Player power persuades Eriksson to ditch trusted system against Wales

The three midfielders attended a private meeting that was expressly called by Eriksson before dinner at England's hotel in Hertfordshire on Tuesday. There is no suggestion that the three players themselves demanded to see the manager but it was they who suggested that, in the absence of Michael Owen for Saturday's World Cup qualifier, they should play with five in midfield behind Wayne Rooney.

The three at the meeting would provide the core of the midfield with Joe Cole on the left and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right operating as two wingers supporting Rooney as they do for Didier Drogba or Hernan Crespo with Chelsea. The England manager has consulted his players before on major tactical changes and there was a feeling among senior players that major adjustments had to be made in the wake of the demoralising 4-1 friendly defeat away to Denmark last month.

The players are understood to have told Eriksson that the new formation would play to the strengths of Rooney and that any disadvantages in fielding only one out-and-out striker would be balanced by the goalscoring abilities of all five midfielders. All of them could be described as attacking players and it also gives Eriksson the chance to play Wright-Phillips on the right without contemplating dropping his captain, Beckham.

The formation was given a test run in training yesterday at Arsenal's complex in London Colney for 20 minutes. It would have signalled bad news for Jermain Defoe, who had originally hoped to play alongside Rooney in the absence of Owen, but the Tottenham Hotspur striker's poor performance against Denmark is understood to have contributed to the new formation.

Defoe has not inspired total confidence in some of his team-mates following the débâcle in Copenhagen and he will be the player who loses out should Eriksson decide to stick to the 4-5-1 formation at the Millennium Stadium. Owen will return for the second World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast on 7 September and the side would then be likely to revert to a 4-4-2 formation.

The question of whether Eriksson, who will have contemplated changes to the formation before this week, is succumbing to the wishes of his players or plotting his own course is a particularly sensitive issue with the manager and, especially, with his captain, Beckham. Eriksson has come under intense recent pressure, even by his standards, in his professional and private life and will wish to be seen as a strong coach reacting to a bad defeat.

He has experimented, somewhat disastrously, with a similar kind of formation in a friendly against the Netherlands in February when he started with Wright-Phillips on the right, Rooney on the left and Owen as the lone striker. The goalless draw at Villa Park saw England make little tactical progress and will be remembered for Andy Johnson's forlorn debut when he came on in an unfamiliar right-wing position.

The England coach has shown his squad the video of the defeat against Denmark which Rooney described yesterday as "horrible". " I thought in the first half I couldn't get hold of the ball and was getting very frustrated," Rooney said. "And in the second half, it was just something I want to forget all about. It was a bad performance by the team. It was a horrible experience to have to sit through that [video]. I hope it never has to happen again. It was only a couple of weeks ago which makes it more important that we go out on Saturday and put in the sort of performance we need."

The shifting formations of England's midfield have been caused by two major factors among the players at Eriksson's disposal. Not only is he without a naturally left-sided player but there is no traditional holding midfielder to carry out the defensive duties in front of the back four.

Chelsea, English football's most successful exponents of the 4-5-1 system, have perhaps the best defensive midfielder in the business in Claude Makelele - allowing Lampard to make his trademark attacking runs. The concern for Eriksson in his own 4-5-1 formation, should he decide to play it, is that none of the three players who attended that meeting on Tuesday are naturally defensive operators.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power