The England Back Four Can Lay the Foundations for Success

Spread the love

In previous international breaks, the complaints have been England’s boring, mundane and all too safe style. Yet, Gareth Southgate was right to take that approach at the time. The England back four could not be trusted to act as a solidified wall; it needed the protection of two defensive midfielders.

Months later, however, and it is clear that Southgate now has a back four that he can trust, a defensive line that lay the foundations for England’s attacking talent to express their talent in abundance. 

John Stones’ return to form has handed Southgate a leading, dominant, modern-day central defender. Harry Maguire, too, is silencing several critics as each week goes by at Manchester United. Add in the resurged Luke Shaw and the options of Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker, and suddenly, England’s backline has gone from fragile to a reliable cog in the machine.

England Defence Can Lay Foundations for Success

Releasing the Shackles of Defensive Responsibility 

As alluded to before, Southgate was forced to fall back on Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice to form a wall to protect a vulnerable back five. It was all hands on deck as far as the backline was concerned because the trust was not there. 

Fast-forward to now and, instead of that wall, we’re seeing those previously shackled with a defensive system released into attacking freedom. And it will pay dividends. By possessing a consistent back four, England’s creators can express themselves. 

Instead of watching from the bench or playing in a limited system, the likes of Phil Foden and Mason Mount can decide games in roles they play best. Southgate has been able to swap from a back five and two defensive holders to an expressive 4-3-3: A formation most top teams utilise.

Against San Marino, albeit against a low-par team, Southgate binned the back five and two players in the six roles and revealed one holder and two offensive number eights. 

The game acted as the easiest of tests but one that showed Gareth Southgate the answer to unlocking the best of this England side. Now the task is to be bold and utilise the same style against the very best opposition.

Added Squad Depth

In previous ‘golden generations,’ the stars could be seen in the starting 11. Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham all took to the pitch at once.

 With a team that jam-packed with the talent to last a lifetime, silverware was surely won? Nope, think again. 

When the stars failed to perform, there was no plan B. The bench lacked star power. All of that star power had already tried and failed on the pitch. England had no one else to turn to. 

Now, Gareth Southgate can comfortably look to his bench, knowing that the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho can all change the game- just to mention three players. The list could go on forever. 

For the first time, it seems as though England have not just a starting 11 ready to secure silverware but a squad more than capable of doing so.

Main Photo
Embed from Getty Images