Having seen England's comfortable victory versus Bulgaria recently whilst deploying the 4-2-3-1 formation, expectations were naturally high for the visit of Wales a few days later. Although victory was achieved with a single Ashley Young strike, discenting voices pointed towards the quality of the performance with very little recognition of the system not being suited to a home game against mediocre opposition (sorry Wales fans).
As a fan of football, I regularly listen to 'The Sunday Supplement', 'Football weekly', and 'The Game' via my ipod. To my dismay not one of these mentioned the fact that the system may have been the reason behind the performance. One hack on 'TSS' was even suggesting that the quality of performance was due to games being played in the south (do these guys actually get paid to talk football?).
The 4-2-3-1 works excellently away from home as it makes excellent use of the pace of the aforementioned Young, as well as the likes of Bent and Walcott, combined with the guile of Rooney. The fundamental reason behind its success away from home compared to Wembley is that the opposition's starting position is far higher up the pitch.
At Wembley the back four take up a similar position 30 yards from their own goal with the two holding midfielders sat just inside their own half. An unambitious opposition such as Wales will happily fall back inside their own half and effectively say "break us down then". When the likes of Young and Rooney drop deep to see the ball and instigate attacks, their forward options are severly limited as so many opposing players are between them and the opponents goal.
Just because the system is effective away from home, is Fabio Capello naive enough to believe that two holding players are necessary at home to opposition of this calibre. Why not just have one in there and ask our back four to push up to the halfway line and play all of our football in the oppositions half.
At the time of writing England lead Montenegro 2-1 away from home in what looks like another quality performance away from home based on England's ability to exploit the home side's attacking instincts, they can consider themselves unlucky to have conceded.
If 4-2-3-1 is the call away from home but does not work on home soil, what is England's best option on neutral ground in a major tournament?