England v Scotland Preview: Euros 2020
June 14th, 2021 | Football
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I always enjoy England playing Scotland. The rivalry between supporters is clear. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly or a competitive game. Tackles will be flying in, the referee will get abuse for every decision he makes from the team the decision has affected and their fans. Every player will be expected to work hard and give everything for the shirt. It’s going to be a tense game on the EUROs stage, and I can’t wait for it.
England come into it having beaten Croatia 1-0, courtesy of a Raheem Sterling strike. It was a tough game with challenges, as is this one. But the challenges England will face this Friday are different to those they had against Croatia. Scotland need to get a result, especially after losing 2-0 to the Czech Republic. They’ll defend deep, keep it tight, limit the space and try to nick a goal if they can via a set piece or counterattack, I can’t see them scoring in any other way. So England will have to be patient with the ball, control the game and concentrate when Scotland have their moments.
These games when you know you’re the better team and expect to win can be more difficult than those against even or better opponents. The pressure is different. There’s an expectation to win, rather than a we’d like to win but take a draw, which is the mentality I imagine Scotland will have when they walk onto the Wembley pitch.
The team I’ve gone for this time round is set-up in a 4-2-3-1 system.
I believe this formation will help us dominate the game and push forwards, whilst having the defensive security should Scotland counterattack through the pacey and tireless left-wing-back Andrew Robertson, energetic midfield of McGinn, McTominay and Armstrong. They also have Ryan Fraser who is most likely to play a part off the bench and is always willing to run in behind defences. The two defensive midfielders, Rice and Philips, can cut of midfield runs and passes into the two up top in Scotland’s 3-5-2 system. Rice staying back with Mings and Stones is enough defensive cover which will allow Shaw and Trippier to bomb on and play like wingers. This in turn will allow Grealish and Sterling to operate as inside forwards, making an overload and creating potential space on the edge of the box for a teammate, probably Mason Mount or Kalvin Philips, to get forward from the double-pivot in midfield. Doing this could also help drag out one of the three centre-backs, creating space in the box, which Harry Kane could thrive from.
Defence: Shaw, Mings, Stones and Trippier
I see little reason to change the backline that played well against Croatia. Tyrone Mings and John Stones looked solid as a pairing, which is a huge positive when you consider the current absence of Harry Maguire. Kieran Trippier looked good at left-back and got forwards on occasion but kept having to cut back onto his stronger-right foot instead of crossing it in first time on his weaker left foot; often allowing Croatia time to organise and get back into a solid defensive shape. I thought Kyle Walker was decent defensively against Croatia but was poor in possession and disrupted England’s flow at times. So I’d move Kieran Trippier over to his natural right-hand side so we can utilise his crossing ability better and put Luke Shaw in at left-back. I believe Shaw is, at this moment, the best left-back in the world, and I didn’t understand his absence against Croatia, although he is thought to have a slight wrist injury. I’d play him at left-back for his quality deliveries from out wide and brilliant link-up play all while holding the width, which I think would complement Grealish’s style of drifting infield looking for pockets of space to operate in. As their games complement each other this could also work as a left-hand side pairing. I’d love to see Gareth opt for this back-four with two offensive full-backs.
Midfield: Rice and Philips
Rice and Philips performed very well together against a strong Croatia and deserve to start this next fixture. I know England played more of a 4-3-3 formation with Mason Mount dropping deeper into the midfield three supporting Rice and Philips. Against Scotland we should be fine with just Rice and Philips together to keep it ticking and progress the ball from deep, playing Mason Mount as a no.10 ahead of them, with Philips having a licence to get forwards and join Mason Mount.
Attacking Midfielders: Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden
I’d only make one change to the three players behind the striker. I think England need players to link-up the play in tight areas against Scotland, not pacey wingers who run in behind because I can’t see Scotland allowing that space to run into. The Scotland backline, most likely a back five, needs stretching by our fullbacks, Shaw and Trippier and overloads in the no.10 area. That’s why in possession I’d have one of the attacking midfielders stay wide to receive the ball, but have the other two, along with forward runs from Kalvin Philips operate in those no.10 areas. I think the balance of Grealish, Mount and Foden would work really well, with their intricate link-up play but they’ll need runners in behind the defence and into the box. One of the no.10s, Philips or one of the full-backs. The three could all interchange and are equally comfortable in any of the three positions. I could just see this causing real problems for those Scotland centre-backs and midfielders.
Striker: Harry Kane (Captain)
This one is pretty much a given. I’d nearly be tempted to suggest playing Calvert-Lewin for his desire to run in behind and his heading ability, which could be useful with crosses from the full-backs. But Harry Kane has the movement to occupy and give all three Scotland centre-backs a nightmare. Of course he can drop deep and link the play, but I’d just be saying to him to stay in the box, be patient and be ready to score when you get a chance. A world-class player and England captain, pretty much guaranteed to start and rightfully so.
I think Scotland will keep it tight and defend well at times, possibly making it to half-time or 60 or so minutes with the score at 0-0. But if England keep possession, pass it forwards and are ambitious on the ball, Scotland will tire and gaps will appear for England to exploit. I can’t see England dropping points in this game and I predict a relatively comfortable 2-0 win for the three lions.