ROB DRAPER'S TACTICAL BREAKDOWN: England looked solid and structured playing a genuine 4-3-3 and Phil Foden showed enough to suggest he should start against Senegal

England beat Wales 3-0 to seal top spot in Group B at the World Cup on TuesdayMarcus Rashford and Phil Foden found the scoresheet after starting for EnglandGareth Southgate opted to rotate his team in the final group stage clash in QatarEngland's formation is developing into an exciting and progressive 4-3-3 systemSportsmail has analysed the tactics behind England's 3-0 victory against Wales 

England were slow, turgid and tense against Wales but suddenly sprung into life thanks to Marcus Rashford. How and evening which looked like it was going all wrong for Gareth Southgate, turned out not so bad after all.

Rashford’s sublime free-kick opened the floodgates for England. Only two minutes later, Phil Foden was presented with a simple tap-in thanks to Harry Kane’s pinpoint cross, and Rashford struck again in the 68th minute to seal a comfortable victory.

Sportsmail has analysed the tactics behind England’s 3-0 win.

England thumped Wales 3-0 to secure top spot in Group B and qualify for the knockout stage

England thumped Wales 3-0 to secure top spot in Group B and qualify for the knockout stage

 

Phil Foden: not the Messiah but a very useful boy

A goal – which Foden celebrated with kind of glee that perhaps indicated his angst being released – does not necessarily mean that the clamour for Foden was vindicated. But it was a good start.

It’s his only his third England goal, his first since a brace against Iceland in November 2020.

His eagerness to run into those spaces, either will the ball at his feet or, in this instance, to get on the end of a cross is what makes him the player he is. It wasn’t quite like that in the first half.

Phil Foden celebrated jubilantly after he tapped home Harry Kane's cross from close range

Phil Foden celebrated jubilantly after he tapped home Harry Kane’s cross from close range

England were poor, though Foden was one of those seemingly most likely to make a difference. His run at defenders on 38 minutes, which ended with a shot wide, was at least an injection of intent. His corners though were only so-so, occasionally hitting their target.

There was little link up with Jude Bellingham, who was quiet in the first half, more so with Jordan Henderson. It wasn’t the Foden we see with City. But there was enough to suggest he should start against Senegal.

 

Rashford’s on fire: in the second half at least

It didn’t initially look good for Rashford, enjoying his first start of this World Cup in his favoured left sided wide position. Touches went awry, there was no real chemistry with Bellingham or even his club mate Luke Shaw. The miss when Kane played him on 16 minutes was extremely poor.

He went to lift it over Ward and just didn’t get anything like a clean connection, his boot getting under the ball but without the surety of a finisher. So when he stepped up to take the free kick on 49 minutes it seemed a pretty bold choice. To be honest, there will be better free kicks at this World Cup – it wasn’t top corner.

Winger Marcus Rashford sparked England into life with a stunning free-kick in the 50th minute

Winger Marcus Rashford sparked England into life with a stunning free-kick in the 50th minute

But it did have pace, which meant Danny Ward couldn’t get to it, and it got round the wall. And is not only sparked England into life: Rashford was on fire. It was his pressing on Ben Davies, which allowed Kane to set up Foden for the second three minutes later.

By the time Kalvin Phillips played him in for the third on 68 minutes, his pace put him away and when he cut inside his confidence meant you backed him to finish (though Ward should have saved). Still, he earned a big embrace with Gareth Southgate at the end and was all smiles. He is after all joint top scorer at the World Cup. He may have done enough to keep Bukayo Saka out against Senegal.

 

England are playing a genuine 4-3-3

It was Mike Bassett England manager who pronounced ‘England will be playing four, four f****** two!’ Those days are long gone but Southgate doesn’t really play a proper Pep Guardiola style 4-3-3 when he plays a back four.

It is generally 4-2-3-1 – which leaves someone like Mason Mount left to play a No.10 role which is really hard tactically to understand and which Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp rarely play.

This was a proper three in midfield: with what the Europeans would say was a No.4 in Declan Rice, a No.6 in Jordan Henderson (regardless of the actual number he was wearing) and a No.8 in Bellingham. That gives teams a lot more solidity and structure.

Boss Gareth Southgate opted for a 4-3-3 system as Jordan Henderson replaced Mason Mount

Boss Gareth Southgate opted for a 4-3-3 system as Jordan Henderson replaced Mason Mount

The problem with Southgate’s way is the No.10 gets lost in attacking mode and – stop me if you’ve heard this before – the midfield two get outnumbered and out played. 4-2-3-1 is the bastard son of 4-4-2. That happened against the USA. It was never likely to happen against Wales, but it was good to see this as an option.

It only really functioned in the second half. But once the engine room was working, the whole machine started running smoothly.

 

The best of the rest

Gareth Southgate managed the minutes well, able to get Harry Kane (and his worrisome ankle) off. He even managed to use all his right backs, which meant that Luke Shaw got an important rest after 65 minutes – full backs are the new distance runners of a modern team – with Kieran Trippier deputising.

Kyle Walker earned some very important game time as Southgate rotated his 26-man squad

Kyle Walker earned some very important game time as Southgate rotated his 26-man squad

Trent Alexander-Arnold got on, did nothing wrong but will know he is unlikely to feature again. Callum Wilson was the team’s keenest presser of the ball in his 33 minutes, like he knew this was his World Cup right here and he wasn’t leaving without making an impression.

Only Conor Coady, Ben White, Conor Gallagher and James Maddison, who came away injured, lack minutes among the outfield squad, which should ease tensions.

That said, Southgate has a big call to make on Sunday; does Raheem Sterling return? Or is his old favourite about to give way to the new kids.

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