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Category: Football tactics

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Gareth Southgate’s solid England risk being caught behind wave of history | Jonathan Wilson

The Euros showed that conservatism still dominates international football, but there are signs the club-style cohesiveness shown by Spain and Italy may be taking overThe broken glass has been cleared. Wembley Way is no longer sticky underfoot. As the s…

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England battle for survival instead of control as deep-lying issue resurfaces | Jonathan Wilson

Gareth Southgate’s choice of formation was understandable but there was no doubt England lacked creativityAs England dropped deeper and deeper in the second half, as they succumbed to the same problem holding a lead that had beset them against Colombia…

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Tactical battle: where the Euro 2020 final will be won and lost | Jonathan Wilson

England may revert to a back three and must stymie Italy’s menacing left flank – but set pieces could hold the keyBefore every game, the biggest question has been whether Gareth Southgate should go with a back three or a back four. Block in the opposin…

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Gareth Southgate must combat Germany’s agents of chaos – but first, pick a shape | Jonathan Wilson

How to counter Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens is one of a string of conundrums the England manager must solveNothing in football is ever straightforward. There are few rights and few wrongs; almost everything is contingent. But even within that contex…

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Euro 2020’s flying full-backs show risk-free football is not the only path to victory | Jonathan Wilson

Belgium, the Netherlands and in particular Italy have found a midfield balance that can help unshackle wide defendersThere is always a danger of fighting the last war. In March, after England’s uninspiring 2-1 win over Poland, Gareth Southgate spoke of…

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It is time England stop playing for tomorrow and really catch fire | Barney Ronay

The throttle must be revved and talent expressed by Gareth Southgate, because it is also the way to winThere is an odd, rather overlooked detail about the recent progress of the England football team. Gareth Southgate has picked 10 full-back combinatio…

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Frank de Boer ponders back four as Netherlands seek defensive balance

An opening victory over Ukraine has not dispelled doubts about the 3-5-2 formation the manager has recently adoptedTo 3-5-2 or 4-3-3: this is the question that continues to swirl around the Netherlands team after Sunday’s helter-skelter 3-2 win against…

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Formation, full-backs, Grealish: big calls facing Southgate for Euro 2020

We outline six key decisions England’s manager must make before his team start their tournament against Croatia It wouldn’t be a major tournament without an England player struggling to prove his fitness. Harry Maguire is in the David Beckham role this…

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New age of austerity: Guardiola, Tuchel and the case for the defence | Jonathan Liew

Despite all their luxury attacking players it is back-to-basics defending that has been key to Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s success this seasonSeveral epochs ago, back in the long-forgotten wilderness of October 2020, a good deal of airtime and colu…

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Pep Guardiola left to ponder his fatal flaw with quadruple dream in ruins | Jonathan Wilson

Yet another defeat to pacy counterattackers raises tantalising questions over Manchester City’s European tie with PSGAnd so the quadruple remains out of reach for another season. Perhaps Pep Guardiola is right to banish talk of it: when goals are set s…

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The great Alexander-Arnold debate: a pressing question for Gareth Southgate | Jonathan Wilson

Liverpool’s press has been weakened this season, exposing their right-back – and Southgate knows it could happen with EnglandNonessential shops are reopening, fans are returning to stadiums, and English football has developed an unhelpful monomania in …

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Reguilon on for Bergwijn: how José Mourinho blew Spurs’ title charge | Jonathan Wilson

Fear has become the manager’s defining principle and at Anfield a typically defensive substitution was the unravellingNine days before Christmas was not really so very long ago, yet it feels like a different world. Manchester City had just been held to…

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Sergio Agüero a man out of time as Manchester City change around him | Barney Ronay

A genuine aristocrat of European football, the striker’s final run at the club he has flourished at may well come from the fringesThe agony of choice. Manchester City started this game with a frontline of Riyadh Mahrez, Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus:…

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Sergio Agüero a man out of time as Manchester City change around him | Barney Ronay

A genuine aristocrat of European football, the striker’s final run at the club he has flourished at may well come from the fringesThe agony of choice. Manchester City started this game with a frontline of Riyadh Mahrez, Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus:…

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Liverpool’s slump: a story of burnt-out brilliance and the need to go again | Barney Ronay

A team built prudently to Jürgen Klopp’s designs and geared to thrive on fine margins have lacked wiggle room in adversityThe story of Liverpool FC’s wild, thrillingly committed Premier League collapse has been told mainly in numbers so far. And to goo…

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Liverpool’s slump: a story of burnt-out brilliance and the need to go again | Barney Ronay

A team built prudently to Jürgen Klopp’s designs and geared to thrive on fine margins have lacked wiggle room in adversityThe story of Liverpool FC’s wild, thrillingly committed Premier League collapse has been told mainly in numbers so far. And to goo…

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Derby defeat exposes old weaknesses in Guardiola’s Manchester City | Jonathan Wilson

Despite City’s 21-match winning streak, Manchester United were able to rattle their neighbours with balls in behind themIt is one defeat. It does not change the fundamental fact that Manchester City will win the league and look probably as well-positio…

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Safety-first plan for big games is defining Solskjær’s roundhead Reds | Jonathan Liew

First face second in the Manchester derby on Sunday – and yet has ever a game between the Premier League’s top two sides ever felt so essentially inessential? The look on Sir Alex Ferguson’s face was a curious mixture of disbelief, shock and amusement….

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Bruno Fernandes the driving force behind United’s road trip brilliance | Barney Ronay

Ole Gunnar Solskjær isn’t just picking a more defensive team away from home – he’s picking a more effective one On the road with Manchester United: a journey in 19 acts. As with most road stories, the biggest question around United’s record unbeaten aw…

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Bruno Fernandes the driving force behind United’s road trip brilliance | Barney Ronay

Ole Gunnar Solskjær isn’t just picking a more defensive team away from home – he’s picking a more effective one On the road with Manchester United: a journey in 19 acts. As with most road stories, the biggest question around United’s record unbeaten aw…