Harry Kane, Gareth Southgate say England's team press failing after Denmark draw - what's causing the problem at Euro 2024?

21 June 2024, 10:48 | Updated: 23 June 2024, 07:23

England's team press ranks as the third-worst at Euro 2024 - so what's causing the breakdown?

Gareth Southgate told the Daily Telegraph: "We are not pressing well enough, with enough intensity. We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition.

"We can't press as high up the pitch as we might have done in the ­qualifiers, for example. And we are not keeping the ball well enough. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control.

"We are trying to do something that has never been done before [win the Euros]. So it is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster."

Meanwhile, Harry Kane has admitted England are not sure how to press when opponents start dropping deeper after two lacklustre showings at Euro 2024.

One of the many criticisms of England is playing too deep, especially out of possession, and therefore being unable to play out from the back.

Kane told BBC Sport: "It's something we've got to try to get better at, not just when we score.

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"We're starting games well, but when the opponents are dropping a few players deeper we're not quite sure how to get the pressure on and who's supposed to be going."

So, when are England sitting deeper and how is that affecting the press?

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How bad is the press?

When it comes to the press, the numbers show: England rank third-worst at the tournament so far for allowing opponents to make passes freely without intervention.

The metric visualised below measures the average number of opposition passes a team allows before making a defensive action - so, a lower number is better.

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Ukraine rank top with the most intense press, allowing opponents to make fewer than eight passes before making a defensive action. The Three Lions allow opponents three times as many passes - 23.1, to be precise.

Only Romania and Albania have been less effective at Euro 2024 so far.

Southgate's side also rank third-worst for high turnovers, averaging just four per game - three times fewer than table-topping Portugal.

The graphic below reveals England have impressive defensive solidity in their defensive half, but the ineffective press raises red flags in the opposition half - an area where most England players excel for their domestic clubs

Bukayo Saka has been typically hugging the touchline down his favoured right channel and has also posed the greatest threat, while Phil Foden has been roaming into his more dangerous central areas, resulting in a lopsided attack, which could contribute to pressing problems.

England sitting deep: What does the data say?

The graphic below summarises it perfectly: almost all outfield players averaged in their defensive third while they held their early, one-goal advantage for 16 minutes against Denmark.

The graphic below elaborates on how England retreated after scoring, revealing the swing of final-third passes during the game - with the Danes hitting a match-high level of dominance before their 34th-minute leveller.

Against Serbia, Southgate's side started the game wholly dominant, but that control ebbed incrementally after Jude Bellingham broke the deadlock, with the Serbs enjoying the lion's share of attacking threat after the break.

Additionally, England are playing deeper than at previous tournaments, with four outfield players averaging in their own half at the World Cup in 2022 - rising to six at Euro 2024. The forwards - especially Harry Kane and Phil Foden - are also playing far deeper.

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Will England's poor press force Southgate into changes?

Analysis by Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:

"England's players have allowed their opponents more than twice as many touches on the ball before putting in a challenge at this European Championship, compared with the World Cup 18 months ago.

"Gareth Southgate has admitted that fitness issues within the squad have meant his side were not able to press Serbia and Denmark as much as he would have liked in the opening two Group C games - now, new statistics reveal the full extent of the problem.

"On average, opposing teams in Qatar were only able to touch the ball 10 times before they were challenged by an England player. A similar figure characterises the whole of England's Euros qualifying campaign.

"In Germany, however, opponents are enjoying much more time on the ball - with the average number of touches before an England challenge rising to more than 23.

"The figures also show that England aren't pressing as high up the pitch. They have won the ball back in their attacking third of the field half as many times in this tournament so far, compared with what they managed in Qatar.

"England were second only to Germany at the World Cup for the number of times they won possession in the attacking third. In this Euros, they are currently ranked 15th.

"The England manager is expected to make changes to his midfield for the final group game against Slovenia on Tuesday, with Alexander-Arnold unlikely to retain his place in the new experimental role he has taken up in the tournament so far.

"Alexander-Arnold - who attacks as a midfielder, but defends as a right back for Liverpool - has struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar central defensive midfield position that he has been asked to perform in Germany. Southgate and his assistant, Steve Holland, have been working behind the scenes in training with Alexander-Arnold for 12 months trying to perfect the role. But he was substituted on 54 minutes in Frankfurt, with both manager and player now surely accepting that the experiment has failed.

"Conor Gallagher is leading the way to replace him after an outstanding season with Chelsea. Gallagher is a natural 'No 8' and his inclusion might also help combat the lethargy which has categorised England's two matches so far.

"Jude Bellingham - star of the show and match winner against Serbia - faded in the second half of England's tournament opener and struggled even more to make an impact in 90 minutes against Denmark. That was his 103rd match in two seasons for club and country and it is clear to most on lookers that he is tired after a debut season in Spain which has seen him win the La Liga title, Spanish Cup and Champions League.

"On several occasions in the opening two games, Bellingham has been seen to throw his arms in the air in frustration when he has put pressure on an opposing defence, only for them to beat the press easily, with his England team-mates not following his lead.

"Harry Kane, who normally leads England's pressing game from the front, is equally struggling for fitness and hasn't been able to cramp the space enjoyed by the Serbian and Danish defenders.

"Adam Wharton, who was included in the squad as another natural, defensively-minded midfielder, is also an option to replace Alexander-Arnold, but his lack of international experience is likely to mean he is behind Gallagher in the England pecking order. Likewise Kobbie Mainoo - who came off the bench for his tournament debut in the second half against Serbia."