England Defeat Highlights Deficiencies In The Squad
Monday, 12th Jul 2021 12:08
When the England squad was announced I felt that Gareth Southgate had made a grave error of judgement in the balance of the squad and had gone for the flavour's of the month rather than those who could offer experience of just something different, sadly I have been proved right.
England's defeat against Italy was predictable in many ways, not least in the lack of a plan B at crucial times.
Gareth Southgate worked wonders in welding together a side that could keep the ball and ensure that sides did not break us down, the problem being that in protecting the vulnerable areas of his team, he lacked the ability to change things when needed.
Southgate took too many players who were never ever going to get a game in this tournament unless there was a freak run of injuries and thus six players went to this tournament with England and never kicked a ball in anger, three of those players were goalkeepers for God's sake.
The warning sides were there against Scotland when we struggled to break down a side that were worth a fraction of the England team facing them, Southgate's strategy was simple, keep the ball pass it around and try to catch sides on the break using speed merchants, the problem was there was no cunning or guile about the play, opponents found it easy to read and even the Scots could counter it.
The one player who could offer something different was Jack Grealish who made just one starting XI appearance and 4 off the bench, playing just 174 minutes of football.
It was frustrating to see England fail to capitalise on set pieces, time and time again they could not beat the first man from corner kicks for instance.
Of course i'm biased but as I said back in May, James Ward Prowse would not be a starting XI player but he would be a good option off the bench when you are chasing a game and the game against Italy was one we needed to chase, how many goalkeepers or central defenders do you need on the bench.
But perhaps the biggest disappointment against Italy was our lack of a response to their tactical changes just after half time, his double substitution after 54 minutes changed the game, England lost control of the game and you could see the equaliser coming for a good 5 minutes before it went in.
Our reaction was to brink on Saka, nothing against the Arsenal man, but he was not the right player to replace Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson was the right change for Declan Rice in that we had a man in to do a mans job and it steadied the ship.
But ultimately we managed to stem the Italian's domination, but we were just doing the same things going forward, the fact that Jack Grealish did not make an appearance to the 99th minute with just 11 minutes of the second half of injury time left was not only baffling but showed a total lack of appetite to try and win the game.
Grealish should have been on in normal time.
But perhaps the most baffling thing was the line up for penalties, taking off Henderson and Grealish in the final minute was again strange, they are senior professionals, indeed why were Sancho and Saka tasked with the job and indeed Marcus Rashford who like Sancho had come on in the final minute, both had barely touched the ball and were expected to despatch spot kicks.
It was no coincidence that the two scored were from players who had done the full 120 minutes.
Kane and Maguire stepped us, surely some of our other senior players should have done so and not left the three penalties to two novices at International level and a player who had just come on.
Gareth Southgate more than anybody should know what it is like to miss a spot kick for England and know that it is more pressure than for a spot kick in normal play.
So overall it is great to see that we got to a final, but it is a disappointment as it is a real missed opportunity, we relied too much on players who were not ready at the highest level, Southgate did well in organising a side who could avoid getting beaten, but then again so did Claude Puel at St Mary's and look were that got him.
Some of these players will be back stronger than ever for the World Cup next year, but some of them won't be and i think our weaknesses tactically were exposed too many times in this tournament for comfort, not least the insistence on taking defenders and goalkeepers to the tournament who never played a single minute of the game.
Certainly Jack Grealish can feel aggrieved and so too can James Ward Prowse
Photo: Action Images
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