How Gareth Southgate copied the NBA and Lincoln to make England set-piece kings

first_imgEngland have turned into set-piece kings at the 2018 World Cup.The Three Lions have roared into the semi-finals and they have done so largely thanks to their prowess from corners and free-kicks.Eight of the 11 goals scored by Gareth Southgate’s side in Russia this summer have come from dead-ball situations. 10 “We expect a very difficult, tight and demanding match against England, like every match at the World Cup,” Luka Modric told Sky Sports.“We have to enjoy the moment and we then have to focus on England. I’m sure we will prepare well.“We watched the game today and saw how good they are from dead-ball situations. We will have to improve on our set-piece defending between now and Wednesday as we conceded from one at the end of the game today.”If the past three weeks are anything to go by, Southgate will have something else up his sleeve. 10 As the corner sails in, the tight unit disintegrates into separate directions One move known as the ‘Love Train’ sees four players lined up in a row ready for a corner.Standing in this tight unit confuses the opposition from getting anywhere near their mark before the group splinters in different directions.League Two outfit Lincoln have been using the move for two years to great success. You can listen to Croatia vs England live on talkSPORT on Wednesday night, kick-off 7pm. ‘The back-screen’ move was lifted directly from basketball, with the intention to create enough vertical space for a header and use a small advantage for big opportunity – in England’s case, a goal.In February, Southgate visited Minnesota in the USA to watch the Super Bowl. He also attended NFL coaching sessions and sat courtside at an NBA game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Orleans to work out how England could make space in tight situations where tall defenders and star strikers are being marked to within an inch of their life. In Lincoln’s ‘Love Train’, 4 players bunch up in a line Compare that to the four set-piece goals scored in the three previous World Cups combined and you can see why Southgate has got a nation excited.England’s 47-year-old manager was hired in 2016 in the wake of his hapless predecessor Sam Allardyce, who was sacked in disgrace.Allardyce had continued Roy Hodgson’s bewildering decision to have Harry Kane taking England’s corners and free kicks.But Southgate’s improbable rejuvenation of the England team has turned the Tottenham man’s fortunes around, putting him within tangible reach of the Golden Boot. 10 Modric and Kane are both desperate for the coveted Golden Boot 10 10 Stones (6) arrives at the penalty spot completely unmarked and only needs to direct his header past the goalkeeper to score center_img 10 “On set plays, we’re a real threat,” Southgate said. “We’ve identified that as a key area in tournaments and a key area we felt we could improve on.”The improvements which saw Kane net twice in England’s opener against Tunisia are by no means trial and error. And it has a lot to do with Lincoln City and the NBA. 10 England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates Saturday’s quarter-final win over Sweden Getty 10 Apparently he would stay courtside long after a basketball game finished, questioning how attackers make space to how defenders protect the basket.England have become known in this year’s tournament for the efficient reliance on set pieces, their potency boosted by the coaching of Allan Russell, who specialises in attacking. Meanwhile their semi-final opponents, Croatia, have only scored from one set-piece and one penalty so far. 10 How did he do it? 10 But the lower leagues is not the only place Southgate looked for inspiration.This was clear in the 6-1 drubbing of Panama, where the talismanic captain scored a hat-trick – including two penalties – and John Stones scored England’s fourth.Kane’s club teammate Kieran Trippier is the new go-to for corners, free kicks and throw-ins, while in the box it is Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson organising the players.Once the ball was on its way, two English players ducked out of the centre of the box, rather than fly in towards the goal mouth as would usually be expected.Further out at the edge of the box, Ashley Young muscled up on the Panamanian marking Stones enough for the defender to get free in the newly-vacated middle of the box and head home. John Stones (1) starts outside the box, with Ashley Young blocking off his marker. Jordan Henderson (2) rushes to the front post to create space behind him. Raheem Sterling (3) heads to the back post to further open up the space The ball goes over Henderson (4) while his run has taken the attention of two defenders. Stones (5) sprints for the gap created by Henderson, while Young’s screen leaves his marker trailing last_img read more