major problems facing Southgate before the World Cup

major problems facing Southgate before the World Cup

Players in difficulty at the club level

Gareth Southgate is likely to run into trouble if he chooses players based on reputation rather than form. The England manager said he is right to consider international performance when selecting a team, but with several key people fighting at the club level it will be interesting to see how far Southgate’s loyalty streak goes ahead of the Cup. of the world.

There are problems across the board. As left-back, there is concern about Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, recovering from a serious knee injury, and Luke Shaw, who has lost his job at Manchester United. In midfield Kalvin Phillips, absent from this field with a shoulder problem, has barely played since he joined Manchester City. Striker Mason Mount is taking a dip at Chelsea and Jarrod Bowen has been underwhelmed for West Ham this season. Is Bowen really a better bet than Jadon Sancho?

Then there is Harry Maguire. The United central defender presents Southgate with his biggest puzzle. Will he follow Erik ten Hag’s example and drop him? United have been much more solid without Maguire and there is no justification for Southgate starting him if he doesn’t play for his club. Fikayo Tomori plays every week for Milan, who won Serie A last season, and Eric Dier excelled for Tottenham.

Three or four behind?

England’s disastrous start in the Nations League campaign could scare Southgate into even more pragmatism. The memory of Hungary’s uprising at Molineux remains stark and it wouldn’t be a surprise if England lined up with a 3-4-3 when they face Italy on Friday and Germany on Monday.

Yet a lot would depend on how Southgate sets up the team. Reece James and Chilwell would be progressive options as full backs. A fluid three front could be exciting. An attacking partner for Declan Rice in midfield could be a game changer.

The concern, however, is that Southgate veers into negativity. England may lack center backs to play a 4-3-3, but the argument against caution is that they are not short of creative players. Is it time for them to play to their strengths?

Ben Chilwell (left) and Reece James during a training session in England last year.  They would be progressive choices like full backs.

Ben Chilwell (left) and Reece James during a training session in England last year. They would be progressive choices like full backs. Photograph: Nick Potts / PA

Make a decision about Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a brilliant footballer. His crossing of him is amazing, his passing radius is superb and he is regularly one of Liverpool’s top creators. None of this means that he is guaranteed to go to the World Cup. Alexander-Arnold’s defensive struggles for Liverpool are hard to ignore. He is not the same England player. He hasn’t thrived on Southgate, who often preferred the less exciting but more reliable Kieran Trippier, and the feeling is that Alexander-Arnold needs this field to do well. Otherwise it’s hard to see a point in Southgate cramming four right-backs into his team.

Get the best out of Foden

There was a lot of excitement for Phil Foden before Euro 2020. The City youngster showed up with dyed blonde hair, which inevitably compared Paul Gascoigne’s look to Euro 96, but ended up having a disappointing tournament for reasons in much beyond his control.

It was frustrating for Foden, whose international career has yet to begin. Yet England needs to understand how to use it. This is a trusted player of Pep Guardiola, who used Foden as a winger, a fake 9, a no. 10 and a no. 8. England, who have not scored from open play in their last four games, must take advantage of Foden’s inventiveness.

Phil Foden (left) in action for England against Scotland at Euro 2020.

Phil Foden (left) in action for England against Scotland at Euro 2020. Director of photography: Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

Addiction to Kane and Sterling

Southgate needs more from its forwards. England is relying too much on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for their goals. Mount must take more responsibility on the ball and Southgate wants Bowen, Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish to emulate Sterling by chipping away at the wings.

England is stale on offense. The threat comes from Kane, but what if the captain is off duty, plays a bad game, or gets injured? Southgate needs depth. As it stands, however, Tammy Abraham has yet to prove that she is a suitable deputy. Ivan Toney, called up for the first time, hopes to prove he can be England’s Plan B. It is a concern for Southgate, who could have something to do with Marcus Rashford recovering from the injury that forced the United forward to miss these matches. Rashford, who has shown signs of returning to his best, has lifted the weight on Kane and Sterling in the past.

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