Thursday saw England undergo what could turn out to be a crucial evolution in their journey at Euro 2016.
Until half time England’s front line trio of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana had again flattered to deceive, putting England in serious dangerous of acquiring only one point in their first two games.
Dele Alli seemed to be undergoing his own evolution from a no 10 into a more conventional midfield role. This had placed further emphasis on the importance of the front three to finish England’s best chances of scoring from open play in the box.
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Thankfully Roy Hodgson made a decisive double intervention at the break, firstly in the form of Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge.
Not only did both players play major roles in the two goals England scored, they brought a different cutting edge to England’s previously comparatively toothless forward line.
With Vardy stretching in behind at what seemed like every attack, even with Wales mostly stationed in their own box, space suddenly opened up for Sturridge, arguably the most talented player England possess.
Suddenly, Sturridge was hitting dangerous shots on goal in and around the box, something the previous trio were largely unable to do. In 11 minutes Vardy had done what Kane, Lallana and Sterling had failed to do all tournament - be clinical and scored with his first chance.
England’s most creative midfield players Alli and Rooney found their influence was growing as the game wore on with the impact of the double substitution. Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, who had now become the wingers due to England’s dominance, were rampant in finding space in wide areas and contributing to attacks.
England showed they can play a more controlled possession-based game, particularly in the final third, and chances were flowing as a result.
The role of Eric Dier alongside all the action higher up the pitch should also be particularly commended.
He provided a perfect balance to the attack by sitting deeper in midfield, crucially in front of the centre backs, not alongside them, and snuffing out any chance of a Wales counter attack. In fact, the only criticism of Dier in the second half could be the occasional inaccurate long-range pass. Keen observers of Tottenham this season will know this is an exception rather than the rule.
His positional tweak when England were in possession enabled Rooney, Rose and Walker to not be caught out higher up the pitch when the ball was turned over, particularly against Russia this had been a glaring defensive weakness.
And then the second decisive intervention happened in the 73rd minute.
A historic moment in England’s history took place, and perhaps one for the immediate future of England’s tournament prospects too.
Marcus Rashford, aged 18, became the youngest English player in history at the European Championships.
Rashford took up a position to the left of the centrally focused Vardy and even there looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. He was reminiscent of a certain Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004, whose record he had just beaten fittingly, and Michael Owen at the World Cup in France 1998.
England’s attack started to look complete with Sturridge and now Rashford, playing off Vardy. And with Alli and Rooney behind, England had a genuinely frightening five for the Welsh defence to deal with in central areas. With Rose and Walker stretching the Welsh defence from wide areas, a total siege was laid throughout the final third.
Wales’ willingness to protect a point and potentially nick a late winner on the counter-attack may have aided England’s attacking cause. With these tactical circumstances though, this is exactly how the Three Lions should set up.
They need to control the tempo of the game by going forward, utilising possession and moving the ball around quickly. The wasteful long balls of the Russia game should become a distant memory.
The addition of Rashford, Vardy and Sturridge’s quality, meant England were much more dangerous in the final third and crucially, this time, took their chances.
The elusive tactical balance going forward in possession England have needed, may just have emerged at the right time to propel them deeper into the championships.
However, if England are drawn against one of the favourites such as France, Spain or Germany, a more restrained tactical set up will need to be implemented behind the ‘RVS’ front line on and off the ball.
When in possession Dier should continue to occupy the defensive midfield area and the full backs should rotate going forward, particularly if Alli and Rooney are both higher up the pitch.
If both full backs go forward then Alli and Rooney should look to rotate between retreating to a deeper defensive central position nearer to Dier, and being involved higher up around the final third to support the ‘RVS’ front line.
By enacting these, England might strike a golden balance behind the new-look ‘RVS’ front three, who could well devastate defences during this tournament.
Off the ball, Rashford, Vardy and Sturridge can engage pressing high up the field, centrally and/or wide on the opposition’s ball playing defences.
Alli and Rooney would have to play much deeper with Dier to be the second phase of defence in what could turn out to be a 4-3-2-1. Rose and Walker would also have to sit deeper in a back four.
However crucially both in attack and defence England can still incorporate the ‘RVS’ in the final third.
Thursday's events ensured England added three vital ingredients to their attack: Rashford, Vardy and Sturridge; or what might come to be known at Euro 2016 as the English ‘RVS’.
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