World Cup 2018: 5 factors England need to get right to have a successful
Tomorrow night marks England’s latest step towards their World Cup campaign – a friendly match with fellow World Cup contenders Nigeria at Wembley.
With just one more warm-up game to play after that – against Costa Rica – the Three Lions’ preparation will soon be over and they’ll soon be lining up against Tunisia in Volgograd.
Recent tournaments haven’t been kind to England – they haven’t gone further than the Round of 16 since 2006 – but if Gareth Southgate wants to change that, he probably needs to look at these five factors that England need to get right to have a successful World Cup.
#1 Pick the system, not the players
One issue England have suffered from in past tournaments has been a total inability to find a tactical system that works. Past England managers have fallen into the trap of simply picking the most talented players and shoe-horning them into the side regardless of whether they fit together – a case of square pegs in round holes.
Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Euro 2004 team, for instance, was packed full of talent, but suffered from imbalance as he insisted on playing Paul Scholes on the left side of midfield, while two attacking players – Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – played in the middle without a holding man to protect them.
Even as recently as Euro 2016, Roy Hodgson bungled England’s chances by trying to cram as many of his stars into his side as possible, even moving Wayne Rooney into an unfamiliar midfield role rather than make the tough call to remove him in favour of younger players like Dele Alli and Harry Kane.
To succeed in Russia, Gareth Southgate must avoid this temptation. He’s already shown that he seems to know the system he wants to use – three defenders across the back, two wing-backs, and two central holding players behind two attacking midfielders with Harry Kane as the lone striker.
Will this system work? To be quite frank, it’s hard to tell. But in the very least, Southgate probably needs to stick to this system in order to gain some consistency, and he needs to ensure the players he picks fit into the system, rather than trying to fit the system around them.