Roy Hodgson caught many football watchers off guard when setting England up in a 4-3-3/diamond formation prior to the undoubtedly pleasing 2-0 win in Switzerland, although news.bwin.com/en/ did allude to the strategy’s potential benefits in Basel (Click here).
With Jordan Henderson not nearly as injured as everyone thought, Hodgson boldly stuck with the strategy tested for 20 minutes after Wayne Rooney scored the only goal against Norway, with winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sacrificed for midfielder Fabian Delph.
This facilitated a three-man forward line of Rooney, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck. The new Arsenal man grabbed the match-winning brace, but the goals could have come from any of the lightening-fast, clearly in-form trio.
It may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to state that Delph should keep his place for the Euro 2016 home qualifier against San Marino on the strength of this development alone; the Guardian called the Aston Villa man a ‘horse for a course’ in their review of the match, which implies he may not be needed next time.
However, even at the potential expense of Daniel Sturridge, Delph deserves to face FIFA’s 208th-ranked nation (his selection is currently priced at 11/5 with bwin.com) on the strength of his individual performance.
The 24-year-old completed 97 per cent of his passes, the highest rate of any player on the pitch who played 90 minutes, although it should be put into context that midfield partner Jack Wilshire attempted a full 10 per cent more balls, while Switzerland’s Gokhan Inler tried around 40 per cent more.*
Delph came to life inside the Swiss half on a number of occasions and layed on as many key passes as Sterling, although neither were converted, and could easily have won a penalty when clattered into by still-clumsy Johan Djourou.
While the Villan’s attacking performance was bright, it’s clear that Delph is no anchorman; he made two tackles to his midfield partners’ one each, but Henderson and Wilshire combined for four interceptions to the debutant’s none, while a first-half booking for mistimed challenges showed some worrying nerves.
Nevertheless, with practically no alternative midfielders to play in a 4-3-3, Hodgson should stick with Delph precisely because he enables a system that made a World Cup last-16 team look ordinary at home.
*stats courtesy of WhoScored.com