I like the fact Southgate has played with a couple of different systems since the last World Cup – 4-3-3 and 3-4-3. It is good to have a plan A and B to switch between for different types of games or even within games.
People talk about players not being used to certain systems at club level but most of England’s are pretty adaptable. Conor Coady, for example, has had his fair share of games in a Wolverhampton Wanderers back four this season, even if results have not always been great, and sometimes you look at Manchester City and wonder if they even have a formation!
What they do is very planned and well drilled, but players are not tied to a fixed position any more than the team has one rigid shape.
The problem a lot of fans, me included, have is with playing two defensive midfielders. Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips is a brilliant holding midfielder but often pushed forward a bit more rather than sitting alongside Declan Rice. I would rather have just one of them alongside two attacking midfielders in the style of Mason Mount or Phil Foden.
But then there is probably a reason why I am not a manager! I would always be happy winning games 5-4.
I think there are signs, though, of Southgate looking beyond the safe option in some other positions.
Despite all the clean sheets Nick Pope has kept – no goals conceded in his first six games, an England record – I get the impression Southgate will go for Jordan Pickford, as I would.
A comment Southgate made after the Poland game, talking about the John Stones error which cost England a goal, was telling.
“It’s not a good pass to him in the first place,” he said.
I thought that was harsh on Pope, who played it, because Stones had enough time, but it took me back to my time in England squads. I could always tell after the first training session if I was playing.
If I was, the reaction from manager Hope Powell to the crosses I put in would always be positive, even if they were bog standard. In another camp I might do more or less the same thing and it would be about how Rachel Yankey was doing it better, and I would be left out.
Pope is very calm and assured but not as good with his feet, which was highlighted at other times, too, such as when he put his first kick in Albania went out of play. Pickford can make absolutely world-class saves but more mistakes.
Barnsley-born Stones is a much better player than when he was consistently left out by Manchester City, and responded to Wednesday’s mistake by setting up Harry Maguire’s winning goal. Southgate would rather have him playing out from the back than safer options like Tyrone Mings or Michael Keane.
Luke Shaw has been outstanding for Manchester United and he is more defensively-minded than Ben Chilwell, even though his delivery for Harry Kane’s goal in Albania was brilliant. When Southgate picked the Leicester City man at left-back against Poland, that made me think he is the first choice.
Up front, I expect Southgate to go with Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, but they have fierce competition from Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Foden, Mount and Jesse Lingard.
Rashford is really important because whereas Kane and even Sterling like to come to the ball, he can really stretch the game with his pace.
It would be nice, though, to keep opponents guessing about whether they are going to be facing Rashford or Grealish, two very different players. Defenders like to know what they are up against.
Mount has to play, and I would have him in the midfield position he played against Poland. If Jordan Henderson can prove his match-fitness he will be a starter, I just hope we do not fall into the trap of previous tournaments where we have taken a key player unable to produce his best.
Having the luxury of leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold out altogether shows Southgate has options and while I know he will not be as gung-ho as I would be, I hope he picks the positive one more often than not.