England’s style of play serves Holland’s most important card

As England prepare for semi-final Euro 2024 Against the Netherlands, manager Gareth Southgate faces several key decisions that could determine the outcome of this crucial match.

England have won just one of their last nine meetings with the Netherlands in all competitions (D4 L4), winning a 1-0 friendly in Amsterdam in March 2018.

But at major tournament level, this is the fourth meeting between England and Holland, the Oranje winning 3-1 at Euro 1988 (thanks to a Marco van Basten hat-trick), followed by a goalless draw at the 1990 World Cup, and England winning 4-1 at Euro 1996.

England national team.. Three in defence or four?

A coach must The Three LionsGareth Southgate must decide whether to stick with the back three that worked so well in his side’s quarter-final win over Switzerland, or revert to the 4-2-3-1 that his side struggled with during the group stages.

The switch to a back three against Switzerland created a new balance for the team, with Bukayo Saka excelling as a right-winger, and Southgate must now decide whether to stick with that formation or revert to a back four.

England's participation in Euro 2024

Southgate opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation due to defender Marc Guehi’s suspension against Switzerland, but the Crystal Palace defender will return and the decision will be up to the Three Lions manager.

How will Southgate deal with the Netherlands’ most dangerous front?

England’s left-sided problem intersects with one of the most striking aspects of the Dutch game, the way Denzel Dumfries advances from right-back to create attacking intensity.

Having three defenders at the back for England, and not having a clear left-back, could cause another problem, in the danger of full-back Dumfries.

Dumfries is the most important trump card on the flank in the 1988 European champions’ modus operandi, especially since Koeman decided to play Nathan Ake on the other side of the back four as a half-back/half-back, with very limited license to participate offensively, but it is the Inter full-back who always attacks from the other flank.

Netherlands right back Denzel Dumfries’ cross against Türkiye that led to the second goal

Off the ball, Koeman’s team play with four at the back, but in possession, Dumfries pushes up and the rest of the defence moves into a three-man defence, with Ake remaining at the back, meaning the team’s shape turns into a 3-2-4-1.

While Dumfries was up on the right, Cody Gakpo was up on the other side, or rather on the other post. It was remarkable how often the two reached the attacking third, and the second goal against Turkey in Image above Explains the situation, even if it was Mert Muldor who put the ball into his own net.

It should be noted that with Memphis Depay (17 shots, 10 chances created) and Cody Gakpo (13 shots, 11 chances created), the Netherlands are the only team to have more than one player with 10+ shots and 10+ chances created at Euro 2024. In fact, Depay or Gakpo have been directly involved in 47 of the Netherlands’ 74 shots at Euro 2024 (63.5%).

Ultimately, Southgate will have a tough choice to make: should he push Luke Shaw into the natural left-back role to limit Dumfries’ runs and change the system to a back four? Or should he stick with a back three?

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