Southgate Should Embrace Love Train Spirit for Set-Pieces

Southgate Should Embrace Love Train Spirit for Set-Pieces

England  under Gareth Southgate have long posed a threat from set-pieces, not least at the 2018 World Cup when six of our 12 goals in Russia came from corners and free-kicks.

It was an area where we were the envy of everyone, so dominant that our opponents can only have been fearful whenever they had such a situation to defend. It included England using what was described as a ‘Love Train’, of players lining up in the penalty box only for that bunched up group to break away in different directions when the cross came in.

You may recall that was how Harry Maguire scored against Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final, a powerful header from around the penalty spot. We haven’t seen that tactic repeated at Euro 2024 and, clearly, there is work to be done. What was a huge facet of our play in the past is not functioning in the present.

England are yet to score from a set-piece in Germany and after their work on the training field this week, Southgate will hope normal service is resumed in Sunday’s showdown with Slovakia.

Yet it all starts with England’s overall play. After three group games, we are still waiting for the attack to truly click. Naturally, that is a contributing factor to why England have not won as many corners as usual, and why there have been fewer opportunities to win fouls in the final third, which was typically a speciality of Jack Grealish.

England previously used what was described as the ‘Love Train’ when it came to set pieces

Six of England's 12 goals at the 2018 World Cup came from set pieces, including Harry Maguire's goal against Sweden

Six of England’s 12 goals at the 2018 World Cup came from set pieces, including Harry Maguire’s goal against Sweden

A total of nine corners in three group games is some way short of our tournament average. There was one against Serbia, two against Denmark and it was only once England managed a more dominant 74 per cent possession against Slovenia that six were secured.

They were unable to make any count, however. Maguire , so often the target at set-pieces, has been a big miss.

Declan Rice takes the corners for Arsenal but is now being asked to get on the end of them for England. Unfortunately for Southgate, Slovenia cleared the danger more often than not.

England have players who can provide good service. Kieran Trippier took four of the corners against Slovenia and Phil Foden the other two. Sometimes their crosses were aimed for Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham in the centre of the box. Other times they went deep to Rice, the intention being that he would head the ball back across for someone to tap in.

England have scored from set pieces throughout Southgate's reign, but are yet to do so at Euro 2024 in Germany

England have scored from set pieces throughout Southgate’s reign, but are yet to do so at Euro 2024 in Germany

Southgate (pictured) and his side received a lot of praise and it's not too late to bring the tactic back

Southgate (pictured) and his side received a lot of praise and it’s not too late to bring the tactic back

England need to show creativity with how they set themselves up in the area and an individual desire to attack the cross when it comes.

Southgate and his players won huge praise at the 2018 World Cup for their prowess from set-pieces, and they continued to score from them at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup, too. England could now really do with getting that going at Euro 2024, starting on Sunday against Slovakia.

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