What do England need to do differently in the knockout stages?

England have progressed into the last 16 of the Euros despite being held to a 0-0 draw against Slovenia on Tuesday night, with more criticism mounting on Gareth Southgate and his team.

England topped Group C, finishing on five points and winning only one game. Incredibly, England’s win against Serbia was the only win in the whole group. Denmark and Slovenia both drew all three of their games.

England fans have never fully taken to Southgate, even considering his impressive tournament record. There has always been the feeling that the football was too pragmatic and with the wealth of talent available in the squad, the country should be playing a more progressive and attacking style of football.

The group stage of this Euros has done nothing to quell that noise and in fact the pressure on Southgate and the squad has never been higher. One of the main sources of anger has been that Southgate is seemingly shoehorning all of his best players into the starting XI with little regard for the balance of the team.

Starting XI issues

Phil Foden has started all three games at left wing, a position where he has proven to be ineffective. He is fresh off the back of winning the Premier League Player of the Season award playing in the number 10 position for Manchester City, where he has thrived.

Southgate however has opted for Bellingham in the 10 and as a compromise, Foden is on the wing. Last night’s game was easily his best performance, as he was able to drift inside and get more involved in the play, but by and large the move has not worked at all.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is another player who has had to comprimise. He started the first two games as a midfielder but got hooked early in both games and then didn’t start against Slovenia. Southgate wanted him in the team and felt his range of passing and quality on the ball could benefit the team in midfield but the experiment failed. Trent lacks the 360 degree vision and defensive awareness needed to play in midfield and struggled.

Lack of chances

Creativity has been a huge problem for England. Astonishingly, Kylian Mbappé had a higher xG (2.33) in the group stage than England (2.09) across all three games. This stat is even more damning given that Mbappe missed the entirety of France’s second game with a broken nose.

The tempo of England’s play has been very slow and with teams sitting back and playing a low block, it is impossible to create chances without moving the ball quickly. Cole Palmer played his first minutes of the tournament yesterday and was brilliant from the bench. Every time he got on the ball he looked to play forward and trouble the Slovenian defence.

Anthony Gordon also got his first chance last night and showed very positive signs. His first action was to run directly at Žan Karničnik, the Slovenian right back, something that he hadn’t had to deal with all game.

Reasons to be positive

Southgate and his players have been adamant that they will grow into this tournament and get better with each round. They may have the chance, as they have fortunately been placed on the side of the draw that avoids the four favourites; Spain, Germany, Portugal and France.

England will play their last 16 game on Sunday evening and with the eyes of the nation watching and expectant, they cannot put in another lacklustre performance.

Japtej Ghura | Get Football

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