By 90Min
October 10, 2017

So England have qualified once again for a major tournament - the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, despite all the plaudits, we seem no closer to being able to achieve the holy grail of conquering the footballing world by trying to win this illustrious competition again. So, what in fact is holding this talented squad of players back?  

As reported in the Sun, England's manager Gareth Southgate has made the bold decision that the national side will play with three at the back which is a little unconventional for most English players, but it will be a system that encourages flexibility, playing from the back and ball retention.

Julian Finney/GettyImages

The Three Lions head coach said: “Three at the back is what we ought to do. We have so little time to work with the players that the more clarity they have under pressure then they will know what to fall back on.

“In qualifying, when we played 4-2-3-1, we wanted wide players who were able to exploit the width and try to break down packed defences.

“In terms of the way we want to play from the back now it is the better option. At the moment we turn the ball over too much. It gives us good stability and easier options for our midfielders."

Naturally, this system is relying on players that feel confident with the ball at their feet and not all England's central defenders are as comfortable as John Stones in possession, so this could be more challenging than just simply adopting a system and getting it to work effectively against quality international sides like Spain, Germany or Brazil. 

Understandably, it is going to take time for the players to adjust, to learn their roles and adapt, especially coming from a more traditional and restricted formation of 4-4-2. 

It is with some relief that Gareth Southgate and his coaching staff have 244 days to work on these issues to get the England team functioning effectively before the tournament officially starts in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on 14 June 2018. However, it is not always easy to get a leopard to change their spots! 

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