By Zinny Boswell
Last Updated: 13/10/18 11:25am
Gareth Southgate believes England are experienced enough to compete against the top teams with a back four, which will allow them to boost their attacking options.
England played three centre-backs throughout the World Cup in Russia as Southgate’s inexperienced side endeavoured to reach their first semi-final at the tournament in 28 years.
However, in Friday’s 0-0 draw against Croatia, the side who beat them on penalties to reach the World Cup final just three months before, Southgate fielded a conventional back four.
“In the last few matches, we have been pinned back in different ways,” Southgate said.
“With three opponents pinning our five back – against Spain that was the two wingers and centre-forward, against Switzerland that was the wing-backs – so we were then getting outnumbered without the ball.
“We’d also had some problems building up against the pressure, so tonight I was really pleased that we did both things very well.
“We were able to get more pressure higher up the pitch, we were able to get tighter to their midfielder. I thought our three midfield players did an excellent job.
“We used the ball well against a very good team, so very pleased with it. The players adapted quickly and well.
“The three at the back, the 3-5-2, allowed some players to bed into international football. People like (Harry) Maguire.
“Going into the World Cup, I felt we needed a little bit more protection for the defence and the opportunity to get two forwards in the game.
“Now, I think some of those players are a bit more established. They look very comfortable as a back four.
“So, I think that gives us good opportunities because some of the players that we’ve got coming through – we’ve got some very strong No 8s and wingers coming through the system – so it’s good that we have got the opportunity to play