As Sara Wiegman bids for Euros glory again, here’s how the manager has lifted England since arriving
Sarina Wiegman knew there would be high expectations when she took the job with England Women in 2020.
She led the Netherlands to victory in a home game in 2017, before reaching the World Cup final two years later. She came to England as the winner and her appointment as Phil Neville’s successor was a sign of the FA’s intent.
Her job is to repeat her feat of five years ago with the Lionesses this summer. England may never have had a better chance of winning an international tournament.
Sarina Wiegman succeeded Phil Neville when she took charge of England in September 2021
European Championship 2017 winner leads England to the first major tournament at European Championship 2022 in their own country
Several players have described this as the best squad they have ever been part of and there is optimism that this could be their year.
In September, Wiegman took over an England squad that had won only four times in their last 13 games. Hege Riise had been interim manager for six months after Neville left for Inter Miami, but it was an unsuccessful and disappointing period.
Confidence was low after Team GB, which included several England players, were knocked out of the Olympics in the quarter-finals. A fresh start was needed.
Confidence was low among English players beaten by Australia in extra time at the Olympics
Nine months later, England are unbeaten in 13 games under their new manager. But what exactly has Wiegman changed to make the Lionesses serious contenders for the European Championship? sports post take a look…
Under Neville, England’s philosophy was to build from the back. When it worked, it was brilliant. But there was a sense of predictability in their game and when it failed, they often came loose.
The Lionesses feel more flexible under Wiegman. She also likes to play from behind, but is not afraid to go straight if the circumstances require it.
England are more adaptable under Wiegman and have even played defenders on offense
Take England’s victory over Germany in the Arnold Clark Cup in February. Wiegman’s decision to bring Millie Bright to the fore in the closing minutes of the game paid off, with the defender scoring the decisive goal.
Goalkeeper Mary Earps explained how Wiegman makes her team versatile.
The right ball is the right ball. When I play a longer ball, it’s a pass, you don’t just hit it. In any case, Sarina loves that the players are given the freedom to express themselves and make their own decisions.”
Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps says Wiegman encouraged accurate passing
We also saw a more defensive England when they played against Spain in February. Wiegman knew their opponents would dominate possession, but her team managed to limit the number of opportunities created and earned a 0-0 draw.
The Lionesses’ starting squad that day was heavily rotated and featured several players likely to be used from the bench this summer. It was an encouraging performance and result that demonstrated the depth of Wiegman and her ability to achieve results without building a full team.
Direct and honest approach
A common theme that has emerged from talking to various players is clarity. Every member of Wiegman’s selection knows his role and what the Dutch coach wants from them.
England’s only goal under Wiegman was in a 5-1 win against the Netherlands
“She’s super direct and she’s very honest, which definitely goes a long way,” Earps says. ‘She really likes transparency and open conversations.’
One player who has blossomed since Wiegman’s appointment is Beth Mead. After being knocked out of the England squad by Riise, Mead has scored 14 goals under Wiegman – breaking the record for most goals in an international season.
“I know where I was, what she expects of me,” Mead says of Wiegman. “She has given me a lot of confidence on the pitch and on the training pitch.
Beth Mead has covered Wiegman . broke the record for most goals in an international season
“It was just easy for me to go out on the field and do what I know I can and have the support of my manager. I’d say I’ve been much freer. I probably understand the expectation she has of me much more than before.’
Dutch managers are known for their direct approach and Wiegman does not shy away from it, especially at press conferences.
She will not get carried away with bold statements or analogies and she is reluctant to talk about individuals, preferring to focus on the team as a whole. In the past, for example, Neville called Lucy Bronze the best player in the world, a comment the right-back was not comfortable with.
Wiegman has less emotion. Her decision to leave former captain Steph Houghton from her 23-player roster showed she has no room for sentiment.
It was a brave decision by Wiegman to leave Steph Houghton from England’s 2022 Euro squad
England’s record under Wiegman is 13 games played, 80 goals and just three against. Her team currently scores an average of six goals per game. Part of that has to do with the level of opposition they’ve faced. England defeated Latvia 20-0 in a World Cup qualifier last year and have won 10-0 over North Macedonia and Luxembourg.
But there is no doubt that they have become more ruthless under Wiegman. This is a term she uses constantly in press conferences. She always wants her team to score more goals. There have been times when they have won 10-0 and Wiegman has insisted they should have scored more.
Wiegman kept the Euro 2022 trophy in the draw – and she’d love to keep it after the final
When England were leading 8-0 against Latvia at halftime, Wiegman could have made several substitutions or told her team to slow down. But she wanted them to score as many as possible.
It is a similar mentality to the Americans, who defeated Thailand 13-0 in the group stage of the 2019 World Cup. Wiegman himself spent time in America and has that winning mentality that is so crucial in international football.
She is not one to ‘give away caps’ to players on the fringes of the first team. Even for matches England is expected to win comfortably, she will usually pick the strongest team available.
“It’s great as a striker,” Mead said. “We scored a lot in qualifying, but we could have scored more, we also missed a lot of opportunities.
“Sarina keeps us on our toes and she will always expect more. No team is perfect, but they strive for perfection and we want that too.’