England change of formation: The arguments for and against

Editor F365
Southgate England Switzerland
Gareth Southgate is considering a formation change for Switzerland.

If England change formation, does that make Gareth Southgate a chancer or a visionary? Plus, is Jude Bellingham overrated?

Send your views to theeditor@football365.com


Three at the back? He is a chancer
If reports are true, it appears that he whose name I can’t speak is going to play a 3-5-2 formation on Saturday. It might work, it’s what a lot of people have been advocating, it will certainly (?) have an impact on tactics (able to get MORE men behind the ball and more sideways passing).

There appears to be one big problem though, none of the players actually play it at club level! His trials of the formation are not littered with fabulous performances. I very much doubt, from the evidence to date, that he is able to coach a team to play differently, he doesn’t seem capable of coaching them in his preferred formation as it is.

The 3 was almost a given before Guehi’s ban but the 5 divides opinion. TAA seems certain (another climb down given his reluctance to play him in his natural position), Rice and Mainoo will play but what then?

Saka playing wide, he doesn’t play there for Arsenal, Bellingham as part of the 3, my preferred option but his best performances for Madrid have come with him playing further forward, Foden in the three or wide left, not his club position and not a wing back. Gordon on the left, again not his club role and has had virtually no time on the pitch so far. Gallagher in the middle, please no! Palmer wide left (see Foden). Wharton, not seen a minute and VERY VERY little international experience.

And then the two! Kane will play, doesn’t play it at club level and is not mobile enough for it anyway, But who else, probably Bellingham but is he more effective deeper? Toney, plays as part of a three, Watkins, plays more as a lone striker with lots of movement, Palmer, Saka or Foden, not natural for any of them. Kane will need to be told to f55k off and not drop deep but he’ll likely ignore that.

They’ll be instructed to go 5-3-2 when not in possession or 1-0 up, Trent is a better defender than given credit for and has some understanding of the role as LFC do split and sometimes adopt a 3-5-2 in possession, but his main weakness is he can switch off and leave too much space behind him, Walker will have gone walkabout and so we may become vulnerable down our right.

Again, it might work, I hope it does, the manager has experienced a lot of luck during his tenure but I can foresee players all over the place, not knowing where to be, not knowing what to do. The change is an open admission that he has got it wrong, hasn’t selected players to fit his system, hasn’t got those selected to play how he envisaged (poor coaching) and that despite his arrogance and public persona, he actually has no idea and does listen to “the noise”.
Howard (god I hate him and I never say that about anybody, well rarely) Jones


Three at the back? Maybe…
I’m quite liking the potential shift to a 3-5-2/3-4-3 formation for England on Saturday.

There’s obviously some big unknowns and risks with making this change as its been untried and tested since 2021 but it does deal with quite a few issues we’ve all been collectively grappling with.

I still think I’d rather the 4-2-3-1 with Gordon brought in and TAA at right back (and Tripper nowhere near the first team of course) but I think we have to accept given Southgate’s conservatism that this is never going to happen.

The potential positives of a 3-5-2 as I see them are:

1. It gets rid of the Trippier at left back issue. Saka or Shaw if fit can play the left wing back role.

2. It gets rid of the Walker at right back issue. Walker’s attacking game is limited – he’s shown in the past that he can play the right centre back in a back 3 role to reasonable competence. This then frees up the right wing back role for TAA.

3. It provides a bit more defensive support for Konsa. Not that I wouldn’t be confident with Konsa in a back 4, but I think Southgate is also planning on switching out Trippier for Shaw or Saka and I suspect he’s a bit worried about the two left sided defenders coming into the squad without much game time/practice together.

4. Switzerland will also be playing 3-5-2. 3-5-2 is a difficult formation to press high against in a 4-2-3-1 so shifting to a 3-5-2/3-4-3 helps to make a high press more easy/effective.

5. 3-5-2/3-4-3 then gives the option of either playing Bellingham and Foden behind Kane (who isn’t being dropped, let’s face it), or a more direct option of Toney next to Kane. The unknown with this helps keeps Switzerland guessing – I think one of the problems we’ve faced in this tournament so far is we’ve been so predictable in our formation and style of play. The 3-5-2 shift creates some unknowns for the Swiss to have to deal with.

I suspect Southgate will opt for Foden and Bellingham behind Kane. If he does, as per the 4-2-3-1, there will be a real onus on both getting level or ahead of Kane. 3-5-2 can be quite a defensive formation but if Bellingham and Foden push high then it can operate as more of 3-4-3 which can be highly flexible, controlling and attacking with the wingbacks providing genuine width and overlaps.
Tom, York

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Who’s the new Heskey?
Tom E13’s letter clearly implied that Ivan Toney could be the new Heskey, not that Harry Kane could be.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite


England blame ladder update
47. Ben Orange. We would’ve won with him, cos he’s clubmates with Rice and Saka. And he’s got a left foot.
Simon S, Cheshire


Southgate’s list of honours
Slow down my friend! Gareth Southgate won 2 League Cups as a player and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Coach Award (won by other no names such as Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Sarah Weigman).

I do enjoy the mailbox discourse, especially something as passionate as Pete’s but let’s not re-write history to suit ourselves especially when it erases my team’s only major triumph.
Mannix (Boro fan – the only final I didn’t go to was the cussin’ League Cup in 2004)


Prediction time
Qs – Germany, Portugal, England, Netherlands
Ss – Portugal, England

And England to win it. Mainoo, TAA, Gordon to shine.

Not an England fan. It will still be in spite of Southgate. Pls fire him after the win. As a football fan, I would like to see the true gameplay of this generation. It might be as good as Spain 12, Germany 14.


…While the football itself has, on the whole been quite dull, some of the country’s fans have more than made up for it. So in recognition to their contribution, I decided to forecast the results based on the enthusiasm of the fans alone.

Both sets of fans kind of expect their teams to win so they haven’t been as vociferous as others. I’m picking Germany’s fans as they are more likely to be drunk out of their minds on lager.

Portugal v FRANCE
Portugal fans run hot and cold much like their team. French fans on the other hand seem a bit more cerebral, but I am giving it to France for their National Anthem alone.

HOLLAND v Turkey
Far and away the two best sets of fans left in the tournament. Every club side that plays in Turkey has always faced a hostile environment but the beer throwing in the last game got a little out of hand. Every single Dutch fan seems to wear orange and their crazy dance puts them over the edge.

ENGLAND v Switzerland
The Swiss just lack numbers to be honest and their style of play may well overrun England. So, loathe as I am to recommend a team whose fans are still chanting songs about WW2, in Germany I might add, they probably have the best repertoire of songs which will carry the day.

GERMANY v France
The game itself will most likely be close as well but being so close to the final, the crazy Dortmund fans will obliterate the tired “allez, allez” of the French fans.

HOLLAND v England
Both sets of fans will be loud and crazy although the England fans will be quick to turn if things do not go their way. The Dutch fans really are a credit to football. Expect to see orange flares.

Germany v HOLLAND
Definitely a lot of history between these two sides with Germany usually on top. However I have a feeling playing the “auld enemy” will only motivate the Dutch fans further.

Dutch fans win the fans tournament!
Adidasmufc (Honorable mention to the Scots. I can’t imagine what the Germans made of men wearing skirts!)

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Bellingham and Mbappe overrated!
I get that probably everyone in the mailbox will angrily disagree but I genuinely think that Bellingham and Mbappe are overrated.

That’s not to say they are bad players, they are clearly very good ones. But are they as good as the never ending praise suggests they are?

Mbappe has earned it a little more since he has performed in big games…for France. Didn’t really push PSG to success even with superstar teams behind him. More than that though he’s not really a deadly finisher like Haaland, Shearer or Batistuta and really relies on pace more than anything – which luckily he has in abundance. He doesn’t have the agility and guile of Messi or David Silva and again relies mostly on knocking the ball past someone and sprinting onto it.

Having watched French league a couple of years ago when it was free as part of a package I watched him a lot…and found the player he reminded me of the most was Raheem Sterling. Much better than Sterling but the same back-post tap-in merchant who is only effective with space to sprint into. Be interesting to see how he does in Spain but I’ll wager money he doesn’t have the same effect as Ronaldo or Messi did. He is the best of this current generation of players but he doesn’t get in the discussion with Messi, Ronaldo, Zidane etc. he’s in the group just below the true greats.

Bellingham it’s perhaps a bit unfair to judge considering he’s at the start of his career but I’m going to anyway. I hadn’t watched Jude much until this season. Just YouTube highlights which make everyone except Phil Jones looks good (come on we’ve all laughed at the Jones videos). But I watched him in the Champs League knockouts this season and for England too and maybe it’s me but a player who disappear for the majority of most of the important matches probably shouldn’t be acting like he’s the best player in the world when he scores a goal against Slovakia after being invisible again for 90 minutes.

There are aspects to his game which clearly mark him as a very skilled player. His first touch is world class and he has good vision too. But he has zero positional discipline , he plays football like he’s still in school chasing after the ball wherever it goes. Now positional discipline is something often aimed at Trent (fairly) but Jude is just as guilty.

If I were asked to pick between Jude and Foden in my team I’d take Foden any day.

Anyway, for those reasons I think those two are rated a little more highly than they deserve but are both still excellent players.

Finally – after writing my joga bonito mail and pressing send I quickly realised the reason why I’ve enjoyed watching Spain so much is because their two wideboys (Williams jnr and Lamal) really play like Brazilians , often doing things because it’s fun. Perhaps that’s their age.

READ: Bellingham ban a ‘blessing for Southgate’ as pundit digs up Dortmund example to condemn England star


The Unpredictables
Moving on from Pompey Mark waxing lyrical about Robert Prosinecki I would like to offer Dragan Stojkovic. I noticed that he was the Serbian manager during the game against England and I raved to my son about the trap control he did in the 1990 World Cup against Spain – for subtle skill, it’s hard to beat.

It led me to look him up on YouTube and came up with this compilation. Back in the days when they didn’t take people off for a bit of rain, have a look at the section from 2.35.

Particularly admirable was that all this was done with opposition players trying to take big lumps out of him the whole time.

Sean (THFC)