England wrapped up their Nations League campaign with a 4-0 win over Iceland at Wembley but where does that leave Gareth Southgate with the European Championships looming? Here, we look at the questions facing the manager…
England manager Gareth Southgate has some big decisions to make
Early goals from Declan Rice and Mason Mount set England on their way to a 4-0 victory over Iceland at Wembley as they ended their Nations League campaign on a positive note. Phil Foden’s first two England goals capped a convincing victory for the home side.
Birkir Mar Saevarsson’s second-half red card had already ended any hopes of an Iceland comeback but the discussions surrounding this England team are just getting started.
With Gareth Southgate seemingly sticking with the 3-4-3 formation, plenty of questions remain ahead of next summer’s European Championships. Here are just a few…
Is this the formation for the Euros?
When Southgate first returned to the back three that worked so well for England at the World Cup, it was seen as evidence of some flexibility, a willingness to try new formations. But given that his team have now lined up in this 3-4-3 system for each of the last seven matches it seems unlikely that this is mere variation. This is England’s shape for the Euros.
That is a bold call given that England had the best goals-per-game record in qualifying for the competition while operating with a back four. But losing the most difficult group game – away to Czech Republic – may have crystallised Southgate’s view that something else would be needed in tournament play where stronger opposition lies in wait.
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These consecutive three-game international meet-ups, bringing six matches in as many weeks, have been fraught with logistical difficulties, but they have allowed Southgate to fast-track understanding of the new system. The hope is that the benefit of this time together will be realised come the summer. It might be too late to change course now.
Watch highlights of England’s 4-0 win over Iceland at Wembley
Does it make best use of the talent?
The fear is that this system is more about masking vulnerabilities than making the most of the talent at the top end of the pitch. England do not have two world-class centre-backs but that seems to be why Southgate feels the need to play three. Playing two holding midfielders against stronger sides leaves England with only three attack-minded players.
“We keep talking about the system but it is not so much the system as getting those four attacking players in,” Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. “Belgium play this system too but they play Youri Tielemans and if Eden Hazard is fit then Kevin De Bruyne goes back into midfield. So even though is it similar, they play that fourth attacking player.