It was over dinner one night in Sochi

21 giugno 2018
Bookmark and Share

It was over dinner one night in Sochi

When the idea was crystallised. Gareth Southgate Authentic Jermaine Gresham Jersey was with his assistant, Steve Holland, as he often tended to be last summer. They had the European Under-21 Championship to follow in Poland and, simultaneously, the Confederations Cup in Russia. Then one night, in a restaurant on the Black Sea, the discussion turned to England’s plans for the World Cup and changing the entire shape of the side.

By that stage, the two men masterminding England’s World Cup campaign were using their time in Russia to look at potential training bases. “We hadn’t qualified, of course, but without taking liberties we were looking at what might be a good place and experiencing the different climates,” Holland recalls of the conversations that led to England employing their current 3–3–2–2 formation. “We spent about four weeks on the road in Russia, the two of us. We went back to watch the under-21s when the England games were on and then came back for the Confederations Cup. We spent a lot of time on a plane but it really gave us the opportunity to speak about what we had learned over the year.”

More than anything, the two men started bouncing ideas off one another about moving away from the system their predecessors had used. And this, ultimately, is why England are operating in a newly designed formation with wing‑backs, three central defenders and no orthodox wingers.

“When we took over initially I probably don’t need to remind you of the circumstances,” Holland says, taking up the story. “The previous game was Sam [Allardyce] as manager and the qualification game – Slovakia away, playing 10 men – when we got the late [Adam Lallana] goal. The game before that was Iceland in Euro 2016 [under Roy Hodgson]. So Gareth’s first game is: three managers in three games with England, off the back of Iceland and all that still very much in the air. We had two or three days to work and we were in to the qualifiers.

“Gareth’s an intelligent guy and recognised early on that it wasn’t a time for revolution. It was a time for making decisions that would get results in the short Womens LaDarius Gunter Jersey term, to secure qualification. Roy’s system was 4–3–3. Sam had also used 4–3–3 in his one game, We went from that to 4–2–3–1 with a No 10 rather than a pivot. And the plan, in the short term, was to get a bit more support to the forwards and hope that was good enough to get us through.”

England qualified without losing a game. Yet neither Southgate nor his number two was entirely satisfied. Southgate had played in a three‑man England defence under Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle. Holland had coached at Chelsea when Antonio Conte’s team won the Premier League with three at the back. And that night, dining in Sochi, the decision was made that it would be England’s best chance, too.

“We looked at the Terry Venables Euro 96 team, with Steve McManaman and Darren Anderton as wing-backs and Gary Neville in the back three, and the balance of midfield,” Holland says. “We even went back to Bobby Robson, who started with one way of playing in Italia 90 then went to a back three. But rather than it being something he [Southgate] remembered from the past, the process was: what gives us the best chance of not conceding many goals? What gives us the best chance of having more control of the game with the ball? They were the two factors.

“We watched the matches in the Confederations Cup – Germany, Portugal, Mexico, Chile, some good teams – and tried to envisage how we would look against that kind of opposition. We made some decisions and one of those was a back three. We felt we would be better, with and without the ball, with a back three.