Tuesday, 12 April 2011

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

We have been taking a close look at England’s new 4-3-3 strategy. Last week, we discussed the positives of the strategy and what worked well in the two games against Ghana and Wales.

We talked about how dynamic England were and how progressive the side were. The team’s high pressing system suffocated their opponents, especially Wales. And the mixture of passing made England hard to deal with in both games.

Here’s the link to the first article regarding the positives of the system.


Today, we will be looking at the negatives and the aspects of the system, which didn’t work well for England.

The negatives

Clearly, the system is only two games old and there are still areas which need to be worked on. Here are few errors which I saw in England’s games whilst playing with the 4-3-3.

Fabio Capello loves his central midfielders to control the game and the tempo. The new system gave England’s central midfielders more time on the ball. This led there to be more of a creative spark in the middle. This all well and good. But, England were finding it hard to thread through balls into the wingers and strikers. At times against both Wales and Ghana, England’s passing was static as they couldn’t see the pass or were unwilling to execute it. Again, this could boil down to the understanding between the players regarding the new strategy. As the development of understanding takes time, but as the team gets used to the system, the central midfielders will be receptive to the run of the strikers and can quickly and effectively thread the balls through. Although this sounds very technical, some argue, England lack the ability to pass progressively. But England have a great number of passers. The likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Wilshere can all be trusted to thread in brilliant balls to the strikers and midfielders.

Ghana recognised England’s dependence on their 3 central midfielders. It was clear that the central midfield was England’s main catalyst for attacks. The Ghana team quickly closed down Wilshere and James Milner. This meant, England at times were sloppy in their passing or were often caught in possession. And because England attempted to impose themselves onto the opposition, it therefore meant that Ghana could quickly counter and could ask serious questions of England’s high defensive line. Arguably, if England were playing against a more superior team, they would have punished England on the counter. As they would have been far more quicker and crisp in their passing and would have possibly had a number of clinical finishers to finish off the move.

This is a diagram of how Ghana stopped England's midfield from settling on the ball.

Here is a diagram of how England nearly conceded because of the high defensive line.

The game against Ghana was a game of two halves. And like most friendlies, the substitutions had a big impact on the balance of the game. England in the first half were expansive and were asking all the questions to Ghana. The team were effective through the middle and found a lot of joy on the right flank, thanks to great running and movement by Glen Johnson and Stuart Downing. Arguably, England’s crossing distribution was poor throughout the game. This is a fair point, especially in the first half. As England got to the Ghana by-line but failed to provide suitable crosses into the middle.

But, when Glen Johnson came off at half time. England lost their width. Arguably, this resulted in England losing their offensive nature in the second half. Against Wales, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson symbolised England’s imposing nature by pressing high and allowing the wingers to play in a more central striking role. While the full backs attacked the byline and gave England solid width. This meant England had more bodies upfront and were more threatening. As there were a number of attacking options available. But when Glen Johnson came off against Ghana and Phil Jagielka took his place at right back, this encouraged Ghana’s fullbacks to venture into the England half. Arguably, having Jagielka at right back is undesirable. As Jagielka isn’t the fastest, nor does he have a good cross or the off the ball movement to be an offensive full back. Maybe if Micah Richards wasn’t injured he would have been far more effective at right back and maintained England’s width.

While on the other flank, Leighton Baines yet again failed to have the confidence to venture forward and provide fantastic crosses and passes. The reason why Baines is in the England team is because of his venturing forward and great distribution. It seemed Baines was unwilling to go forward in fear of making a mistake, it’s a shame. Had Baines had more confidence, he could have played a crucial role, providing for Andy Carroll. If Baines ask more questions of Pantsil, England would have been far more effective on the left hand side. However, it’s clear the Ghanaian management saw the lack of progress by Baines and demanded Ghana’s right back, John Pantsil to venture forward continuously. The venturing of Pantsil was a crucial reason to why England were hemmed into their own box in the second half.

The lack of width by the full backs in the second half resulted in England playing far more narrow. The wingers Downing and Young had to come in a more central position to receive the ball. This often led to nothing significant occurring in terms of offensive attacks. As Ghana were quickly pressing England in the middle and England had no venturing full backs out wide, to stretch the play.

When Andy Carroll came off, another problem occurred. England by the 60th minute were being dominated by Ghana, England didn’t have a forward who could win the ball in the air or hold the ball up. Jermaine Defoe is a great striker, but he was rather ineffectual. As England couldn’t get the ball to him. The team were unwilling to play the ball long to Defoe. As he couldn’t effectively hold up the ball. This resulted in Ghana winning the ball with great ease. Capello did try and maintain service for Defoe, by playing Young alongside him. But again, England were far too narrow and simply couldn’t get the English midfield to re-impose their tempo and their authority over the match. Perhaps, Jermaine Defoe could have been more flamboyant in his approach. Maybe he could have made wide runs or played on the shoulder of the fullback in an attempt to use his pace.


There is quite a lot of potential in England’s new system. The team look far more dynamic and unpredictable. But the team need to develop an intuition for the system and the strategy. Once the team fully knows the function of the tactic it could give England a huge amount of success, potentially.

It’s imperative that Capello finds his best 11 quickly. This will further speed the understanding of the strategy and the tactic. But it’s also vital that Capello tries to stick to this tactic and uses it against tough opponents. This will make the team more disciplined and have more confidence in themselves and the system they are using.

But one mustn’t get carried away. The tactic could make England fall flat on their faces against a superior opposition. Only time will tell if it could become the platform for English success. But Ghana proved if the opposition ask serious questions and look to exploit England’s high defensive line they can be vulnerable.

Next week – we will be looking at The best possible selection for the England 4-3-3 system.

Read last week’s feature here - http://thefootballfront.blogspot.com/2011/04/englands-new-4-3-3-system-platform-for.html

Things you may like to read

Why Fabio Capello should be embarrassed of his handling of the Rio Ferdinand captaincy issue - http://tiny.cc/x1wdy

Why Kevin Davies should be in contention for the England squad - http://tiny.cc/03xgm

Do the England players fear wearing the England jersey? - http://tiny.cc/3gg73

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