Gareth Southgate: Four-man defense can strengthen England in attack

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Gareth Southgate believes England's players are now well enough positioned and equipped to employ a four-man defense that can boost their attack threat.

After defeating Slovenia's World Cup qualifier against Slovenia last year, the 48-year-old drew in a three-man defense that did not perform well but provided the platform for a memorable summer.

Southgate ended a series of 16 games in this defensive structure on Friday when England returned to a four-headed backline against the side that prevented their progress in the semi-finals in Russia. There, Croatia's midfield ran amok when they came back 2-1.

But only 93 days later, England managed to clear this danger, as the newly formed defense worked well when the team was in danger in a League of Nations match that would have been an away win and not a 0-0 victory ,

"We have held back in different ways in recent games," Southgate said after a game played behind closed doors.

"With three opponents who held back our five – against Spain, these were the two winger and center forward, against Switzerland were the wing defenders – we were then without the ball in the majority.

"We also had some problems with building up against the pressure so tonight I was really happy that we did both very well.

"We were able to put more pressure on the court as we approached the midfielder and I thought our three midfielders did an excellent job.

"We used the ball well against a very good team, so we are very happy with it and the players have adapted quickly and well.

"The three on the back, the 3-5-2, allowed some players to get into international football. People like (Harry) Maguire.

"When I entered the World Cup, I felt that we needed a little more protection for the defense and the ability to get two in the game forward.

"I think some of these players are more established and look very good like a back four.

"I think that gives us a good chance, because some of the players we came through – we have very strong No.8 and winger coming through the system – so it's good that we have the opportunity to play different systems "

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Jordan Henderson (left) and John Stones are suspended for conflict with Spain (Adam Davy / PA)

Southgate now have to decide whether to stay in Wembley against a Spanish side that ruined Croatia 6-0 after a 2-1 victory at the Nations League last month.

Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli started the match but miss the return leg of Group A4 due to injury while John Stones and Jordan Henderson are suspended in Seville after giving up their bookings on Friday.

"Well, it does not make life easier!" Southgate said with a smile. "But there are possibilities for other players.

"It will be a really good test for us in Sevilla, we will have thousands of fans so we want to do a good job.

"These players do absolutely everything, I could never question their commitment or the intensity of their game.

I thought (Debutant Jadon) Sancho had a really good performance when we finally brought the ball to him, so I think a lot of encouraging things from the game. "

Southgate has some decisions to make, but there seems to be little doubt that captain Harry Kane will start again, even though he went to the bar one night as he ran scoreless into a sixth game.

"I think he had a chance that he was just offside, that he was buried," added the English coach. "Harry will achieve his goals, I have no (doubts)."

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