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Southgate selection proved correct as England win 1-0

Posted by john smith on

I think no matter who you support, whenever the starting XI is announced there will be people who moan.

And for England it was no different yesterday.

When Gareth Southgate’s team was announced, those moaning was overwhelming.

Tyrone Mings starting, a right back at left back, 2 defensive midfielders, no Jack Grealish, no Jadon Sancho. Raheem Sterling starting.

You feel whoever Southgate picked, people would have moaned.

Had he picked Luke Shaw, people would have complained it should have been Ben Chilwell and vice versa. Had Grealish been selected ahead of Phil Foden or Mason Mount you would have had fans moaning that one or the other of them had been left out.

And had Marcus Rashford been selected ahead of Sterling, there still would have been criticism.

But in the end England won so you have to congratulate Southgate for getting his team selection right.

The criticism of Mings at centre back was always odd.

With Harry Maguire out, Southgate’s options were Mings, Conor Coady or Ben White.

When you consider Mings is left footed, he was always the natural partner for John Stones.

I can understand the criticism of Kieran Trippier at left back. Shaw and Chilwell have both had good seasons and are very good full backs.

The argument is that Trippier was needed as England did not have a set piece specialist (although Mason Mount has taken corners for Chelsea in the past). And I understand that.

Personally I would have started Trippier at right back ahead of Kyle Walker, with either Chilwell or Shaw at left back.

The two defensive midfielder argument is one I have never understand.

There are different ways you can make up a midfield. And playing 2 defensively minded midfielders does not mean a negative approach.

Arsenal’s Invincibles (Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva), Chelsea’s Champions (Claude Makelele and Michael Essien) and Manchester City’s more recent runaway winners (Ilkay Gundegon and Fernandinho) all played with 2 more defensively minded midfielders.

Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp would often play with 3 (Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum).

It is about setting your team up to get the best out of what they have. And two more defensively minded players in the middle often give teams a more solid centre allowing attacking players to flourish elsewhere.

Declan Rice performed the “invisible wall” job in front of the back 4.

Criticism of his performance baffles me. “Did not even notice he was playing” was the majority of the comments. For me, that means he has done his job.

His job is not to be all action, to be driving forward with the ball. To be playing defence splitting passers. It is to sit in front of the back four, win the ball, and pass it on. He did it.

And Southgate’s decision to play Kalvin Phillips in a more advanced role must be commended.

With Declan Rice sitting infront of the back 4 in the traditional defensive role, Phillips was free to roam further up the pitch, pressing high.

This meant Croatia were unable to build up from the back. And when Phillips did win the ball back it was often in the opponents half.

It was a similar performance to what N’Golo Kante has put in for France and Chelsea.

Whilst the Frenchman is considered a defensive midfielder, he operates best when he has someone, such as Jorginho, playing in behind.

As Phillips said in his post-game interview, he knows that he has Rice behind him so he can press high and commit himself knowing his team mate is sweeping up behind.

Further forward and there would have been moaning as to whoever Southgate left out between Foden, Mount and Grealish.

You can not play all 3 with Harry Kane up top as this would leave us with a front line bereft of pace.

Personally I would have played 2 of Sterling, Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

Southgate went for Sterling and he had a very good game, scoring the winner.

The only concern for Southgate would have been the performance of Kane.

He looked well off the pace -sluggish and lacking mobility. He was not sharp.

Their have been reports that he is managing his long term ankle injury and does fitness training on his own because he can not do the running anymore.

This is a huge concern for England and any potential suitor.

When you play one up top you need that man to run the line and the channels. They need to work the defence to try and pull it apart to create space for the 3 behind. They can not be static.

Kane’s only play at the moment seems to be to drop 10 yards. The problem is that then eats into the space Foden or Grealish would be looking for.

In his younger days, Kane would be across the front line, pressurising the full backs, popping up on both wings.

Kane was Premier League top scorer last season and has plenty of credit in the bank for England. But he is not the player of 3 or 4 years ago.

It will be interesting to monitor the Kane situation – whether he is just carrying an injury or the beginning of his decline.

He will not be dropped by Southgate, but it is important we get the pace and running around him.

Have a good Monday