Tactical Analysis- England vs Lithuania

Tactical Analysis: England vs Lithuania: Eric Dier vs. a low-block.

As the leaders of Group F, England looked to strengthen their chances of World Cup qualification by defeating an average Lithuania side. Being ranked 107th in the world meant that the visitors were faced with a tall order if they were to get anything from the match.

After a lacklustre defeat on Wednesday night to Germany, the Three Lions needed to respond in emphatic fashion. Despite being handed a three-year deal by the FA, Gareth Southgate's job security is still on thin ice and a slip up against Lithuania could be fatal for his career.

In contrast to the 3-4-3 played against Germany, Southgate decided to opt a 4-1-4-1 against Lithuania. Several changes were made from the that team lost 1-0, in came Jermaine Defoe for the first time in four years alongside him came Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling for Livermore, Vardy and Chris Smalling. Lithuania lined up in a deep-lying 4-5-1 system.

England vs lithuania lineup

England's XI lined up in a 4-1-4-1 which morphs to a 4-2-3-1 in attack against a 4-5-1 Lithuania team.

Eric Dier as the dictator

The 72% possession stat may say otherwise but England struggled to create chances against Lithuania. As the holding midfielder of the team, creative responsibilities were laid on the shoulders of Eric Dier. The midfielder-defender hybrid sat in front of the back four and distributed play from flank to flank. Lithuania's set up made it hard for the Englishman to find space in between the lines so he opted instead to quickly spray it to the flanks to ensure England maintained constant width.

England Eric Dier

Eric Dier finding space on the right side of midfield, as he switches the ball to the left flank.

Having only one controller in the team means that Dier was burdened with the impossible task of supplying several free-moving players. England lined up with Jermaine Defoe, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dele Alli, these are all players who rely on their movement to create chances. This movement has to be fed by a player, however, a lack of controllers can lead to an unbalance in the attack. This led to disjointed England build-up up play, erratic movement and too much u-shape passing. Luckily England were able to prevail through their abundance in quality rather than structured build up play.

Lithuania's lower than low-block

Like most teams that visit Wembley, Lithuania opted to play a very defensive approach. The team played five across the midfield, with lone striker Valskis often dropping into midfield to aid the shape. The Lithuanians knew that England are a side that lack incision, besides Raheem Sterling not many players in the XI had the ability to beat players 1v1.

Lithuania knew if they packed the midfield and lined their 18-yard box with men, England would struggle to make headway in the final third. England are a side with numerous runners but not enough creators. The Lithuania side knew that with derived space these runners would be ineffective and basically rendered them static.

The amount of pressure applied by England would determine how deep the Lithuanians became. Throughout the game, Kyle Walker and Ryan Bertrand were stationed as wing-backs very high up the pitch. This forced full-backs Vatikunas and Slavickas to come out and meet them, forcing their defensive midfielders to slot in at full-back. Effectively leaving a back six to nullify England's attack.

England vs Lithuania Low Block

Lithuania players with situated in a low-block, to congest the midfield and their defensive third.

Contrary to popular belief, low-blocks are not always defensively sound, it's how they're applied that determines their success. The low-block of a Burnley or Leicester (last season) is way more effective than the one of a Lithuania. Spaces between players have to be identical at all times, as well as the movements patterns of the back four. Lithuania didn't have such organisation, so eventually England were able to get through the gaping holes.

All in all, a 2-0 win over a below average side is neither here or there for Gareth Southgate. He will just be pleased in knowing that his side now sit four points clear at the top of Group F halfway through the process. Southgate will especially be pleased with the performances of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the centre of the park, Raheem Sterling on the wing and the 34-year old Jermaine Defoe who scored within 21 minutes. For Lithuania, they'll be pleased that a team with far better players than them only put two past them despite having 72% possession. They currently sit 5th in Group F only four points away from the second spot, with a good chance that they'll qualify for Russia 2018.

About the Author Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with a soft spot for Pascal Cygan.

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