EURO 2020: Southgate's England clips German wings in Wembley win

On Tuesday evening at Wembley, Gareth Southgate out-thought his counterpart Joachim Loew by nullifying the German side’s biggest threat in attack - Germany's wingbacks.

Gareth Southgate (right) and Joachim Loew watch the pre-quarterfinal between England and Germany at Wembley stadium. England won 2-0. - AP

After the feast of 14 goals from two games on ‘Manic Monday’ of the European Championships, Gareth Southgate’s England was always going to turn the volume down on the party. There was no obligation for Southgate to match up to the tournament’s theme by going end-to-end, full-throttle action. Not when Germany rolls into town.

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One of the standout feature of this edition of the Euros has been Germany’s deployment of its wingbacks and their attacking approach in the 3-4-3 formation. In Germany’s three previous group stage matches, Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich have spent more time in the opposition halves than in their own half.

Their effectiveness was at their best in the 4-2 win over the defending champion Portugal. Both Gosens and Kimmich were directly involved in all four goals with one instance where the latter assisted the former’s goal. In the 62 minutes he spent on the pitch, Gosens had 35 touches in the opposition half and six touches in the opposition box. Kimmich had 47 touches in the opposition half and six touches in the opposition box. Portugal’s full-backs Raphael Guerreiro and Nelson Semedo endured a torrid afternoon trying to keep up with them.

Number of touches from Gosens & Kimmich in Portugal’s half. - WHOSCORED.COM

 

For all the praise for Gareth Southgate as a statesman in the lead-up to the tournament, it will be his decisions in the training ground and on the technical sidelines that will earn him his approval as a manager. On Tuesday evening at Wembley, he out-thought his counterpart Joachim Loew by nullifying the German side’s biggest threat in attack. For the first time in the Euros, Southgate switched to a 3-4-3 formation to match Germany and adopted a man-to-man defensive system.

Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier were excellent in shutting down the runs of Gosens and Kimmich. Gosens had 14 touches in England’s half, while Kimmich had 22 and the pair had a combined single touch in England’s box in the 90 minutes. For the first time in the tournament, both Gosens (27 touches) and Kimmich (34) spent the majority of the game in their own half.

Number of touches from Gosens & Kimmich in England’s half. - WHOSCORED.COM

 

England, in turn, forced Germany to attack through the middle, where the home side had sufficient cover of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice – two defensively minded midfielders – and centre-back John Stones flanked by Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker. In the process, England dictated the pace of the game for the larger parts. Germany’s best attacking moments in the game came through the middle but Jordan Pickford affected couple of crucial saves to keep the away side at bay.

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There was only one instance in the game when Germany fashioned a half-chance through its wingbacks. In the 31st minute, Germany worked the ball through the middle before finding Kimmich in space on the right. He was forced to cut in on his left foot to play in a looping cross into the backpost to find Gosens’ run, but Trippier did enough to put the Atalanta man off from getting a header away on goal.

The attacking zones in the match between England and Germany in comparison with match between Portugal and Germany. - WHOSCORED.COM

 

It was England that ended up turning the tables on Germany with its attacking play through the wings. Bukayo Saka provided the width with his dribbling ability and pace, while Raheem Sterling had the freedom to cut in from the left into the middle. On the ball, Shaw spent the majority (60 per cent) of the game in the opposition half, while Trippier attacked the right flank, where he spent more time (71 per cent) on the ball in the German half.

England’s opening goal came from Sterling’s ability to dribble through the middle which helped open up space for Jack Grealish, who slipped in a ball along the line for Shaw’s run and the full-back squared it for Sterling to tap in past Manuel Neuer. The kind of goal Germany scored for fun in its annihilation of Portugal. The second goal in the 86th minute began similarly with Shaw winning the ball near the centre circle and running through the centre before finding Grealish’s run behind the defence to set up Harry Kane’s header.

"We had to go about it in the way we believed," Southgate explained the change in shape. "We wanted aggressive pressure all over the field and we felt that to match them up was the right way of doing that. We felt that speed in behind Harry would cause them problems. I thought that Bukayo and Raheem really created that jepoardy in behind their backline right from the start."

Kieran Trippier, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw were central to England's win over Germany. Photo: Getty Images   -  Getty Images

Amid the utterly enjoyable chaos of goals flying in from all possible range and angles, England has managed to remain sane with the help of pragmatism. While the Three Lions have not set the tournament alight with their attack, they remain the only team, with a touch of fortune, yet to concede a goal. England has let in just seven shots on target – second best record after Italy. It also has the highest successful tackle percentage (61 per cent) of all the teams involved in the Round-of-16.

The was England's first win over Germany in a knockout game since the 1966 World Cup final. And certainly its biggest test yet this tournament. The path to the final remains relatively achievable with Ukraine, Denmark, and the Czech Republic on England’s side of the draw. Defensive errors and fatigue have underpinned the glut of goals seen so far in the rest of the field. On the other hand, Southgate’s men will bank on their defensive solidity and discipline as they move forward.

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