Before the final was played, I outlined why Southgate should not opt for a 3 at the back system against Italy due to how well the Italians match-up with that system. Within the game, England were nullified as a result of that tactical error, and my analysis was vindicated.
Southgate opting for a 3 at the back would be an error of catastrophic proportions. Italy’s 4-3-3 matches up with 3 at the back systems when pressing which is why the Italians have had big success against 3 at the back teams. They match up 1 to 1 within a high & aggressive press.
When the opposition build out from the back Italy’s press is incredibly compact and difficult to bypass because everyone is pushed up onto their man within the man-marking style. The aggression of the fullbacks on the wingbacks & the wingers on the outside CB’s is key to success.
Again, when play is progressed higher, they revert to their typical winger on wingback/fullback type press which when used in tandem with the above approach is the best possible method of pressing (it’s not overly gung-ho and the team are comfortable dropping deep when needed).
England will struggle to play out from the back and gain a foothold in the game if they play with a 3 at the back system as a result of the Italian’s phenomenal press but also because England’s pressing isn’t good in the 3-4-3 (vs 4 at the back teams, which is what Italy are).
England’s wingbacks are not aggressive enough when dealing with wingbacks who start higher than the typical fullback so they certainly won’t be capable of dealing with a standard fullback.
So, England’s press would be poor AND they’d play into Italy’s press within their build-up.
If Southgate does opt for a back 3 Italy will dominate the ball because they’ll have a top press so will create turnovers when England build play and have a build-up which exploits England’s lacklustre 3 at the back press. As such, Italy become favourites to win in this scenario!
However, in saying that, even if Southgate does opt for a back 3, England still have elite players everywhere and are better man for man than Italy so are capable of winning because of that, but it would be a woeful tactical approach from Southgate. He cannot make that mistake!
Then, at this point information came out that Southgate would in fact play a back 3… below is my continued analysis.
WOW, it seems like Southgate WILL play with a back 3. This is a big error on his part for the reasons outlined above. However, considering this is the case, it calls for me to conclude this thread in finer detail in relation to the dynamics of the game.
So, because Southgate is playing a back 3 this means that Italy will be the team who control most of the ball (assuming England’s pressing issues haven’t been rectified). As we’ve established earlier, they’ll exploit England’s build-up and play out of ENG’s press with success for
the most part – the key part of that sentence is ‘for the most part’. Italy will exploit England’s lacklustre press in the 3-4-3 but won’t be entirely error prone because the likes of Bonucci, Donnarumma and Chiellini are capable of making errors under pressure.
The key for that trio is to be quicker in possession than they were against Spain and to get the ball out to the fullbacks (where England’s press is typically weak due to the lack of pressure applied by the wingbacks). Then Lorenzo and Emerson can combine with the elite technical midfielders before either A) exploiting England quickly after playing through their press like Insigne did against Belgium or B) forcing them back into a lower block (more likely). They’ll be successful in doing this more often than not but the lack of elite technical quality in Italy’s backline will see England still get some joy in terms of pressing & winning the ball back despite their structural issues which enables them to A) attack quickly or B) retain possession & mount settled attacks.
At an even gamestate, the game will be 55/45 possession in Italy’s favour despite them having the structural advantages when pressing England and when playing out from the back as a result of the non-elite technical level of the backline. Again, although England are more likely to be error prone in the build-up than to reliably play out, they’ll be able to play out on occasion because they do have 7 players in the build-up along with top technical quality.
So, on paper, from a tactical perspective, Italy are far superior due to their top quality pressing & ability to play out from the back thanks to England’s poor press
However, football isn’t played on paper, so factors such as the fans being involved, Italy making individual technical errors in the build-up, and England’s superior individual quality will make the game tight despite Italy being far superior tactically.
So, considering England aren’t playing the 4-2-3-1 which matches up much better with the Italians’ style, this makes the game very even, and almost 50/50. However, as mentioned earlier in the thread, I’d give Italy the slight edge because their tactical advantages are massive.