Is England’s Lack of Pressing down to Tiredness?

One big concern highlighted in England’s lacklustre games at Euro 2024 is the lack of pressing. But is it due to tiredness?

Is England's Lack of Pressing down to Tiredness f

"It's something we've got to try to get better at"

Euro 2024 is fully underway but one concern is England’s two lacklustre performances.

Their first match was a 1-0 victory over Serbia but there were a few scares for Gareth Southgate’s side.

Many fans put it down to the fact that it was England’s first match of the tournament.

However, their showing against Denmark was a huge worry.

After going 1-0 up, the Three Lions dropped off, displaying passiveness with the ball and a lack of intensity without it.

This eventually came back to haunt them when Denmark equalised.

After the match, Southgate suggested that England’s lack of pressing was down to fatigue.

He said: “We are not pressing well enough, with enough intensity. We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition.

“We can’t press as high up the pitch as we might have done in the ­qualifiers, for example.

“And we are not keeping the ball well enough. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control.

“We are trying to do something that has never been done before [win the Euros]. So it is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster.”

But are England too tired to press? We find out.

How Bad is the Press?

England

When it comes to pressing, England are ranked the second-worst at the tournament so far for allowing opponents to make passes freely without intervention.

Austria have the most intense press, with a score of 8.7 PPDA.

PPDA stands for ‘opposition passes allowed per defensive action’ – the higher the number, the less you’ve been able to interrupt their spells of play.

Austria has allowed opponents to make fewer than nine passes before making a defensive action.

England allow opponents nearly three times as many passes, with 23.1.

Only Albania has been less intense at Euro 2024 so far.

Southgate’s side are also joint-fifth worst for high turnovers, averaging just four per game, nearly three times fewer than leaders Croatia.

England have been defensively sound in their defensive half but the ineffective press raises red flags in the opposition half – an area where most England players excel for their domestic clubs

Bukayo Saka has been typically hugging the touchline down his favoured right channel and has also posed the greatest threat, while Phil Foden has been roaming into his more dangerous central areas, resulting in a lopsided attack, which could contribute to pressing problems.

Harry Kane has admitted England are unsure how to press when opponents begin to drop deeper.

He said: “It’s something we’ve got to try to get better at, not just when we score.

“We’re starting games well, but when the opponents are dropping a few players deeper we’re not quite sure how to get the pressure on and who’s supposed to be going.”

Meanwhile, Match of the Day pundits Cesc Fabregas and Alan Shearer had their say.

Fabregas said:

“I think Harry doesn’t have the legs anymore to press high.”

“You can see the other ones – Bellingham, Saka, Rice – press really high, but one person not doing it can kill the function of the whole game.”

Shearer added: “I don’t think there is a plan. There’s a complete lack of energy, I don’t know if anyone knows whether to come or to sit.

“They look confused to me as players as to when and how to go, and when they want to press the opposition.

“That, for me, comes from the manager. In the first two games and certainly the last game, it was far too easy for the opposition.”

Has the England Squad played too much Club Football?

england 2

When it comes to club minutes played per squad, England’s total minutes stand at 82,143 and 912 total games.

This is higher than France and Spain.

But Germany leads the way with 85,475 total minutes and 945 games.

Breaking this down to the starting XIs, a full 38-game Premier League season equals 3,420 minutes – using a basic figure of 90-minute games.

For England’s starting line-up against Serbia and Denmark, their average club playing time during the 2023-24 season was almost exactly that figure.

And 15 of the 26-man squad played more than that figure, with deep runs into domestic cups and European competitions before the Euros.

In a list of the 40 players with the most club minutes played across Europe’s big five leagues, six England feature.

They are:

  • Ezri Konsa (6th)
  • Ollie Watkins (10th)
  • Declan Rice (14th)
  • Phil Foden (15th)
  • Kyle Walker (24th)
  • Conor Gallagher (34th)

Spain and France have three while Germany and Portugal each have five.

The ‘Big Five’ Players

Breaking the data around England’s ‘big five’ players provides more information about whether the squad has played too much club football.

The minutes played by Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Foden and Rice are higher than any of their approximate counterparts from the other four countries featured in this comparison piece.

Portugal – Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao, Vitinha

Germany – Kai Havertz, Jamal Musiala, Toni Kroos, Florian Wirtz, Ilkay Gundogan

France – Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Greizmann, N’Golo Kante, Marcus Thuram, Ousmane Dembele

Spain – Alvaro Morata, Nico Williams, Rodri, Yamal, Fabian Ruiz

The ‘Pressing’ Issue

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After the draw against Denmark, Declan Rice attempted to explain England’s performance.

The Arsenal midfielder said: “I think it’s just connections all over the pitch. You need to have your connections.

“We work on our pressing all the time. When you’re a back four, us 4-2-3-1, playing against a 5-2-3, the way you press is obviously going to be difficult because they always have an extra player at the back and we are outnumbered. It’s just about getting that balance.

“But again we have played against two back fives now, I think Slovenia… they’re a back five, so the teams are going to sit off us, try and do everything they can to stop our attacking talent and it’s obviously down to us on the pitch to go and perform.

“It’s tournament football. I watched France the other night, Portugal changed to a back five, they’re mid-block teams as well, they’re not going out and pressing full throttle.

“Top, top teams, I’ve not seen them fully do it yet, so it’s about getting that balance of when we can press and when we can not because the further it goes on, we’re going to play against better opposition, more world-class players.

“If you don’t get your press right, which probably is the most important thing on the pitch, you’re going to get picked off.”

“In football, even at club, you build everything out of your out-of-possession stuff, then your in-possession stuff, it talks for itself.”

Analysing his own performance, Rice added:

“I’m honest with my performances now, I’m at a stage where I’ve played so many games well, I’ve had bad games, tonight I wasn’t probably the best I could be.

“It was about keeping my head, trying to still be that middle man in there and be secure.

“I feel like it’s a fluidity thing, we need to keep moving the ball, keep shifting it, and the spaces will open up.

“It comes back to when we play against them back fives, no one gives you the space.

“Everyone expects you to get the ball, and think you can play a piercing ball straight through the middle.

“It’s not like that, it’s a completely different picture on the pitch, being patient in the moment, and then the space will open up. We’ll be fine, we’ll recover well, and we’ve got one more to go.”

Whether it is fatigue, the balance of the team or something else, England’s lack of pressing is a concerning issue.

What’s even more worrying is that the players involved are the same ones who relentlessly press for their clubs week in and week out.

It is a problem that Gareth Southgate needs to address immediately as England head into their final group game against Slovenia on June 25.

Lead Editor Dhiren is our news and content editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".



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