If Eng­land mas­ter sys­tem, they’ll have a good World Cup

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - SPORTS - Glenn Hod­dle

REA­SON FOR CHEER

THE morn­ing af­ter felt a lot bet­ter than the night be­fore had promised to be. The build-up to Eng­land v Ger­many had been some­thing of an anti-cli­max. There were so many with­drawals that it was dif­fi­cult to see ex­actly what Gareth South­gate was go­ing to learn from the match. But by the end there was some rea­sons to feel more op­ti­mistic.

It wasn’t just the ex­cel­lence of some of the debu­tants, such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jor­dan Pick­ford. There were play­ers like Kieran Trip­pier, win­ning his third cap, look­ing a real op­tion at right-back.

John Stones has come on so much in re­cent months and is look­ing so as­sured. And then, other than an early mis­take, there was Harry Maguire (below), who was out­stand­ing. And Joe Gomez han­dled the ball well too.

In fact, as a for­mer Eng­land man­ager who liked my play­ers to play out from the back, I have to say I looked on in envy. I would have loved to have worked with these de­fend­ers.

MY BE­LIEF

IT has long since been a hobby horse of mine but I have al­ways be­lieved that the key to play­ing well at in­ter­na­tional foot­ball is bring­ing the ball out from the back. Some peo­ple be­lieve Eng­land can’t do that. I never did.

Gareth South­gate played in my back three and I think he en­joyed that chal­lenge. Oth­ers — I’m think­ing es­pe­cially of Tony Adams — took more con­vinc­ing. They were 4-4-2 men, as were most of the squad. But they came round and I think they en­joyed it. The great­est flaw of the Eng­land teams I played in was be­ing over-run in mid­field — which is why I wanted an ex­tra man there — and los­ing pos­ses­sion be­cause we couldn’t play out from the back. You could see Ger­many could not press us as they wanted to on Fri­day night be­cause they knew that back three could eas­ily pass it round them. In­ter­na­tional sides have re­lied on English de­fend­ers be­ing poor in that depart­ment for years, either press­ing them into mis­takes or let­ting the least able player have the ball, know­ing they won’t use it well. You can’t take that risk with this side.

GOOD VI­SION

OF course it does not just help you de­fen­sively. It is an at­tack­ing move to play out from the back. It adds flu­id­ity to the team. Good foot­ballers at the back will see things much quicker. In a split sec­ond, they will spot a ball to play, whereas a lesser player, even if they did see it, wouldn’t have the con­fi­dence to de­liver it. Once your de­fend­ers can pick out a pass, the ball is de­liv­ered into a dan­ger­ous area in mid­field much quicker and so you put the op­po­si­tion un­der much more pres­sure.

The op­po­site of that is dwelling on the ball and then de­liv­er­ing a loose pass or a long ball which con­cedes pos­ses­sion and puts your team un­der pres­sure.

WORD OF CAU­TION

DE­SPITE the rea­sons to be cheer­ful, we should sound a note of cau­tion. I re­mem­ber feel­ing pos­i­tive af­ter Eng­land beat Ger­many in Ber­lin in March 2016. It was only three months from that op­ti­mism to the de­spair of Ice­land.

When Eng­land looked good in that Ger­many game un­der Roy Hodg­son it was be­cause they looked en­er­getic and ex­cit­ing, prin­ci­pally on the coun­ter­at­tack. And we have the play­ers to play that way.

What Eng­land have failed to do well is break down teams that sit back against us. That’s where more work is needed. I would still want this team to utilise their speed even against teams that sit deep.

To do so, you have set traps. Let the op­po­si­tion have the ball for pe­ri­ods, make them think they can come at you. You train for those pe­ri­ods of play. That helps to cre­ate the space for you to run into. We need to be bet­ter pre­pared for that kind of game.

LEARN YOUR LINES

WHEN I was Eng­land man­ager, it would take at least a week of work­ing on the train­ing ground to nail down a sys­tem so the play­ers had it in their mind.

I hope we do use the back three. We can de­ploy a front two of Harry Kane and Mar­cus Rash­ford, or have Kane play­ing in front of Adam Lal­lana and Deli Alli. But they need to make sure the de­fen­sive line is right and that takes work.

Too high and a player like Maguire might get caught. Get caught too low and the wing backs are pushed back, you end up in a back five and you can never get out. That’s what hap­pened to Chelsea at Roma [in the 3-0 Cham­pi­ons League de­feat last month]. Chelsea played the back three per­fectly for long pe­ri­ods last sea­son but are now be­ing found out a bit.

It’s a hard sys­tem to play. With two up front, the sec­ond striker has to work es­pe­cially hard to drop back in. On one side, a mid­fielder might have to push out to pro­tect against a full-back push­ing on from a back four. You’re con­stantly switch­ing shape.

But this Eng­land squad look like they can do it. And if they can mas­ter the sys­tem, they can build a foun­da­tion for a good World Cup.

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