Euro 2020: What do England need to work on?

Gareth Southgate

Preview ahead of Euro 2020 Qualifiers

The English National Team gave hope to a nation last year during their World Cup run, exceeding expectations of everyone watching by playing some inspiring football which hasn’t been associated with the Three Lions for years.

A fourth-place finish for Gareth Southgate’s men in Russia was the best competition finish since Euro 1996, where they secured third-place. But could they have done better with the squad they have, and have the changes made by Southgate given the Three Lions the best chance of qualification?

We take a look at where they could still improve the squad, and if there’s anything else that could be changed to could lead them to Euro 2020 glory.

Different creative spark needed

Though Southgate has tried to balance the squad the best he can with the players available, the midfield role does still seem slightly short on attacking talent.

Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier are now considered veterans in the side, despite only being 28 and 25 respectively. They’re defensively minded and rarely offer much going forward.

Southgate has called up two ‘new’ boys to the midfield too, with Declan Rice getting his first call-up since switching his allegiance to the Three Lions from the Irish National side, and James Ward-Prowse earning his second call-up.

Even though Ward-Prowse offers sensational set-piece delivery, both players lack the creativity needed in the middle of the park.

That leaves responsibility down to Ross Barkley and Dele Alli. Barkley has been inconsistent and underperforming for Chelsea, while Alli has only recently returned from a long spell on the sidelines.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek could have offered a spark, but had to withdraw from the squad through injury, and Jesse Lingard is on the sidelines too. But there are ready-made players for the role with James Maddison a prime candidate, having a great season in that position for Leicester.

Development of set-piece routines

The Three Lions were on fire from set-pieces at the 2018 World Cup, scoring nine times from them and setting a new tournament record in the process.

As well as it worked in Russia, sides have now had time to prepare for and predict what’s coming from the English set-pieces. The line of players which worked so effectively could potentially have less of an effect now if teams know it’s coming.

For Southgate and his side, with the centre backs they usually play it could be worth sticking with set-pieces being a viable option for a goal, but freshening up ideas.

James Tarkowski, Michael Keane and Harry Maguire are all incredibly effective in the air, especially Maguire who got a bit of a reputation in the World Cup and had to eventually deal with rough treatment in the box to stop his threat.

Kieran Trippier has proved his free-kick credentials on the big stage, but Barkley, Marcus Rashford and Trent Alexander-Arnold have also proved they know how to dispatch a free-kick.

Having options could be crucial to the success of the National side.

Having another striker option

England’s overreliance on Harry Kane during the summer was made clear in the latter stages of the tournament. When Kane stopped scoring as freely as he was early on, England stopped scoring.

Marcus Rashford was taken to the World Cup, alongside Jamie Vardy, as back-up to the Spurs man. Vardy got a few minutes in ‘dead-rubber’ games, while Rashford came on and was stuck on the wing.

Since the World Cup, Vardy has retired, and Rashford has started to flourish in the central role for Manchester United. For Southgate, giving Rashford a chance in Kane’s role would provide a perfect back-up plan, and would help to keep Kane in form if he could get some rest late on in matches.

Starting Rashford and Kane together could also provide a switch up in the system that could throw teams off and work incredibly well.

What Kane lacks in pace, he makes up for in finishing and cleverness, and his talents would be wonderfully complimented by Rashford’s electrifying pace.

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