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4 September 2010updated 17 Jan 2024 7:24am

The numbers game

Fabio Capello and the science of football formations.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

The papers seem agreed this morning that England lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation in their European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria at Wembley last night. As Henry Winter observes in the Telegraph, England’s 4-0 win last night went some way to banishing the memory of their largely unwatchable performances at the World Cup in South Africa, where coach Fabio Capello had shackled his players in a stultifyingly rigid 4-4-2. However, Winter writes, “for all the delight at seeing England moving with greater fluency, particularly Wayne Rooney who relished his new positioning off Jermain Defoe in Capello’s 4-4-1-1 system, there were inevitably a few sighs of ‘if only” lingering in London’s warm suburban air.”

But you won’t find a properly detailed examination of England’s tactics anywhere in the broadsheet press. For that, I suggest you take a look at the website Zonal Marking, which elevates tactical analysis of individual matches to a level of refinement that mainstream sports writing in this country rarely, if ever, achieves. And when you’ve finished the (apparently anonymous) author’s dissection of England’s pressing game last night, read his or her magisterial survey of tactical trends in football over the past decade.

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