It was a mega decision by Gareth when he chose his system.
When he decided to play with Kane + 3 fast runners whose final ball is so unreliable.
That decision was justified by the results prior to the World Cup semi-final.
By common consent the work his staff has done has proved invaluable, and I’m hoping psychologist Dr Pippa Grainge will stick around. She’ll have learned a lot about these footballers in the last seven weeks.
It’s still early days for Southgate as England manager because Russia 2018 is his first tournament and his job now looks secure until the 2022 World Cup. He qualified comfortably, and then decided on a strict formation based on set-plays well ahead of this tournament.
The Kane-Sterling-Alli-Lingard system uses three durable sprinters who are all better off the ball than on the ball. The trio are athletes who can get into scoring positions and, in theory, play each other in. But on the night I only saw one brilliant pass by Lingard to Kane, who didn’t score.
This system functioned well against Tunisia, Panama, Colombia and Sweden.
But thats all it is : an experiment. It’s not a template.We now have to evolve and improve the England team. This team is a prototype that worked through the Group games and the Round of 16 and the quarter-final. But crashed in the semi-final in Moscow, even though Trippier scored an early goal in 5 minutes.
Croatia turned out to be a savvy team with a superior blend of experience and youth.
WE HAVE TO LEARN FROM THIS: English football needs to nourish dribblers. A playmaker is a often a dribbler who can pass, who can protect the ball, who can slow the game down when his team is under pressure, as well as create chances. And sometimes, of course, a good dribbler will pass first time.
However, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was not trusted to come on as sub in England’s biggest game since 1990. Why not? Because the England manager didn’t want to play Croatia’s game?
In the second half, and again in extra time, his fast-passing system was failing badly.
Did we have any shots on target in open play?
What is the solution?
Find 20 Croatian youth coaches who can teach what we don’t? Should we give Slaven Bilic a consultancy contract? He’s a passionate character who played for and managed Croatia.
You may not be familiar with Slav’s backstory:
Do top Croatians learn how to win in the Bundesliga?