England, under Gareth Southgate, have been offered a new lease of life as they usher in an era where they will look to challenge for top honours playing a defined style of football rather than going long and sending hopeful hail mary-s in the box.
After a long time, they have a group of hungry players who have come from lower leagues and young lads ready to fight for their teammates rather than huge ego’s attempted to fit in one team. This approach has worked wonders as they had a wonderful World Cup campaign which culminated in a semi-final berth after 28 long years.
However, the 1966 World Cup winners have a worrying record against the big nations with defeats to Croatia and Spain highlighting that this team is not yet the finished product.In the recently concluded World Cup, Southgate’s men found the back of the net 12 times (9 from set pieces) and have failed to conjure chances from open play on a regular basis.
England generally line up in a 3-1-4-2 formation with emphasis on bringing the ball smoothly out from the back with the help of the three centre-backs. The wing-backs play a crucial role offering the width as there are no wingers in this system.
The central midfielders are tasked with providing the creativity from the middle while one of Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford have a free role alongside Harry Kane who is the talisman of the team. England have been quite successful playing this possession-based game but there are some glaring flaws that need to be ironed out.
With injuries to Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, this international break should provide the gaffer with the perfect opportunity to experiment with a potentially exciting new formation. Perhaps switching to this formation might bring the best out of the current crop of players.
The current system requires the central midfielders to move quickly horizontally/laterally when out of possession to cover the acres of space on the wings and this weakness was exploited by Croatia in the semi-final as their wingers Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic pinned the English wingbacks while the Croatian full backs played higher up the field with right back Vrsalijko providing the cross which led to the equalizer from Perisic.
In the new system, the fundamental principles shall remain the same with the three ball-playing centre-backs expected to build up play from the back with the help of the two deep-lying midfielders. However, the major difference would be playing a pivot of Jordan Henderson and Harry Winks.
Henderson can be the midfield general in this formation but here he will be accompanied by someone like Winks who will be utilized in a more defensive role than Lingard and Alli. The Spurs lad can play a role quite similar to the one played by Ruben Neves at Wolves.
Winks is known for his wide passing range as he picks up the ball in small pockets of space and operates well in tight spaces. He controls the tempo of the game and should provide balance to England’s midfield. Another difference would be playing with wingers rather than playing with a strike partnership.
Raheem Sterling can slot in as the right winger, the very same role he plays at City while England will have a plethora of options on the left with exciting debutant youngsters Maddison and Sancho more than capable of causing havoc from the left wing position.
Marcus Rashford is another player who is no stranger to playing on the left. The wingers can interchange positions with the wing backs at will and can form a fluid attack with the quick interchanging of positions and offer the unpredictability that has eluded the England attack.
This system provides the Three Lions with more balance as they can have always five men behind the ball even if the fullbacks are in an attacking position. This formation allows them to create their numerical superiority in wide areas as well as in the middle which is a crucial component in playing such a style of football.
With pace in the forward positions, Southgate can utilize the pace of Rashford, Sterling and Sancho to play quick vertical counter-attacking football. Harry Kane will spearhead the attack and will be hoping to get back to his lethal best after suggestions he has been suffering from fatigue.
With games coming up against Croatia and Spain, Gareth Southgate will be hoping to have a new trick up his sleeve to outwit his opponents. A tactical tweak in his formation might be the answer to end their “big nation” hoodoo and make a real statement.