England’s new formation shows encouraging signs

England’s comprehensive victory in Sofia on Friday night gave an interesting insight into Fabio Capello’s plans for Euro 2012 and just what system he is looking to use for the tournament.

His 4-2-3-1 formation is not only reminiscent of the current Manchester City setup, but also a throwback to his Italian roots where the system is known as the Broken Team – referring to the wide dividing line between defence and attack. Like his fellow Italian’s current shape at City, Capello gave his forward four freedom to roam and hurt the opposition while employing two defensive midfielders to shield the back four. This led to a very fluid frontline which consisted of interchanging positions and excellent movement between the quartet, who were safe in the knowledge that they would be the only ones ahead of the play if they were to lose the ball, meaning that a counter-attack was unlikely.

Italians have been using this formation for years, with it still very much in use now – be it a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 – the onus is heaped on the flair players to do the damage at one end, knowing they have sufficient protection to not get punished at the other end. The dynamics are very simple, but there is one component which England do not currently possess an obvious candidate for. The playmaker offers the link between the defence and the attack – binding together the ‘broken’ element of the team. David Silva is City’s version of this, while Wesley Sneijder is another example at Inter. Meanwhile, England’s closest thing to a playmaker is striker Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United forward is so adept at dropping deep and linking the play but as the team’s focal point of the attack, it is difficult to do both.

The position Lionel Messi occupies at Barcelona could be a possibility – known as the fake no.9 – where despite being the central point of the attack he is licensed to roam and drop deep, leaving the team with no official striker at times. But England are no Barcelona, and Rooney is no Messi, so this would be asking a great deal. What was clear was that in Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Theo Walcott you have three players more accustomed to playing out wide, and moving one of them inside to play in ‘the hole’ is detriment to their performance, as Young showed against Bulgaria.

It is more likely Rooney would occupy this position and an out-and-out striker be brought in – Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge are interesting players for this role but they are potential rather than an immediate solution. Andy Carroll would be more suited to a striker pairing and a more rigid formation, while Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent are still to show they are capable at this level.

It will be intriguing to see just what Capello sees as best for Rooney, who is so key to any formation. The more the former Everton man is in the game the better for England, that is for sure, and in the slot behind the striker he would be involved in just about everything, as well as having a striker to create for. Steven Gerrard is still to be thrown into the mixer too, but for now, England fans will be at least encouraged by the refreshing fluidity to England’s new system and while it is clear it still needs to be tweaked, it is already showing some positive signs.

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