The same 3-5-2 featured a central midfield that, as when they had possession, was capable of adapting to the demands of what was unfolding. Two midfielders formed the first line to screen the opposing double pivots England encountered; when opponents built around them and progressed the ball through midfield, Young and Trippier recovered into defence, contributing to the adoption of a lower block. With one attacking central midfielder then forced to press wide, increased spaces existed in front of central defence, ensuring that if the other attacking midfielder didn’t tuck in, Southgate’s 3-5-2 experienced similar defensive imbalances to those seen with his 4-3-3.
His 3-4-3 offers the flexibility of converting into a 5-4-1 in which the two 10s selected alongside their lone striker offer improved defensive cover, though when there is only one striker potentially attempting to cover two defensive midfielders. England’s two defensive midfielders are positioned to both support a central advance and to cover in front of their back three. The use of a front three has also ensured a more effective high press because of their improved cover of the centre of the pitch and inside channels, and the further, delayed support provided by their wing-backs.
Similar movements exist in both the 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 – the greatest difference involves the removal of the 10 from the 4-2-3-1, and therefore the additional central defender, whose presence encourages the wing-backs in the 3-4-3 to advance at an earlier stage, and by extension the two 10s to move closer to the striker to support him. There ultimately exists protection of the central spaces when opponents build possession in deeper areas, and cover against the first and second phases of direct play aimed over the press led by England’s front three.