There were distinctive characteristics to England’s attacking approach on Sunday versus Turkey. They were quick to adopt positions in advanced areas, trying to play between the lines of the Turk’s midfield and defence.
Jamie Vardy was encouraged to make his trademark runs beyond the backline and Harry Kane provided himself as both an option to play off or to receive balls on the shoulder of the last man. Raheem Sterling took on players and Dele Alli stretched the defence with his surging runs upfield.
These aren’t strange tactical developments, it’s a natural expression of their game or instructions from their club managers that they’ve diligently followed. Roy Hodgson had them playing in a self-expressive vertical game that allowed them to break beyond the lines quickly.
For the most part, it worked. Whether this was an experimental set up form the England manager remains to be seen but should be one that he considers.
Many of the successful international teams in recent memory have had a visibly outlined style of play. Think of the Spain and Germany World Cup winning teams. Both of them had a core of players from teams that played in a similar way to the national teams.
Guardiola’s Barcelona team heavily influenced Vicente del Bosque’s world champions. Piqué, Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta were imperative to the success of both because their styles were transferable between the club and international scenes.
Roy Hodgson has the chance to do something similar and the evidence of Sunday’s game suggests this could be a good way to go. There are obvious problems that need to ironed out but those might come more naturally if the players can play a game that suits them.
The most in form and important attacking options that England have are either Spurs or Leicester players. Both teams played narrow and quick transition games this season, which the Three Lions imitated to some success against Turkey.
That may mean Hodgson having to switch to a 4-4-2 to accommodate Vardy and Kane together. The Leicester talisman playing off the left is an easy solution for the manager but it leaves him in a poor position to spring attacks from deeper areas, when he drops to slot into Roy’s structured set up off the ball.
The problems England had were primarily with the defence and the defenders. As individuals, players like Cahill, Stones and Walker are prone to ill-judgement and Dier by himself cannot mop up in front of them. And there were plenty of occasions when the Spurs youngster was left in vulnerable positions with the ball.
Beyond him, Wilshere and Alli were keen to occupy positions further up the pitch, isolating Dier. Against a more vigilant opposition, he’d be pressed effectively and jeopardise the entire operation.
There are clear growing pains switching into something that isn’t familiar to them as a team but Hodgson has the personnel to ease that. England have screamed for an identifiable style of play and these may be the first meaningful steps towards that.