Football: Vox Pop: Is it time for Hoddle and England to revert to a flat back four?

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The Independent Online
JOHN MOTSON

Television commentator

It seems to me that English players are better suited to playing a 4-4-2 because most of them play that way week-in-week-out. My problem with 5-3-2 is that I'm never quite sure when the players are supposed to be wing-backs and pushing forward and when they are meant to be defending. They just don't look comfortable. But if Glenn Hoddle thinks that wing-backs is the right strategy for international football and he's trying to educate them to play in that way, then he's the best judge of that.

TERRY BUTCHER

Ex-England captain

I would play 4-4-2 because the players are comfortable with it, but I've always thought that three at the back would work for England. When we got to the semi-final of the World Cup in Italy, we used three as well as four and it is important for international teams to be flexible - like the Luxembourg game when Rio Ferdinand moved to right-back. But I think it would be a mistake for Glenn to make a radical about-turn now. It would be seen as a sign of weakness if he suddenly changed.

DAVID PLEAT

Spurs' director of football

The whole debate about formations is absolute rubbish. There's no advantage to any system unless it relates to the strengths of the players at your disposal. I don't think England have enough left-sided players of international quality to play 5-3-2. But the crux is maximising the potential of the players you have. If you are a coach who says that I'm going to play a certain way, then that's fine, but you have to find the players to suit that system. If you haven't got them then you are cutting your throat.

GEORGE COHEN

1966 World Cup winner

I would always go with four for security. For England now, the wing-backs are usually too far forward and leaving all that space behind them open to attack. That allows the opposition to run on to the ball rather than beating a defender, making their movements fluid and quick. That is where good sides kill us - even Luxembourg gave us trouble. But the real problem is that we don't have enough good players coming through because we invest so little in youth and too much on mediocre foreign players.

TREVOR BROOKING

Ex-England international

At present you would have to go with a 4-4-2 because most of the Premiership teams seem to be playing that way. But if Glenn wants to play three at the back, he needs a libero to bring the ball out of defence and that will need a long-term transition. My concern for England though is more in the attacking area now. Our goals-for tally in big matches is not good, and 4-4-2 could help by giving the side more width, perhaps encouraging the wide players to run with the ball and take people on more.

GERARD HOULLIER

Liverpool's joint-manager

I believe in logic. If you play a system then you have to stick to it and your choice will depend on the players you have. But at international level, your players should be tactically aware. They must be flexible, according to the way the opposition are playing - what's the point of having four at the back against a side playing with one striker. I feel there is no right way. If it's a system that suits my players, they like to play it, and I enjoy the way they play myself, then that's the best way.

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