Good result for England yesterday. Head is hurting today – I will blame it on the sunshine rather than the rum I was drinking.
It was the performance of Kalvin Phillips that was most impressive.
Gareth Southgate got criticised when team new came out for “playing two defensive midfielders”; but Phillips performance showed that there are different ways to play two defensive minded players.
With Declan Rice sitting infront of the back 4 in the traditional defensive role, Phillips was free to roam further up the pitch, pressing high.
This meant Croatia were unable to build up from the back. And when Phillips did win the ball back it was often in the opponents half.
It was a similar performance to what N’Golo Kante has put in for France and Chelsea.
Whilst the Frenchman is considered a defensive midfielder, he operates best when he has someone, such as Jorginho, playing in behind.
As Phillips said in his post-game interview, he knows that he has Rice behind him so he can press high and commit himself knowing his team mate is sweeping up behind.
Arsenal played like this a couple of seasons ago when Granit Xhaka was a fairly static defensive midfielder and Lucas Torreira was given a role to push and press higher up the field.
And this might be the thinking behind targeting Yves Bissouma.
Whilst some will see playing Thomas Partey and Bissouma as too defensive, playing the pair could lead to Bissouma pushing up and winning the ball in the opponents half. This will lead to chances created.
Kante has been such a key player to Chelsea, France and Leicester City over the last half a decade. Bissouma could have the same impact for Arsenal. Phillips for England.
Little side step now.
One thing that has bugged me during the build up to Euro 2020 is the way same sections of society have gone out of their way to highlight “how diverse the England squad is”.
These people seem to be acting as if England having a diverse squad is a new thing.
They must be new to football – or just using it to push an agenda – because England (alongside France) have had one of the most ethnically diverse teams for decades:
2021: 11 Players of Colour
2004 – 7
2002 – 9
2000 – 3
It just seems odd that the make up of the squad is being celebrated now, when it has hardly changed in 20 years.
Back in 2002, 39% of the players came from a BAME background. 2021 it is 42%.
Players from a Caribbean, African or mixed heritage playing for England is not a new thing. Those commentating on the make up of the squad are trying to create an issue where there is not one.
Anyway. Have a good Monday. Drink lots of water. Pop a few Ibuprofen. And if at lunch you’re still feeling rough go have a couple of Kopparbergs.