What Can The 3 Lions of England Glean From the unexpected success of Leicester City? Matty Lawrence is about to count the ways.
1 – 4-4-2 Is a legitimate modern day formation
When did football suddenly become rocket science? Did I miss a meeting?
4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 5-3-2 – No! Forget addling our poor, naive little English footballers’ minds. Just tell them simply, “Play 4-4-2”.
Wide-men can get wide and cross the ball; full-backs defend doggedly and overlap energetically; centre-halves bite, bark, bully and predominantly bloody defend for their lives. As for you two fellas up front? Just stick the ball in the onion bag.
Honestly, the game is that simple. Leicester City showed us, the gullible football fan, that it can prevail – we don’t need to listen to any other nonsense. Oh, and Leicester aren’t the only team having success with 4-4-2. Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid and Championship Champions Burnley are also flying the flag.
2 – We shouldn’t be embarrassed by ‘English Style’ football
Our National football team shouldn’t lose its identity.
We all saw how Leicester City managed to smash those 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier League. It was by pure teamwork – they didn’t get ideas above their station. Claudio Ranieri’s men couldn’t outplay “the big four,” but they were able outrun them, out-fight them and scare the living daylights out of them.
England cannot compete with Spain, France, Germany, et al on their playing field. However, if they can instill Leicester’s pride, passion and work ethic into their play, then maybe, just maybe, they can prove victorious.
3 – An old, ridiculed manager may actually know what he’s doing
From Gary Lineker to John Motson, nobody had faith in Claudio Ranieri. So let’s leave Roy Hodgson alone. Let’s get behind his team selections and, ultimately, his England team. Ranieri has given Leicester belief through their cast-iron team spirit, thanks to the fact that he treats his players like adults.
He takes them out for pizza. Lets them have a beer. Footballers shouldn’t be locked in their hotel rooms at dusk and brought out at sunrise for training like automatons. Let them have fun together and win together. Claudio calls his players his “sons”. Maybe it’s time to believe in Nice Uncle Roy.
4 – You don’t always need the ball to win
Before any of you pedants out their jump down my throat, I do realize that you need the ball at times but, please, hear me out.
Leicester City won the Premier League with the lowest possession percentage stats of any title winners. In fact, out of the 20 Premier League teams, Leicester ranked 18th in possession stats this season. The Foxes even ranked lowest in pass success rate stats.
Only two teams played more long balls than Leicester this season. Instead of having the ball, they made sure they were well-drilled and knew how to soak up pressure and hit teams on the counter-attack. This is how they predominantly scored their goals and why they were such an exciting team to watch.
5 – Wags = family = a good idea
For too long now we have been denigrating “WAGs”.
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the players’ wives and girlfriends were blamed by the press as a distraction. Even though it was the press who was distracted by them, and not the players themselves.
Claudio Ranieri believes that football teams can be all encompassing “family” units. His feeling that solid home life breeds stable footballers and aids performances on the pitch is an old-fashioned view, but it also seems to be a modern trend.
Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool took all his players, partners and children away on their mid-season training break to Tenerife. Maybe Roy should take note.