New formation ideal for England’s wealth of wingers

After more than two years of tactical rigidity, Fabio Capello finally left his favoured 4-4-2 formation behind for England’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Cardiff on Saturday. The Italian has been notoriously stubborn with his formation, as fans have cried out for a change in system for a long time. Saturday’s comfortable win over Wales certainly added extra weight behind the newly-adopted 4-5-1-cum-4-3-3 system, and the tactic will surely be welcomed by England’s array of attacking wingers.

On Saturday Ashley Young benefited massively from the freedom of the new formation as he roamed on both flanks, switching with Wayne Rooney, with the pair running Wales’ defence ragged. Despite Rooney not exactly relishing the wider roles, he can play there to high effect – although he is undoubtedly at his best more centrally. When the likes of Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon and Adam Johnson are back, it will be interesting to see if Rooney would keep his role out wide, or whether he would be moved into the central striking role occupied by Darren Bent at the Millennium Stadium.

It was Young’s performance that really caught the eye against Wales and he is the kind of player England have in abundance. Adam Johnson is very similar to the Aston Villa man with his trickery and deliveries from wide positions. Johnson has really shone since his move to Eastlands and if England stick to the formation used against Wales in the future, Johnson will be such an asset in those wide positions. But while Young and Johnson revel in flair and quality crossing, England’s other two wingers – Lennon and Walcott – are a different proposition. Both have such devastating pace, and have shown enough over the last couple of seasons to suggest they both have big futures at international level.

Utilising the pace and flair of the wingers in such a system is vital in order for the tactic to work, as that is where a major amount of the team’s threat will come from. England have been lacking these kind of players for a number of years now, but it seems they have come into a sudden wealth of quality wingers. There are even plenty of reserves for the two wide berths beyond the previously mentioned four, with the likes of Stuart Downing, Matt Jarvis, Marc Albrighton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gabriel Agbonlahor, and James Milner all worthy alternatives.

Most of these players play in what is essentially a front three for their clubs and enjoy the added protection of a third central midfielder that allows them further freedom compared to a 4-4-2 system. Too often are the wide-men in a midfield four restricted due to their defensive responsibilities but, with three midfielders and just one striker, wingers can push higher up the pitch and use their quality in the attacking areas of the pitch. It will be interesting to see whether Capello sticks to the new formation for future internationals, but if the rest of the wingers at his disposal take Young’s lead, he may not have much of a choice to make.

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