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For a manager whose team had just won their opening World Cup game, Phil Neville looked distinctly disgruntled. In a telling cameo, he gathered England’s players in a post-match huddle, appearing distinctly stern, almost scary, as he deconstructed a disappointing second-half performance in ruthlessly admonitory fashion.

No matter that the Lionesses had beaten Scotland 2-1 in Nice, leaving them top of Group D as they prepare for Friday night’s game against Argentina in Le Havre – they had strayed from their manager’s pass‑and-move mantra.

Philosophy is a loaded word in football. Some coaches loathe it and others love it but it matters deeply to Neville, who has been on a mission to transform England from calculating counterattacking pragmatists to fluent, ball‑monopolising, highly principled, attacking stylists since taking the job.

Considering England reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup and European Championship before his installation, ripping up a successful blueprint and attempting to start again represents a brave move but Neville does not really do half measures.

“We have a good relationship with Phil,” says the Chelsea playmaker Fran Kirby. “We know the expectations he has and that, if we don’t provide what he wants, we’ll get told. We need to make sure we fix it up against Argentina.”

Neville’s problem is that, for many of his squad, England’s old style remains the default mode they resort to when they become tired or lose control of games, as happened amid the humidity in Nice on Sunday night.

Given this is the first major tournament the Lionesses have faced since the English domestic game’s switch to a winter season, the philosophical transition could arguably become an increasingly contentious issue if the team advance deeper into the tournament.

“The style of play is different now,” says Kirby. “Before it was long-ball orientated. It was: ‘Make sure you’re fitter than everyone else when you run after the ball.’ Now we use our fitness in other ways.

“Under Mark [Sampson, Neville’s predecessor] we had this thing: ‘Be the fittest team.’ Now we’re more conscious of how we’re playing. The volume of training is more touches on the ball, more possession. It’s more technical work. That’s probably the biggest difference.”