Sven-Goran Eriksson found an ally in Frank Arnesen on Thursday, as the Tottenham sporting director backed the England coach’s approach to international friendly games.
There was criticism of Eriksson’s use of Andrew Johnson during last week’s Villa Park match against Holland, with the Crystal Palace striker deployed on the right wing after his introduction as a substitute.
But Arnesen feels that Eriksson will have learned more from a match in which he switched his tactics to 4-3-3 and introduced the likes of Johnson and Stewart Downing to international football than had he retained the 4-4-2 formation and used already familiar names.
“I thought it was very interesting to see England play a 4-3-3 formation and I think it was right for Sven-Goran Eriksson to try this out in a friendly match like this,” Arnesen reveals in Tottenham’s programme for Sunday’s FA Cup game against Nottingham Forest.
“His priority was to try the 4-3-3 system and not just to watch the individual players, so it was totally understandable he did this in a friendly.
“He didn’t need to play 4-4-2 against Holland in preparation for the next World Cup qualifiers, because his players know that system inside out.”
With Shaun Wright-Phillips out of sorts, and neither Wayne Rooney nor Michael Owen hitting top form, the experiment was judged by most observers to have failed.
But not according to Arnesen, who added: “It gave him the possibilities to watch other players like Downing and Johnson.
“It’s not only about seeing them playing in the match itself, but it’s also about how they fit in with the rest of the squad, how they train, how they interact and how they are mentally, socially and of course technically.
“Sven will have learnt a lot more about these new players than people appreciate.”