England Need To Play Like Leicester, Not Italy

We need freshness. We need bravery. We need to play OUR way.

England try too hard to be continental and to be honest it’s driving me crazy and has done as an England fan all my life.

Spirit of ‘96
Having commentated on two World Cups, two European Championships, played for my country and watched tournaments in Portugal and Germany as a fan, I think I’m fairly well qualified to see the national team from all angles. And I’m seeing the same problems played out time and time again.

English football whether we like it or not is about fast-thinking, fast-moving, technically good football played with width and aggression. It’s what we do and we do it well.

If you want proof, the times the national team have done it we reached two semi-finals in 1990 and 1996.

Gareth Southgate knows this and we must give him time to discharge that blueprint, as he’s a deep thinker who understands the public low bar of expectation, but desperately wants the national team to breathe fire once again, as the team he played for in ‘96 did so excitingly.

Same Old, Same Old
We have to go from saying it to doing it though. Against Lithuania, I saw what I’ve seen a million times from England. Start slow, try to play the continental, deep thinking, slot probing, cerebral way and it’s getting lost in the sauce I’m afraid.

Maybe this is not the case against a rank average Lithuania side or any other qualifier we may play (England haven’t lost a qualifier since 2009) but when we come up against teams in tournaments who bizarrely play with more English traits than we now do!

Think of Germany, Italy, Spain at their best and when there’s an opportunity to go through the gears, press, hassle and bully their opponents, they do it. Why was this implemented in their national psyche? Because at some point in their evolution in club or early international football they came up against British sides who would simply blow them away, outfight, outwork and outrun them.

Be Like Leicester
That was a long time ago but English international football has lost its identity because we try to be more cultured than we actually need to be. When we play to our strengths, like Leicester did against Sevilla for example, the Spanish side buckled and were dumped out. More cultured sides across the continent have been unable to do that to them for a little while.

So we MUST use that as a base to work from and resist the temptation to look or feel like “another continental side”. If we do, under Gareth Southgate I’m convinced we can compete with the best.

If we try to be clever, slow the play down, we’ll keep getting frustrated for the next 50 years.

The English Way
Ireland, north and south play to their strengths. Wales got to a semi-final by playing to theirs. It’s time for England, with surely better players and exciting youth, to do the same.

Great result against Lithuania, only brightened when the likes of Rashford came on and played with pace, tempo, directness and aggression.

The English way. A successful way.