England Women: A team in search of an identity

With the 2017 Euros in the Netherlands less than 100 days away, let’s have a look at the England team, how they set up to play, and if they should be favourites with NetBet for the tournament.

The first thing that comes to mind is that they are extremely flexible in term of tactics.

We have seen multiple combinations of three, four, and five at the back and in midfield as well, with one, two, or three up front.

The second point is England can also put a defensive block in every position. First, high up the pitch with pressure on the opposition. It is a new option that they did not have at the World Cup 2015, for example.

Then, they can put it in the standard medium position, combined with the six or seven system they can use, making them less predictable.

And of course the traditional low position on the pitch, in order to have space in front of them and use the fast forwards on the break. This is the quick, direct play that was used a lot under Hope Powell.

There is no doubt that squad selection is influenced by the need for players to be able to play in two, three, or even four positions. Players need to be flexible tactically and intelligent enough to adapt to change very quickly and from game to game.

It is also quite clear that Mark Sampson has a philosophy of setting up his team with an extremely thorough analysis of his opponent’s strength and weaknesses. Then, he can  prepare his tactics and put the right players within his structure.

It is a very demanding way of setting up a team as players need to understand and apply all the instructions properly. Sampson is playing a chess game against other managers and the players are his pawns.

You can then question how free they are to make their own decisions on the pitch.

In terms of defensive organisation, it makes sense to be well structured and defend as units and as a team, but on the attacking side, do the players have any freedom to do as they please?

Basically, there are two creative players in the England squad, who can get out of the pre-conceived scheme – Fran Kirby and Karen Carney.

There are also excellent finishers and hard workers in the team, but they all rely on those two players for the magic spark and it can make the team predictable when attacking.

So if I had to describe the England team as of today, it is a chameleon that has not shown its true colours yet.

Let’s hope they will show how strong they are during the tournament.