Squeeze the pitch
Having the ability to read the game, move up with play and stay tight to opponents is key to the role Evans plays at Leicester.
“If you're sustaining the pressure, a lot of the times the opposition will drop back, or maybe after 10 seconds will drop back in. This has been a big feature of the play under Brendan Rodgers at Leicester. We have good possession of the ball, sustained pressure, so my first thought would probably be to try and squeeze the pitch.
“In the past, I might have stayed back near the halfway line. But I think moving with the ball across the pitch, but also moving with the ball when it's down the far end of the pitch and really trying to squeeze the other team in [is important].
“You want to be in a position where you're tight, and if there’s a clearance, you want to be able to be in a position where, as your opponent controls the ball, you're able to go and engage with them. Not necessarily always win the ball, but you want to force them back or force them to have a bad touch.
“Sometimes that's good enough because a lot of the time you have your defensive players and midfield players coming back.”
The ability to defend 1v1 is crucial to the modern game – particularly if you want to defend like England. Having the skill to dictate play or delay an attack by defending 1v1 is something that has enhanced Evans' game – helping him to adapt to other positions.
“I played a lot at full-back in my career, especially at West Brom, and I played right across the back four. 1v1 defending was so valuable to me when I was able to go out into those positions.
“And it definitely helped me going back into centre-back if I was ever playing full-back. Being able to defend in a 1v1 position when I was able to go back into centre-back, I felt so much more confident in those scenarios.”
Being able to spin, twist and turn may sound like basic skills – but having good physical literacy is incredibly important. No matter what level you’re at. Prioritising movement is something that Evans really benefitted from.
“I did a lot of footwork. I can remember one of the fitness coaches, Tony Strudwick, he had some footwork stuff from a basketball coach about how they move and pivot on their feet. He used to get me and a few others doing little turning movements.
“It was really helpful, and I still use it now when I'm defending - just being able to pivot off your feet. It's so vital that, being able to turn your body shape from facing one side, to get it almost 180 degrees round where you're actually facing the other in a split second.”
Squeeze the pitch