Football

Southgate's Strategies For Set-Pieces Rooted In Love Of American Football

Southgate's Strategies For Set-Pieces Rooted In Love Of American Football

England's second game of this year's World Cup got off to the best imaginable start this afternoon; John Stones heading England in front after only a matter of minutes. Providing early relief for Gareth Southgate and his men, the manner of Stones' opener will undoubtedly satisfy the intricate planning that has gone into certain elements of England's game that the former Middeslbrough manager wanted to capitalise on.

Principally, set-pieces.

5-0 ahead at half-time, Manchester City's Stones had chipped in again with the fourth; yet another demonstration of England's willingness to embrace set-pieces and, when necessary, experiment a little.

Writing about Southgate ahead of today's tie against Panama in The Times, Jonathan Northcroft highlighted England's proficiency from dead-ball situations against Tunisia; "England had seven corners; five resulted in an effort at goal, an extraordinarily high percentage, and Harry Kane scored twice."

Just as adept defensively (from set-pieces, anyway), Stones' opener, needless to say, came from a corner - and a well-worked one at that:

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What may appear just a run-of-the-mill headed goal, it is nevertheless evidence of Southgate's willingness to embrace the details in front of him. With over 50% of the goals at this year's World Cup coming from set-pieces, proficiency, both offensively and defensively, would be a priceless commodity for any team.

Eager to embrace all avenues, it is reported that Southgate's professional (and personal) interest in American football reflects a wider fascination with "the levels of strategy and choreography that go into all the set-plays in that sport."

This penchant for choreography was certainly on show for Stones' second. Perhaps keeping in mind the limited nature of their opponents, a free-kick from Kieran Trippier set off an almost domino effect of passes, before, thankfully for Raheem Sterling, Stones was on hand to head in his rebounded effort from close range.

Kyle Walker, one of Southgate's auxiliary centre-halves at this year's World Cup, has revealed the importance Southgate truly affords to these details on a day-to-day basis:

We have a lot of meetings about ‘you get your mate out of the crap’ or ‘he gets you out of it’. When the ball is in the air, you need to be decisive and meet it with your head. That wins games and tournaments.

After the embarrassment of 2016 when Roy Hodgson's England - despite all available evidence - succumbed to Iceland's 'long-throw' technique, Southgate has thus far demonstrated his awareness of the modern game, and, perhaps, how to exact a degree of mastery over it.

See Also: Sweden Manager Rightly Angry With Gloating Of German Officials

Arthur James O'Dea

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