Sunday, 3 April 2011

England's new 4-3-3 system, the platform for English success? Part One - The positives

The last two games have seen England being far more dynamic and more exciting to watch. Perhaps this was something the team lacked in South Africa. But there are potential reasons for England fans to get excited. However, they must take everything with a pinch of salt. The new system is only two games old and there clearly isn’t the cohesion and understanding like the world champions Spain. The new system has given everyone some food for thought.

I am going to post a three part series which takes a little tour on the positives and the negatives of England’s new system. And I will show who I think England should field in their new 4-3-3 system.

Part One - The Positives

The high pressing system England used against Ghana and Wales was impressive. It made England dictate the tempo and become far more assertive on the game. In the Wales game Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard, the two central midfielders, were far more progressive. This therefore resulted in England penning Wales back into their own half. As the two central midfielders were looking to find space to thread balls through and get into offensive positions.

The progressive nature of Wilshere and Lampard was partly due to the great holding midfield performance of Scott Parker. Parker used the ball well and won a number of crucial challenges to stop Wales’ attacks at the root. In the Ghana game it was the same with Gareth Barry. Barry, protected the defensive line effectively and played simple but important passes. Both players stretched the play as well. This enabled England to attack via the flanks. The two games showed how crucial the holding midfield role is for England. Arguably, in the World Cup when Gareth Barry was overrun by Germany’s Thomas Muller, it meant England could not be as offensive as a team. As Barry needed support to contain Muller and co. But that’s not to say the result was Gareth Barry’s fault. No way, it’s simply a resulting factor which occurs if the other team sets the tempo and imposes themselves on the game, which Germany did fantastically.

It was clear that Wales weren’t expecting England to play with a high pressing system. The Welsh played two holding midfielders, perhaps they did this to stop Lampard, Wilshere and Ronney from supporting Bent. But another reason to play two holding midfielders was that it would give Wales a better chance of keeping the ball and trying to control the tempo. However, the two holding Welsh players gave England more confidence in their pressing game. As Wales’s defensive midfield duo, Andrew Crofts and Joe Ledley were so deep in their own half. This meant Wilshere and Lampard could close the pair down in offensive positions. This resulted in Wales playing even more deeper and England being far more imposing the Welsh half.

The 4-3-3 system allows England to be far more dynamic. The team can mix their strategy styles effectively whilst using the formation. A criticism before and during the World Cup was that England were far too rigid. This meant there was little creativity and the team was too predictable. However, what surprised me in the last two England games was how quickly England could change from playing the ball through the middle and playing with width. The team showed they could easily variate between the two. Against Ghana, especially in the first half, England kept the ball nicely in the middle. But one quick pass out wide and then England were asking serious questions of Ghana. The dynamic strategy used by England shows for the first time in a long time, that England are trying to utilise their pace. For me, England aren’t the most technically gifted team in the world. They can’t pass the ball as fluently as some other international teams. But England have a variety of different players who are fast and can instantly put the opposition on the back foot because of their sheer pace.

This adds another weapon to England’s armour. If England want to predominantly through the middle which they did against Wales. It allows England to have the option to quickly pass the ball out wide to a galloping Glen Johnson or Ashley Cole. Or of course, the wingers. This instantly would give England another offensive strategy to stretch the play. And because of England’s fantastic pace on the wings it makes England far more threatening and dangerous, to cut open the defence.

In both the Ghana and Wales game it was clear England wanted the ball to go through the midfield. This was evident as both holding midfielders, Barry and Parker (in the two separate games) had a lot of the ball. Furthermore, Lampard and Wilshere against Wales were continoulsy on the ball, passing and probing. This meant that England were more progressive on the ball. As it lead to England being able to impose a highline and push Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole higher up the pitch. Furthermore, the fact England were in control of poession it resulted in England passing the ball around warreing Wales down.

However, England’s system used a mixture of passing. Against Wales, England played predominantly short passes, but the team were willing to go long if the option was open. When Wales pushed their defensive line higher and tried to venture in the England half, the likes of Rooney, Wilshere and Lampard attempted long balls to get Bent quickly behind the Welsh line. In fact, the second England goal was a result of a brilliant mixture of passing. Glen Johnson’s great ball over the top to Ashley Young, resulted in an simple tap in for Darren Bent.

In the Ghana game, England started Andy Carroll as the central striker. To England’s praise they didn’t continuously play the ball long to Carroll’s head. This was rather refereshing. As it made England more unpredictable. The team looked to play the ball through the midfield and have Carroll hold the ball up, while the team progresses forward. But when England did play it long, they did it at crucial times. They did it when England had men in and around Carroll thus meaning he could effectively flick the ball to his team mates.

The new system England have adopted has the potential to make England a nightmare to mark and track. The fact England could interchange the striker roles and the midfield roles meant that England have the element of surprise in their game. Upfront England could have every now and then swapped Rooney for Bent in the central striking role, with Bent coming out wide. Or even swapped Young for Rooney, resulting in the two players switching flanks. This has the impact to cause confusion amongst the opposition defence. It also has the consequence to make England more effective in cutting in from the wings as there potentially could be more space for exposure.

Part Two will be released on Wednesday 13th April.

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