Once again England has fallen short when faced with top level opponents.
Gareth Southgate has brought a new freshness and like-ability to England’s national team, but results still flatter to deceive. Sunday night’s defeat was another example of a missed opportunity. Set up to control Belgium, the plan fell to pieces when England allowed Youri Tielemans to hit a deflected strike past Jordan Pickford.
However, With an ageing Jan Vertonghen on the left of Belgium’s back three, there was a potential weakness. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exploited. Instead of being brave and selecting Jadon Sancho to run at him, Mason Mount moved from midfield to the right wing. With Harry Kane and Jack Grealish partnering Mount, England’s attack was decidedly one paced. This meant Belgium could push high up the pitch, putting pressure on England’s defenders to pass out. Mount was by no means the sole problem, but his presence in attack is a symptom of a wider issue.
Jordan Pickford, Eric Dier, Mason Mount, they’re clear favourites of Southgate and have served him well. However, in some circumstances, other players simply fit better. Conor Coady has excelled himself for example when playing in England’s back three. He may not have the brawn of Dier, but at Wolves, he has proved himself as a specialist in a back three. Dier, simply hasn’t.
Jordan Pickford, was arguably England’s best player at the 2018 world cup. At that time, he looked as if he’d lock down the Three Lions number one jersey for years to come. The last 12 months have been tough for the Everton goalkeeper, with Dean Henderson and Nick Pope finding form, the pressure should be on. However, for the big games, Jordan Pickford is an ever present.
It should be said, none of these players are bad footballers. They all are certainly good enough to be in England squads, however, their ever present nature in big games is unusual. Of course, there needs to be consistency in lineups. However, sometimes, flexibility is needed and Gareth Southgate’s loyalty to his favourites could cost England in the long run.