Monday, June 17, 2024
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Southgate may have found ‘unique’ solution to England problem

Gareth Southgate may have stumbled upon the solution to his left-back problem after England drew 1-1 with North Macedonia. 

The Three Lions boss has had to make do without his two main options in that position, with Manchester United‘s Luke Shaw and Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell both sidelined with long-term injuries.

Southgate has tried out Levi Colwill, Kieran Trippier and Fikayo Tomori in recent games, but two of those players are natural centre-backs while the other is a right-back by trade.

That led the former Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough man to handing Rico Lewis his England debut at left-back against North Macedonia, a match that allowed for experimentation as the team had already qualified for Euro 2024.

The Manchester City starlet gave away a dubious penalty in the first half, but he otherwise looked assured and confident on the ball. Although he too is not a natural left-back, at just 19 years of age Lewis has displayed tremendous versatility, playing in the backline and midfield under Pep Guardiola.

 

Now Southgate has been given food for through ahead of next year’s tournament. “I think in both matches we’ve been able to look at different players as well as trying to win,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Normally you’re waiting until March to do that. We’ve learned quite a bit from those two games which is an advantage for us.”

On the youngster’s performance, Southgate said: “I thought he was excellent. His ability to receive in tight areas was a standout. His bravery with the ball, but also the resilience to come back from a bit of a setback that was no fault of his own.

“He’s a unique player because working out the specifics of the role and where that all fits is really interesting. His ability to keep possession and do that well under pressure is a fabulous asset to have.”

If Lewis manages to stay injury-free for the rest of the season, he may just book himself a plane ticket to Germany next summer.

Read – Grealish slams key decision as England draw

Read more – Rice defends Southgate’s England tactics


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