Three formations Gareth Southgate should use with England

Against Germany, we saw the Gareth Southgate experiment with a robust 3-5-2. This bold tactical choice proved to pay a dividend as the Three Lions held the World Cup winners to a respectable 1-1 draw. It’s a step in the right direction, as the England team seem to be showing signs of tactical flexibility nine months ahead of the World Cup. If Southgate’s men are to have any chance of competing with football’s elites, they must find that perfect tactical system months in advance.

At the of the day, formations are just provisional positions on the pitch. Player’s movement ultimately decides where they stay on the pitch, but the formation still guides that movement.

Here are 3 formations Gareth Southgate should attempt to use.



Football may have seemingly evolved from the days of the 4-4-2, but that doesn’t mean its effectiveness has reduced. The transition to the 4-2-3-1, introduced the art of the #10, thus allowing teams to play with only one striker. With that concept, the 4-4-2 died and it was viewed as an outdated philosophy, however, Gareth Southgate has the correct tools to revive it.

The 4-4-2 gives you a compact midfield, width and two strikers to occupy the opposition’s defence. It’s a perfectly balanced formation that facilitates several styles of play; including counter attacking and possession-based football. However, the formation does rely on the two central midfielders finely balancing between attacking and defending. It also requires the two midfielders to stick to their defensive duties.

Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson are England’s two most intelligent CMs and they’d constantly adjust their positioning accordingly depending on the situation. On the flanks, hard-working wingers like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilfred Zaha would maintain England’s width whilst defending in numbers too. In front of them, a front two of Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy are the perfect pacey duo that could stretch a defence on their own. At the back, a defensive four of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Phil Jones and Danny Rose would maintain balance across the system.



The 3-4-3 system may offer a compact 3-man defence, but it is suspect to counter attacks in the wide areas. Its solidity relies on the positioning of one of the midfielders, to ensure he drops back into an FB position once defending a counter. Some may see the 3-4-3 as a system that has wing-backs, but it is increasingly offensive because the two outer midfielders act as wingers, not wing-backs, they are not instructed to defend.

The 3-4-3 gives teams the options to stretch the pitch, whilst overloading opposition defence’s in the middle. The two outer wingers stay wide, while the front three move freely in the final third. This can at times offer 5v4 situations in favour of the attacking team. This formation is risky, but if coached efficiently, England could perfect an expansive style of play at the World Cup.

This formation relies on timing, pace and relentless attacking. It would require England to form wave after wave of attack, whilst retaining possession and forcing the opposing to stay camped in front of their penalty box. A fluid front three of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, gives England penetrative movement up front. Two wide wingers in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andros Townsend gives England two players who will run to the by-line and deliver multiple crosses.

A MF pivot of Wilshere and Dier gives England a fine balance in attacking & defensive options. Whilst, a back three of Chris Smalling, John Stones and Phil Jones, allows England to rest assured that they have three good 1v1 defenders who could handle themselves defending a counter. Also, the inclusion of John Stones gives Southgate the assurance that he has a defender who can recycle possession, whilst also starting attacks as he steps up into midfield.



This is the most attacking of all the formations on this page. The 4-2-4 is rarely used by any teams as it is deemed tactical suicide in modern football, but if deployed correctly, it can yield devastating results. An obvious advantage of the 4-2-4 is its numerical advantage in attack, it makes opposing full-backs wary of going forward. Because if they do, they leave acres of space behind to be exploited, whilst also leaving their CBs at risk of entering 4v2 situations. So, before a ball is even kicked, the 4-2-4 gives the attacking team a psychological advantage.

Imagine an England front four of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, that’s footballing intelligence and pace all rolled into one. These four individually can damage defences, imagine what they can do as a unit. Behind them, they would need two competently defensive midfielders who could also have the tactical nous to cover spaces on the counter. A CM pivot of Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier would give the Three Lions a safety net in the middle.

About the Author Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with a soft spot for Pascal Cygan.

Leave a Comment: