding the easy pass. The easy pass is a result of movement and not “passing ability”. That’s because 99% of a footballer’s time on the field is without having the ball in his feet. So, in order for a team to keep hold of the ball, players need to move to the right angle from the ball, receive and control the ball quickly and have another easy pass option as fast as they can. Enough movement will allow any team to play possession football and I believe that England have at least 40 players that can run 11-13 km per in order to keep possession. So with the right coach, England can play their version of tiki-taka.
However, possession of the football is important but avoiding turnovers is a lot more essential according to David Sally and Chris Anderson, writers of “The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong”.
Also, tiki taka is a cultural thing, avoiding losing the ball is essential to get wins. You can avoid losing the ball through possession game but also through smart, direct football. Getting the ball fast to the opposition’s half and having a lot of shots from distance. Adopting this style can cancel out England’s “familiar set of failings”.
Smart ambushes, snipers that take long shots when a hint of a possibility of doing so is showing, collective clever pressing (like Dortmund) and fast counter collective attacking football are essential for wins as much as “passing and receiving”.
England can’t play tiki taka. They don’t need to play tiki-taka. Winning by keeping possession and initiating chances is for more creative, highly skilled players. England don’t have a lot of these around but do have strong warrior-like midfielders and fast athletic wingers and strikers.
England can’t, right now, create for themselves but why bother when they can run and press, push and shove, cross and shot.
England need to find their style and implement it throughout the England set up. All group ages need to play “the English way” and be comfortable “hoofing it up” in the right way: A style fitted to the much admired English traits such as pace, power, discipline and determination is nothing to be a shamed about.
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