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HomeInternationalFive problems Southgate needs to solve ahead of England vs Denmark

Five problems Southgate needs to solve ahead of England vs Denmark

Gareth Southgate yet again oversaw England win their opening game of a major tournament, but the unconvincing manner of the performance is cause for concern ahead of the Denmark game.

For once the Three Lions boss picked a lineup that most fans agreed with and wanted to see against Serbia, but there are misgivings over the approach and the positioning of his players after a narrow 1-0 victory.

That’s not to say there weren’t positives to take from the contest. Jude Bellingham burnished his credentials as England‘s star man, Declan Rice and Jordan Pickford put in assured displays, while the defence was solid.

We’ve picked out a few areas the manager can make improvements, though, ahead of their second game at Euro 2024.

Five problems Southgate needs to solve for England vs Denmark:

Flakey Foden

For what seems like the longest time Phil Foden has been held up as the next Messiah of English football. The Chosen One who will lead the national team into a brighter future and, ideally, glory.

It really does illustrate the embarrassment of riches that has been bestowed upon Southgate that the Manchester City star has already been eclipsed for that role by Bellingham.

The Real Madrid maestro took the bull by the horns on Sunday night, making his mark at every available opportunity. If any one player was going to decide the outcome of that game, it was him, and he did so with the only goal in the 13th minute.

In stark contrast, Foden was on the periphery despite being instructed to come in off the left wing to get involved in play. It’s a damning indictment that he could not make an impact despite the fact England were in the opponent’s half for almost the entirety of the opening 45 minutes.

Wide left is not Foden’s favoured position and the role Southgate carved out for him was, admittedly, sub-optimal. But if he wants to stake a claim for a more pivotal place in the team then he has prove it.

Read – Fabregas unconvinced by Foden role as Bellingham delivers masterclass

The Alexander-Arnold conundrum

Southgate did the thing that virtually everyone wanted him to by putting Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield, but the reality was far more underwhelming than pre-match expectations.

Though the Liverpool full-back has impressed when deployed as a hybrid midfielder under Jurgen Klopp, he didn’t really get to grips with the game and lacked control. He made a really good interception in the first half that resulted in an attack, but he also almost gifted the Serbs a goal after giving the ball away on the edge of his own box.

Southgate, however, defended Alexander-Arnold’s performance after the full-time whistle. “I have to say, he has been really diligent in getting his positioning right. I think he adapted and adjusted really well and used the ball well,” he told the BBC.

Judging by that, he will probably start against Denmark on Thursday, but if there isn’t an improvement in his performance then Conor Gallagher will be knocking at the door for a place in the starting line-up. What the Chelsea midfielder lacks in talent and quality – when compared to Alexander-Arnold – he makes up for in energy and work ethic.

Read – Declan Rice ‘nowhere near’ Rodri in world-class debate

Kane confined

You would be hard pushed to find a game in which Harry Kane looked more anonymous than Serbia on Sunday.

The former Spurs striker ended the game with 24 touches of the ball, but only two of them came in the entire first half. His solitary shot on goal came in the 77th minute, although it did force a great save out of goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, who tipped his header onto the bar.

Whereas Foden’s woes were a combination of tactics and personal performance, Kane was predominantly hamstrung by the manager’s approach.

The 30-year-old was tasked with occupying the Serbian centre-backs, which he did well, rather than drift deep to receive the ball. Although he got more involved after the break, he was on the fringes a lot more than he should’ve been.

That should not be happening with the country’s greatest ever goal scorer.

Tactical Analysis – England their own enemy in unconvincing win

Lopsided right

Despite having an array of attacking talent across the pitch, everything went down the right hand side on Sunday. It was painfully predictable and one-dimensional.

Serbia set up with a back five to deny England space and, despite being opened up a few times early on, it did the job for the majority of the encounter.

Southgate’s men really needed to stretch the backline and attack from all angles, but they failed to carve them open often. Indeed, they were outshot by their opponents 6-5 – which was also the fewest combined efforts on goal in a single match in Euros history.

They need an outlet down the left, which brings us nicely to our next point.

Read – Southgate says England will benefit from Serbia ‘suffering’

Lacking at left-back

Southgate’s decision to take only one natural left-back, who isn’t even fit, is already looking like an onerous one.

Kieran Trippier switched sides to fill in at left-back, which he has done in the past. Despite hanging high and wide when England were in possession, the right-footer offered next to nothing in attack, contributing to the team’s lopsidedness.

Evidently, the idea was for Foden to move inside while the Newcastle man held the width, but it didn’t work. That plan needs to be scrapped against Denmark.

Luke Shaw would be an instant solution, but he has not played football for four months. Although he is training with the squad, he will make a cameo appearance at most on Thursday.

In lieu of the Manchester United full-back, Foden should just play as a pure left winger and Trippier hang back a bit, contributing to the build-up and firing in the odd cross. In theory that would bring a bit more dynamism to England’s attack and provide a few more headed chances for Kane.

Read – Bellingham laser-focused after England win Euro 2024 opener

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