There is no shortage of positives for Gareth Southgate when the England manager reflects on the team’s last match, the 2-2 draw with Spain at Wembley in November, and I’d like to see him adopt the same approach – a 4-2-3-1 with a high press – tomorrow evening against Germany.
This is a system that suits this group of England players for a number of reasons so it makes sense, as Southgate reshapes the team in a post-Wayne Rooney era, to let them settle into it further.
Achieving continuity is hard enough in the international game, due to the long gaps between fixtures, without changing the system again.
It would also be futile to use the Germany game to trial tactics for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania as that will be completely different game.
The fact that this is an away match is also irrelevant. It should be seen as practice for facing teams with top quality.
Numbers in midfield are important at international level so 4-2-3-1 is a popular choice because it allows teams to press without becoming exposed.
The two banks of midfielders can close holes more easily than when using a 4-3-3, which can leave you open and make for a hard 90 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham have used it to great effect, and that means that England players from their teams, such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier and Adam Lallana, are very familiar with how to operate in this system.
It is also an approach that can bring out the best of England’s players, particularly in the front four, which is the key to the system.
Performance more important than result
We have good footballers but they aren’t necessarily as gifted as the likes of Lionel Messi or Philippe Coutinho.
Instead, Kane, Alli, Lallana and Raheem Sterling – who would be my front four – are great at pressing, nicking the ball, and then counter-attacking at pace.
Kane may be injured but Jamie Vardy or Marcus Rashford are ideal for leading the press, which is always dictated by the striker.
A draw would be a good result against the world champions and a win would be fantastic, but we’ve had good results in Germany before. Tonight, the performance is the most important thing.
I’d like to see England press the ball; make it difficult for Germany to retain possession; and then use the ball intelligently, which means creating little holes, moving it quickly in the final third of the pitch and being effective in tight areas.
England let a two-goal lead slip against Spain because they found it difficult to sustain the high-intensity style for the full 90 minutes.
Can England replicate that performance but also see out the last 10-15 minutes? That’s why I’m hoping for on Wednesday evening in Dortmund.