Gareth Southgate

Can Football Learn From the NFL?

As England still comes to terms with a crushing 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, many are reflecting on how well the team played throughout the tournament. A particular strong point for the young England side has been their prowess from set-pieces.

Kieran Trippier’s free-kick against Croatia set a World Cup record, with England scoring nine goals from set-pieces during the tournament. Russia 2018 in general has seen in a rise in set-piece goals, with a record 30% of total goals up to the quarter-finals coming from corners or free-kicks, bettering previous recent records of 23% from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

With set-pieces becoming increasingly important to international tournament football, not much has been written about what influenced England’s set-piece excellence under Gareth Southgate. England’s attacking coach Allan Russell has been praised by Southgate and his players, whom they credit for their drastic improvement in set-pieces.

Russell has spent his entire adult life within the world of professional football, yet Southgate has looked further afield for his set-piece influences. The England manager has spent time in the U.S visiting NFL franchise the Seattle Seahawks, has visited the last two Superbowl’s and has had numerous discussions with NFL analysts and NBA coaches to find out how their players find space in tight areas.

It was frequently seen in England World Cup games, when the team was taking a corner beforehand the players would quickly huddle together, before going into a line formation. As a casual fan of both football and American football this sounds much more like an NFL play then a football set-piece.

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England players set-up for a corner against Colombia using a move known as “the love triangle”. Nine of England’s 12 World Cup goals came from set-pieces. Photo copyright: Getty Images. 

With England showing how vital set-pieces can be in major international tournaments, will world football begin to follow the England example and adopt the mindset of an NFL franchise when it comes to set-pieces.

In the simplest sense a set-piece in football can be largely similar to an NFL play, a chance to score from a dead ball.  The NFL is constantly using shifts and motions to buy players space in tight windows, something that could prove massively beneficial with set-pieces.

Teams could use cleverly designed set-pieces where players disguise and then go in motion to fool opposition defenses, much like an NFL offense does. Football has tended to view American sports with a certain level of ignorance, dismissing it as not relevant to football.

What Gareth Southgate and England have highlighted is that in a time where set-pieces are becoming increasingly important in major tournaments, there is a lot world football can learn from American sports in how to create space in tight areas of the pitch.

By Jordan Wilkins find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

Let me know your thoughts on this article in the comments section below. 

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Have the F.A made the right decision?

Today is the day that the questions will begin in earnest. Should the F.A have removed Sam Allardyce? The 61 year old was a popular appointment as England manager, only 67 days ago, but the recent allegations made against him have proved too much for the F.A to handle. Where does this leave the England national side now?

Allardyce is alleged to have helped potential middle east investors circumvent third party ownership rules. These rules have been in place in England since 2008, and with FIFA since last year. Former UEFA president Michel Platini compared the practice to a form of “slavery”. These were very serious allegations made by the Telegraph in their sting operation, and now it has cost Allardyce his dream job.

Allardyce was also implicated in a 2006 BBC Panorama undercover operation, where he was accused of accepting bribes through his son from agents for signing certain players. This time around it has cost him his dream job, with Allardyce today explaining that “entrapment has won”, as he looks to rebuild his reputation.

3500Sam Allardyce proudly holding the England scarf on the day of his announcement in late July. Little did anyone know his reign as England manager would last only 67 days. Photo copyright FA.

Many will question where this leaves the England team, with Allardyce’s new era over after 67 short days. He only took charge of one game, with the team now in limbo after a hugely disappointing Euro 2016 performance. The F.A now finds itself starting again for the second time in several months, with some early candidates such as Gareth Southgate being put forward by the media.

The debate will rage on across the country in the coming days, were the F.A right to terminate the contract of Allardyce? Both sides of the argument will be well represented, but ultimately the England football team finds itself in a precarious position. After such a disappointing summer, where does it go from here as it aims to put it’s current turmoil behind them. And just who will take on the unenviable task of leading England back to the place where the nation expects them to be? All will become clear in the coming weeks and months. Whatever the outcome, the F.A will have to think long and hard about this decision, as it could have wide reaching consequences in the coming years?

What are your thoughts on the sacking of Sam Allardyce? Too soft or the right decision? Please feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading.