The game against Ghana last Tuesday night was supposed to be Capello’s “9-1 Revolution” which turned out to be nothing more than a realisation that Joleon Lescott couldn’t mark the far post, never mind Asamoah Gyan in the area. The City defender was so rigid inside the box it’s ironic he was a part of a 4-3-3 attacking formation concocted by Capello, a man known for his use of a rigid 4-4-2 formation.
Looking at the positives from England’s International’s against Wales and Ghana, the new 4-3-3 formation looks dangerous on the attack and tidy when out of possession and on the defensive. Ashley Young proved to be the real star against Ghana, cutting inside from the left wing a looking a real threat with his long range shots and crosses. Truthfully he should have scored in the first half and thoroughly deserved a goal when it looked like England would struggle to break through the Ghanaian defence. But thankfully Carroll burst through and got his name on the score sheet for the first time in an England shirt.
No one can really argue that the Ghana game wasn’t entertaining, but it seems that even with a new tactical system in place, England still look like a jaded side, still recovering from their World Cup beating.
The new system should in theory offer a new depth to the attack, after all three attackers are better than two. However with Carroll up front the England team got too comfortable hoofing the ball into the box, hoping he’d get a touch. There were some genuine moments of flowing football when Stuart Downing managed to free Andy Carroll space in the box for him to strike it clean for England’s goal.
Milner and Wilshere worked a treat as part of the midfield trio, with Wilshere playing that holding role Capello is so fond of, linking the defence and midfield whilst at the same time joining in on the attack. Man City’s James Milner also managed to play a few decent crosses and passes but didn’t look his best and was slightly anonymous in an unfamiliar role compared to playing for club.
The main strength to Capello’s new 4-3-3 is the flexibility and creativity the system offers, especially compared to the rigid 4-4-2 he was so desperate to use in South Africa. With creative players such as Wilshere, Gerrard and Ashley Young in your squad, you would expect more fluency to an England side. Fabio Capello stifled that creativity during the World Cup but seems to have had a change of minds, much like with the Captaincy and unleashed the flair players England actually has at its disposal. With the potential of a front attacking 3 including the likes Young, Walcott and any one of Rooney, Bent or Defoe, there’s plenty of flair, pace and attacking creativity available to Capello that could not be unleashed whilst constrained in such a disciplined system.
The problem is however, when you don’t have the flair players at your disposal, England will struggle under this new formation and thankfully Capello recognised that last night at changed to his trusty 4-4-2 half way into the second half, keeping the width and attacking pace yet allowing Ashley Young and free roaming role behind Defoe, keeping a flair element to the team. It was at this time when England switched formation however, that Ghana really started to press forward and the 2 in the middle of England’s midfield proved not to be enough when Gyan finally managed to break through the England lines.
For Capello and England the 4-3-3 formation has proved to be a success, with Jack Wilshere looking comfortable and playing as good for England as he does for Arsenal, and the pace of Young and Bent being unleashed in the attack. It would be interesting if Capello continues on playing the formation when it comes to the big games if we qualify for the Euro Cup in 2012, considering how conservative he can be when it comes to the big games. Before the Ghana game, Capello called his new system the “9-1 Revolution,” implying the whole team offers service to the solitary striker. Based on the past two performances, this revolution hasn’t quite succeeded yet.