Echoing England: 2018 World Cup Part 2

If you missed Part 1 Introduction to the save, you can find that here.

For Part 2 of Echoing England I will be focusing on how the tactic performs in a series of friendlies. This will be a closer look into whether the tactic replicates how Southgate’s sides tend to line up including transitions in play when in and out of possession.

The Attacking Phase:

  • Transition from 3-5-2 to 3-3-3-1 when in possession;
  • Defensive Midfielder to stay close to the three Centre Backs as possible and the two Centre Midfielders to push up;
  • Attacking Midfielder to join the same line or be as close to the two Centre Midfielders as possible as will have a licence to roam;
  • 3-3-3-1 to transition into a 3-1-3-3 when the Wing Backs are pushing high up the pitch.

The Defensive Phase:

  • Transition from 3-5-2 to 5-3-2 when out of possession;
  • Wing Backs to drop into the same line as the 3 Centre Backs;
  • A medium block with both Attacking Midfielder and Forward dropping deeper to ensure vertical compactness;
  • Position-focused pressing and shape retention shifting from side-to-side.

To test this before the World Cup start I played four friendlies against a varied calibre of opponents.

Friendly 1 vs Iran: Win 2-0

Friendly 2 vs Italy: Win 1-0

Friendly 3 vs Egypt: Win 2-1

Friendly 4 vs Morocco: Win 3-1

Four solid performances from the England squad here however the first two friendlies vs Iran and Italy were fairly lacklustre affairs; leaving it late for super-sub Harry Kane to score two past Iran and another solo for the only goal of the game against Italy. In the following 2 friendlies against Egypt and Morocco – where I decided to make some very small tweaks to the tactic (more of that to follow – hint: Marcus Rashford makes a quality Shadow Striker). Although, this seemed to end up with us going 1-0 down in each of the games before coming together as a team to bring home the wins in both fixtures.

The Tactic:

Mentality: Control.

Team Shape: Structured.

Team Instructions: Retain Possession, Shorter Passing, Play Out Of Defence, Work Ball Into Box, Roam From Positions, Play Much Wider.

Changes: Added Shorter Passing to Team Instructions as the two Centre Midfielders seemed to enjoy spraying long balls 6 miles in the wrong direction.

Changes to Player Instructions: Added Fewer Risky Passes to both Wing Backs as they were seemingly attempting cross pitch passes from the halfway line instead of running down the flanks and crossing from the byline. Added More Risky Passes to Defensive Midfielder as both Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson have +14 Passing Ability. This would add a slight more creativity to the centre of the field as more likely to complete passes through the defence. Added Shoot Less Often to all players in an attempt to stop countless efforts that end closer to the corner flag than the net. Added Roam From Position to the Advanced Forward as I felt without it the player was being too static in not finding space or creating his own chances.

The Attacking Phase:

As you can see in the image below whilst in possession of the ball the tactic changes from a 3-5-2 to a 3-3-3-1 due to both Wing Backs pushing higher up the pitch to create space and width on the outside and the two Centre Midfielders joining the Attacking Midfielder in the same line of play which also gives them the options to drop deep into the inside channel to form a diamond shape with Wing Back, Defensive Midfielder and outside Centre Back. The Attacking Midfielder has a player instruction of Roam From Position allow him the freedom to move into the defensive third to retrieve possession of the ball and continue the attack.

With the Wing Backs being on Attack Duty this can sometimes result in them pushing extremely high up the pitch. When this happens the tactic effectively changes from a 3-3-3-1 to a 3-1-3-3 -shown in the below image. By pushing this high up the pitch it provides the Wings Back with the additional option to switch they play by either crossing with wide out-balls or making runs of the blindside of the opposition defence to create goalscoring opportunities in the centre. This usually works very well against teams that opt to sit deep and congest the centre of the field.

The Defensive Phase:

Outlined in the next images is how whilst out of possession and on the defence the Wings Backs drop deeper to form a straight five man back line changing from a 3-5-2 to a 5-3-2. With this the Attacking Midfielder and Advanced Forward also drop back to ensure that the shape remains vertically compact. You will see how one of the Centre Midfielders follows the player in possession and the other Centre Midfielder and Defensive Midfielder move towards the opposition forward in an attempt to block passing options. The players do not close down or press unless the ball goes out to an opposition full-back or when a centre back pushes forwards. The players move side-to-side retaining the compact shape with position-focuses pressing to try and deny space for passes and runs from the opposition.

The real test will begin when the World Cup starts which will be covered in Part 3 of the series beginning with the Group Stages vs Panama, Belgium and Tunisia. I have attached the full squad list below.

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