The Three Lions attacked down the right using a crossing based approach, but the through ball provided more joy as it finished England 0-0 Slovakia.
England’s slick and fluid build-up lacked cutting edge once again, as has been the case so far at Euro 2016. Progression of the ball through the pitch is neat, tidy and often efficient. The final ball and finishing though, has left a lot to be desired. That was prominent once again in our latest draw with it ending England 0-0 Slovakia in St. Etienne.
England’s medium block
Roy Hodgson is a counter-attacking manager and prefers a medium block. This sees us engage the ball as it enters the middle third to stop teams from trying to play through us.
Our ball recovery was often in this area of the pitch as we sought to regain possession and then move forward.
By blocking off this zone, we often won the ball back through dispossessing an opponent or by forcing a longer pass to be attempted. This increased turnovers from Slovakian players trying to dribble or connect on more difficult passes.
The deployment of Jordan Henderson was interesting. To get him on the same side of the field as Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik, he was stationed on the right of our midfield triangle. Their most dangerous player works from the left and Henderson was tasked with tracking him throughout the Slovakian build-up play. The shadowing by Henderson really forced Hamsik out of the game and he was rarely a factor.
England right-sided raids
With Henderson already on the right-hand side of the field, along with Daniel Sturridge and Nathaniel Clyne, we then used this trio to attack down the right. The three Liverpool men were often joined by a fourth, as Adam Lallana floated towards the pockets of space on this side.
What this created was movement both across and up the pitch. Lallana would move over, Sturridge the reverse towards the centre, Clyne up the line with Henderson looking to provide the service.
All of this lead to the vast majority of chances and openings coming from the right side, mainly in the form of crosses and the odd pull back across the box.
Unlike in the two previous games, we got numbers in the box here. We regularly had three and four men in the penalty area looking to get on the end of the cross.
The tactic was in theory a good one, as it created the opportunity to put the ball in to the box. However, it stumbled on some flaws.
The first is that the delivery was often poor, as we don’t have players that can hit high-quality balls when moving at speed on the run.
The second is that we don’t have the men in the middle that thrive on crossing service. Sturridge, Vardy and Lallana along the front line all prefer the ball to feet rather than in the air. They were occasionally joined by Henderson and Wilshere, both of whom are the same. Even when Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney came on, it was noticeable how our best chances from crosses came when we found we could strike the ball with our feet, not our heads.
England through balls
The crosses looked threatening, but with Martin Skrtel and Jan Durica strong in the air, they weren’t as dangerous as they appeared to be.
The route to a goal looked more likely from a through ball. These came from two situations. First time passes from back to front over the Slovakian defence or penetrating balls through the backline for a runner in-behind.
Jamie Vardy had a fantastic chance on sixteen minutes that should’ve put us ahead. Jordan Henderson’s lofted ball over the top found him running beyond Martin Skrtel. However, in concentrating on a clean connection from his unfavoured left foot, it saw him fire straight at the keeper.
Eric Dier also played two such passes to Daniel Sturridge. The first saw Sturridge bring the ball down with some real finesse on his left foot. This, however, caused him to have to check back inside and in to the reovering Slovakian defender. If he was more confident in his right foot, he could’ve been in.
The second was an exquisite chip pass from Dier that floated beautifully over the Slovakian back four, which Sturridge again went after. As it dropped out of the sky, he swung his left foot at it, but failed to make a connection with the goal gaping.
The longer floated ball over the Slovakian defence to turn them around wasn’t the only route that looked to be more promising than crossing. The through pass looking for a runner in the inside channels was also a threat. Adam Lallana was often the supplier before Wayne Rooney came on to also look for this pass.
Daniel Sturridge finding Nathaniel Clyne cutting through the inside right channel created our best chance from this method. Clyne raced in and could’ve gone down for a certain penalty as he was tripped from behind. Staying on his feet saw him still manage to get a shot away that flicked off the keeper’s shoulder and over the bar.
For all of the crossing that was going on, through balls looked the highest percentage chance of scoring. Whether they were long passes over the top or between the Slovakian defenders to turn them, they proposed the most menace.
Try as we might, we couldn’t break the deadlock, as we repeatedly cut a frustrated figure that could continuously get to the eighteen-yard box, but no further.
Despite bringing Harry Kane on and going to a 4-4-2 diamond, we were unable to generate many high quality chances. Kane did at least did look a threat in the air on the crosses that came in, but was again trying to feed on average service.
Time ran out and it finished England 0-0 Slovakia despite our best efforts to recreate another last minute winner as we had done against Wales.
England 0-0 Slovakia overall
Roy Hodgson rung the changes and we continued to play excellent football in the build-up phase. However, we again struggled with that cutting edge in the final third.
Our problem remains providing good quality service for the front men. Our full backs are unable to deliver good crosses when on the run and our strikers don’t really thrive on high balls in to the box, all prefering the ball to feet. Whilst it looks promising, it makes this continual crossing based approach a strange one. We’ve looked far more of a threat from through ball football.
Final score: England 0-0 Slovakia.