13 November 2019

Guest writer Anita Asante assesses where the Lionesses are at following their defeat to Germany at Wembley

The stage was set for the highly anticipated meeting between England's Lionesses and a strong, youthful German side in front of 77,768 excitable fans.

England are currently ranked fifth in the FIFA standings, however they have recently struggled to live up to that, securing just one win in six games prior to their match with Germany.

But there was still a great expectation within the national stadium that a promising performance could be on the cards. 

Perfectly timed with Remembrance Day and honouring ex-England legends from 1972 onwards, the occasion had everything.

The only things that failed to deliver were the weather and a good performance from Phil Neville's side.

England appeared almost bewildered and unable to cope with Germany's attacking threats, and despite gradually growing into the game, they never appeared comfortable.

It was strikingly obvious the Lionesses looked like they were lacking in confidence in all areas, with many passes going astray.

They often reverted to pumping long balls up to their lone striker Ellen White which those around her struggled to feed off.

Having looked at the stats for both teams, Germany were overwhelmingly superior when it came to the number of shots, shots on target and pass completion.

The simple fact is these string of results for the Lionesses are simply not good enough, even by Neville's own admission.

It begs the question: are the expectations of the Lionesses so high because of all the investment, hype and media attention?

Or is this fixation with coverage and attendance one big PR exercise that is taking the focus away from key details in the team which need to be addressed.

Fundamentally, performances and results are the only things that matter, so how does this team improve? 

It is clear the focus should be on developing a simple, structured way of building up from the back that can be easily adopted by the players, one that isn’t too intricate and does not force them to try and play in a way that does not suit their capabilities.

The Lionesses need to get the basics right. They need to focus on moving the ball quickly, understanding each other's timings and movement, and how to execute quality passing.

Finally, shoring up the defence through a front-footed approach that forces the opposition into relinquishing possession high up the pitch.

When England finished third at the 2015 World Cup it may not have been by playing a style of football to my taste, but at least the team's identity was clear.

And an identity is something they need to recapture quickly, because currently it isn't there.

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