Ham Mpanga writes a detailed tactical analysis about the international friendly that ended France 3-2 England.
After both nations put up sub-par performances in their World Cup qualifiers, this was a time to shake the kinks out of their systems. Granted, a friendly isn’t necessarily the most competitive but with the players involved, it will almost certainly a case of ‘go hard or go home’ and with the transfer window coming up, it was a chance for players to either kick back & relax or put themselves in the shop window. It was an appetizing game for the neutral with many skillful moments displayed but the manner of the defeat should provide cause for concern within the England camp.
France (4-4-2): 1. Lloris // 19. Sidibé, 4. Varane, 22. Umtiti, 3. Mendy // 11. Dembélé, 13. Kanté, 6. Pogba, 8. Lemar// 12. Mbappé, 9. Giroud
England (3-4-3): 1. Heaton // 4. Jones, 6. Stones, 5. Cahill // 2. Trippier, 8. Dier, 11. Oxlade-Chamberlain, 3. Bertrand // 7. Sterling, 9. Kane, 10. Alli
England fail to evade French press
England lined up with a 3-4-3 but this would become a 3-1-3-3 in build up, as Eric Dier would sit between the lines & Oxlade-Chamberlain would push beyond France’s midfield duo. This would mean that France’s man to man pressing would be disrupted as they would have a man to press in front & behind but this situation rarely occurred. Oxlade-Chamberlain was stuck between aiding Dier’s unsuccessful build up play and pushing on to create layers in midfield. He chose the former & this backfired because now either of France’s centre backs could step into midfield and sweep up danger which in turn would allow France’s press to become more aggressive, using a backwards pass as a pressing trigger. Eric Dier’s inability to function as a controller meant he was unable to relieve the immediate pressure around him which left him having to kick the ball out of play whenever he was suffocated on the ball. England’s front three became disconnected throughout the game as England failed to find them. It also alienated the wingbacks from the match as Dier failed to find them with quick switches, almost defeating the point of needing wingbacks. This set the tone for the game as England could never move forward if they were in any danger thus causing various turnovers in midfield. Once France were reduced to ten men, John Stones started to drive forward from defence which pushed France back but this was too little to late because Dier & Oxlade-Chamberlain weren’t positioned well enough to partake in the phase of play.
Dele Alli has been honing in on his support striker role this season, as he has developed his ability to be in the right place at the right time, be it on the wing to put in a cross or in the box to score a goal. He was no different during the game as he was involved in the first goal as he found Raheem Sterling with an excellent cross & he also won the penalty which resulted in the second goal. Alli has shown that when provided, he can produce but without a natural number 10, his chances become limited. At club level, Christian Eriksen could find Alli with a pass almost anywhere on the pitch but in the current England side there are very few players who could do so. This caused Alli to become isolated as the game grew & he became outnumbered due to England being unable to control possession through the phases. The ball was rarely worked in behind France’s midfield so a centre back & fullback would be free to pick up Alli, leaving the other two defenders to match up into two separate 1 v 1s. When France would attack Alli would be picked up by a centre back but when France defended he’d be doubled up upon. The only way Alli could evade this would be to move twice as much but it would be to no avail as he’d rarely be found with a good pass.
On the passmap above, a larger circle shows greater influence & touches. Dele Alli had a rather small circle implying his influence was minimal & rightly so as he was left floundering in & out of the game.
France run riot in the half spaces
Imagining the pitch is split up into five vertical zone, the half-space is the space between the wing & central areas & it is occupied by some of the more creative footballers. This helps players avoid man marking by pulling their marker out of position & zonal marking as they can stay in two zones long enough to cause confusion. This season, Thomas Lemar has gained a lot of praise for how he occupies the left half-space as he tends to be a hybrid winger & midfielder allowing Monaco & France to create numerical superiority. England used a zonal marking system to find space; Lemar withdrew himself deeper into the half-space. This allowed Digne to push forward to take on Trippier whilst Sterling would have to press Kanté but the problem was that with everyone defending, Lemar would be free to roam. If one of England’s midfielders were to press him, a simple inside run would leave them open & if they were to leave him free, he could easily be involved in France’s build up. Ousmane Dembélé also did something similar in the right half-space which allowed Sidibé to come inside & score. Whenever this scenario occurred, England were always unsure as to how to combat this problem, and it was never rectified by Gareth Southgate & if France had all 11 men, it could’ve become a much larger problem.
Neither side will take this result to heart & with the World Cup next summer; both nations have enough time to right their wrongs. France’s problems seem more tactical than anything else but with England, their problems are much more difficult to begin to solve.
Credit to @11tegen11 for the passmap
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