Why Gareth Southgate should persevere with a 3-1-4-2 at the World Cup finals
Gareth Southgate’s decision to exclude Jack Wilshere and Jonjo Shelvey from his World Cup squad may have raised a few eyebrows but the reality is that neither player is good enough to fill the role of ‘playmaker’ for England.
If we look at their raw stats in terms of goal involvement, we can see that Wilshere weighed in just once every 297 minutes this season, while Shelvey contributed even less, once every 567 minutes. Now compare this to the cream of this year’s Premier League – David Silva at 122 mins, Kevin de Bruyne at 128 mins, Paul Pogba at 134 mins and Christian Eriksen at 161 mins.
The Three Lions simply don’t have the personnel to field a playmaker and Southgate is right to realise that.
The England manager signalled his intentions last November when he opted for a 3-4-3 against Germany and a 3-5-2 against Brazil. Both games ended in a stalemate and the combination of Jake Livermore and Eric Dier in central midfield didn’t really work, since neither player is creative enough.
Southgate has already shred his Mr. Niceguy image by making some bold calls on individual players but how he will be judged at this World Cup may well boil down to whether he is brave enough to go without Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier as his central midfield pair.
It’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility and he did switch things around a bit in March, when he utilised a 3-1-4-2 formation in England’s latest two international friendlies, against Italy and the Netherlands.
Fantasy football managers should sit up and take note if he opts to persevere with this formation since England have a favourable draw. This is highlighted by our World Cup 2018 – Fantasy Football Cheatsheet, so it is imperative that you identify which players are likely to be guaranteed starters since they are likely to be viable options once those World Cup fantasy football contests are released.
Southgate has selected 10 defenders, 5 midfielders and 5 forwards.
Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling simply have to start up top, so Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck may all have to settle for a place on the bench.
Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli have the greatest goal threat so they should occupy the two advanced midfield positions, with Jordan Henderson edging out Eric Dier as the defensive midfield cover. The Liverpool skipper was the only English player to make the Top 10 on WhoScored for total passes per game, exactly the sort of stat that will have impressed Southgate.
Jordan Pickford should start between the sticks behind a possible back 3 of Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker. Southgate may just prefer the ball playing ability of Maguire to that of Gary Cahill and Phil Jones.
Walker is also an option at right wing-back but it seems that the England manager is keen to play him on the right of his 3-man back-line, leaving Kieran Trippier as the chief beneficiary on that particular flank, although 19 year old Trent Alexander-Arnold has also been included.
This just leaves the left wing-back spot open where the unfortunate Ryan Bertrand will feel very hard done by to have missed out on a place in the squad. Ashley Young and Fabian Delph offer versatility but the inclusion of Danny Rose suggests that Southgate is prepared to take a chance on him.
Rose has had to play second fiddle to Ben Davies for the majority of this season at Spurs so he will need to make the most of any opportunities that come his way in England’s final warm-up games.
It’s the quartet of Lingard, Alli, Kane and Sterling that fantasy football managers should be focusing on though, with the latter perhaps being the pick of the bunch, if he is priced favourably, once those World Cup fantasy football salaries are released.
Rashford and Vardy offer pace off the bench, for a team that lacks a real creative spark.
That’s our predicted starting line-up for England at the World Cup finals – let us know if you agree!