Gareth Southgate’s side sealed qualification for UEFA Euro 2020 in typical England fashion. A comfortable 7-0 win over Montenegro highlighted England’s strength’s before they cruised to a 4-0 victory over Kosovo on Sunday, but continuing weaknesses were still revealed ahead of UEFA Euro 2020. Here is where England need to improve come next summer’s tournament.
Analysing England’s Weaknesses Ahead of UEFA Euro 2020
Gareth Southgate’s change in formation following the 2018 World Cup has caused somewhat of a deterioration in the form of England’s centre-back. Arguably, it is England’s biggest weakness ahead of Euro 2020.
Of course, the pressure is certainly on Harry Maguire following his record-breaking move to Manchester United. However, the 26-year-old was still one of England’s bright sparks in Russia, yet looks uncomfortable in the 4-3-3 system.
Since the World Cup, the now-Manchester United centre-back has started in no fewer than five different combinations in defence for England. He has featured most alongside Michael Keane, although the Everton centre-back looks to have lost his place in Gareth Southgate’s side.
In the 15 games since their heartbreak in Russia, England have tried seven combinations at the heart of defence. Perhaps, there lies the problem; there is little consistency. The best international sides have settled pairings at the back, such as Raphael Varane and Clement Lenglet for France or Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld for Belgium.
Gareth Southgate needs to decide who is favoured defensive pairing will be for next summer and set it in stone for the future.
Decide on the Attacking Midfield Role
This is another of Gareth Southgate’s inconsistencies overshadowed by England’s relatively easy group.
England, at times, lack a creative thinker in midfield; somebody who can carry the ball forward, play direct passes and look positive in attack. The Three Lions certainly possessed those qualities in Russia, but appear to have gone backwards.
At times, the England manager’s starting three in midfield appears too conservative. Jordan Henderson sits at the base, while another defensive-minded player plays alongside the ‘designated’ midfielder.
However, the convincing wins over Montenegro and Kosovo showed how two attacking midfielders put opposition teams under immense pressure. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mason Mount both put in strong performances at Wembley, while Harry Winks also staked his claim to start at Euro 2020 with the opening goal in Pristina. Perhaps Gareth Southgate should look to alter his approach.
Reverting Back to ‘Tried and Trusted’ Means England Have Lost Their Identity
While this is not necessarily a weakness, it is certainly a cause for thought.
What was perhaps most special about England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup was that it was a team that clicked under an innovative formation.
Gareth Southgate’s 3-1-4-2/3-3-2-2 was viewed as a stroke of tactical genius by some. It was what got the best out of his players.
Starting at the back, John Stones and Harry Maguire – traditionally ball-playing centre-halves – were allowed to carry the ball up-field. Kyle Walker was converted into a makeshift central defender, utilising his pace and calmness on the ball. Kieran Trippier was allowed further forward, handing Gareth Southgate more attacking threats to his arsenal.
However, it was in midfield were England shone. Jordan Henderson was the defensive midfielder, covering for Harry Maguire when he went forward and sweeping up the loose balls. But it was Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard who stole the show. Both were allowed to utilise their attacking traits; more interestingly though, they pressed high, putting pressure on opposition defenders.
The unique formation and tactics were what gave England an identity, and what allowed Gareth Southgate to be revered by his colleagues. Reverting back to a traditional 4-3-3 seems to be a case of going back to ‘tried and tested’. Of course, the reason is understandable: trying to fit both Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling into a 3-1-4-2 would prove a tough ask.
Despite England’s Weakness, They Should Be Feared at Euro 2020
Overall, England are a strong side. In attack, you would struggle to find a better front three than Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho in international football.
On their day, they can compete with any side on the planet. As a result, despite their weaknesses, England should still be feared at Euro 2020.