With the first goal coming from surging runs from the left side of England’s defence, there was a familiar feel as reinstated captain John Terry carried the ball through midfield, before passing left to Ashley Cole, who’s through ball to Ashley Young drew a clumsy foul from James Collins. The skipper’s driving run, alongside his overlapping full back, Cole, showed the hallmarks of a typical Chelsea attack, while Young coming in off the wing to run at central defenders reflected the style of play that brought the Villa man to the national side. As an afterthought, Chelsea’s regular penalty taker, Frank Lampard, converted the spot kick to put England in front.
This familiarity continued into the second goal, again featuring some interplay, reflective of the Premier League’s finest attacking talent, as Young, off the shoulder of the full back, burst down the right flank, to cross low for Villa team mate Darren Bent, leading the line as a lone striker, to net a poacher’s finish.
Although all goal scoring was concluded within the first quarter of the game, England’s players continued to shine. A new midfield trio, minus Steven Gerrard, of Lampard, paired by Arsenal teenager Jack Wilshere with West Ham’s Scott Parker in the holding role. Parker marshalled his territory with the authority and tenacity that has made him a permanent fixture in the West Ham side. Parker was also key in ushering the ball through midfield, with the midfield trio moving the ball through the middle of the pitch, regularly playing triangles to good effect, as Lampard, who many critics say thrives in a midfield three, alongside Wilshere, keen to build upon a critically acclaimed performance for Arsenal, over two legs against Barcelona.
With a 4-3-3 system, England certainly hold options in all positions. As Capello rested senior players and tested fringe players for the friendly against Ghana, with Gareth Barry, captain for the night in the absence of Terry, replacing Parker in the holding role and James Milner in for Lampard. It was another change from the Wales match that brought about England’s goal, Andy Carroll, in for Bent as England’s lead striker, fired England into the lead.
While Asamoah Gyan’s late equaliser made sure Capello’s side did not come away victorious, the starting line-up varied massively from that which started the qualifier in Cardiff three days earlier, with only Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Jack Wilshire and Ashley Young the only players keeping their places. However, with Wayne Rooney suspended for the visit of Switzerland, and Steven Gerrard returning from injury, Capello will have options to continue with his new system. While Rooney will be absent for the next qualifying game, upon his return, he will also offer Capello options in two positions, both as a lone striker, a position which saw him score 26 goals for Manchester United last season, or playing from a wider position, as he has done to accommodate Dimitar Berbatov for United, or as he was deployed to accommodate Bent for England.
The England 4-3-3 formation is the latest in a series of new ideas used by Fabio Capello in a bid to transform the side’s fortunes. While this presents new questions in terms of who makes Capello’s starting line-up, he will undoubtedly be grateful for the options, with the likes of Gerrard, Theo Walcott and Peter Crouch yet to feature since Capello’s latest change of strategy, if they too can begin to bring their best form to the national side, Capello’s luck could well be about to change.