I re-watched every chance created and conceded, every counterattack for and against, and every set piece (for and against) in the tournament for both England and Italy.
To the point where I’ve used up all my allocated minutes with my Wyscout account this month (yikes, hope it’s not a calendar month).
With that, here’s a list of five things that I think will be key in the match along with the players to look for in the final.
How Will England Face Italy’s Press?
Italy have, at times, pressed quite high in their 4-3-3. Their passes per defensive action (PPDA) is slightly better than the average in this tournament, and slightly better than England’s, but they’ve chosen their moments.
They’ve had the most high turnovers, and created twelve shots, and three goals (both the most in the competition) from winning the ball high up the field.
Note: PPDA is the amount of opponent passes that started in a side’s attacking and middle third, and divide them by the sum of defensive actions. The lower the number, the better/more a side presses.
A lot of England’s chances conceded throughout the tournament have come from losing possession in the middle of the park when England have tried building from the back.
On a number of occasions, either Kalvin Phillips or Declan Rice have received the ball too front on, and been stripped. This happened to Phillips early in the Denmark game, among other times, and Rice a couple of time too.
Basically if a player isn’t side-on when they receive the ball, they need to turn a full 180 to progress, which takes time. And they also don’t know who/what is behind them.
I can 100% see England getting caught here if they try to play out from the back. Italy’s midfield is far, far too good.
One strategy that England might use is to start their build-up even deeper in their defensive third and - if Italy press to much - use Pickford’s 80m bombs up forward to isolate Sterling (this link, and all others in this article are affiliate links to eBay) or Saka 1-on-1 with Italian CBs.
Will England Press Italy?
Italy have kind of had their way to move the ball as they pleased throughout the tournament, and did so expertly - putting a range of good sides away.
However, Spain, who have been the highest pressing team this tournament, caused Italy a bunch of trouble in their buildup.
England haven’t been too keen to press opposition - their PPDA is the sixth lowest in the tournament.
However, the last few matches, England have come out all guns blazing (well, for them anyway) and pressed pretty hard in the first few minutes of each half.
And just check this out.
Italy averaged just two and a half passes per possession and held onto the ball for six seconds at a time on average against Spain, both comfortable tournament lows for them. - The Analyst
Italy really struggled against the high press. I’ll be really interested to see how England go about it.
Personally, I don’t think they’ll press the Italian backline too much - as it hasn’t been their style this tournament. Maybe they’ll continue to do their high press in the opening minutes and try to snag an early goal.
How Will England Stop Jorginho?
The Italian midfielder is the key link between Italy’s defense and midfield/attack. The Chelsea midfielder has actually been one of my favorite players this tournament, and I think, a bit of an underrated player in the Euros.
Actually, I think he’s pretty underrated in general - he plays a role that’s important on the field but doesn’t make headlines.
A lot of passes and touches. Not a lot of goals and assists.
Jorginho’s 75 balls into the attacking third is the third highest in the tournament, and close to double the highest from England.
A lot of their threat comes from a play that starts with Jorginho.
If England can shut Jorginho down, they’ll go a long way to winning this match.
Again, I’ll mention Spain’s press here. They kinda pressed in a man-to-man style up the field, which meant that Italy’s backline and ‘keeper bypassed him and went long.
I wouldn’t hate it if England tried man-marking Jorginho at stages during the match. Again, I’m not sure if England will deviate too much from their strategy all tournament, but let’s see.
Will England be able to Isolate Raheem Sterling?
Okay, quick side note because I know you’re waiting for me to say something.
No, it wasn’t a penalty.
No, it wasn’t Sterling’s worst ever dive
Yes, he’s still very very good - don’t let that penalty get in the way of realizing just how good Raheem Sterling has been this tournament.
Sterling’s progressive carries, and take-ons have been vital to how England have been able to attack.
Second in the tournament for progressive runs
Second for 1-vs-1 dribbling and take-ons
Third for touches in the penalty box
Sterling’s ability to quickly change direction and pace has caused defenders a whole bunch of trouble. England will look to create situations where Sterling can get 1-on-1 with an opposition defender.
Who Starts, Domenico Berardi or Federico Chiesa?
Federico Chiesa’s goals have been mammoth for Italy this Euros. But will he start in the final?
Berardi is, in my view, way better at hugging the sideline and creating width in attack. This width against England’s back four (I think they’ll keep a back four) is so important because it gives extra room on the left.
A large part of Italy’s buildup has been with Insigne cutting inside and creating room wide for their fullback (usually Spinazzola until his injury)
Creating that width is important because it creates gaps between defenders for Italy’s attackers to play through balls.
Both Insigne and Bonucci are first and second in through balls for the tournament.
Chiesa is far more…. um….. tactically liberal, for lack of a better term. And while it’s awesome being a wildcard, he likes to come in from time to time too, making it easier for a back four to defend because the defenders can be closer together.
So it really depends on what Italy want from the get-go, do they want to create that width or do they want someone who has the ability to turn a half-chance into a goal?
Bonus - Kyle Walker (and Declan Rice) is Key to England’s Back Four
Kyle Fucking Walker, man.
Watching England, he’s been immense. He’s been incredibly defensive, almost playing as a sweeper at times. He’s so quick and strong that he can wipe out almost every opposition counter attack.
What I really love about him in this system is that he makes it easy to adjust to a back three or back five during a match. Walker has a lot of experience at playing as a right center back in a back three. So a lot of the time, he’ll shuffle across to make a three and let Luke Shaw do Luke Shaw things.
This depends on who is in front of him though - and I think that’s a reason why Saka starts too. He’s a lot more comfortable playing as a wing-back if England need to change to a 3-4-2 mid-match compared to, say, Jadon Sancho, and definitely Jack Grealish.
So goddam underrated.
Another underrated piece in their backline is Declan Rice. He has been able to drop back and paly as a CB at time mid-match this tournament, and it’s his defensive versatility that is so important in actual games of soccer (and not selecting your best 11 like it’s FUT).
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