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Southgate admits England falling short, bemoans midfield options after Denmark draw

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 20 Jun 2024

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Gareth Southgate admits England have fallen short of expectations thus far at Euro 2024, bemoaning their failure to find a replacement for Kalvin Phillips in midfield.

Having opened their Group C campaign with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Serbia last week, England failed to clinch top spot with a game to spare as they were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday.

Harry Kane put the Three Lions ahead after 18 minutes, but they soon fell into old habits and sat deeper against a lively Denmark side, who levelled through Morten Hjulmand’s ferocious 25-yard strike.

While England remain on course to top Group C, sitting two points clear of Denmark and Slovenia, who they face on matchday three, their performance put Southgate under more scrutiny.

England have attempted just 17 shots – seven of them on target – in their two games at Euro 2024, amassing a total of 1.85 expected goals (xG).

Scotland are the only team to have played two matches and created a lower xG total, amassing just 0.78 in their 5-1 defeat to Germany and a 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

Speaking at his post-match press conference, Southgate said: “Clearly, we’re disappointed with the level of the two performances we’ve had, so we’ve got to go and analyse that in depth and find solutions to addressing the issues we have.

“We know the level can be higher. Maybe the biggest thing is we have to accept the environment that we’re in and the expectations that are around us. At the moment, we’re falling a little bit short of that.

“Ultimately, that’s my responsibility. I’m the manager, and I’ve got to guide this group in the best way possible to achieve extraordinary things.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold came in for particular criticism after retaining his place in midfield, despite no England player bettering his three chances created or five line-breaking passes, even as he was substituted after just 54 minutes.

In their 2-1 extra-time win over Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, England recorded 31 per cent of their open-play touches in the final third.

That figure was down to 17 per cent on Thursday as they struggled to progress the ball, with 34 per cent of their touches coming in their own third.

Southgate believes the absence of Phillips – who was omitted from the squad after failing to nail down a starting spot with either Manchester City or loan club West Ham – has been a difficult problem to solve.

Asked about Alexander-Arnold’s display, Southgate told BBC Sport: “He has had some moments where he has delivered as we thought.

“It’s an experiment. We don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Phillips. At the moment we’re not flowing as we would like.

“At the moment we’re not using the ball well enough and have to accept if you do that you will suffer at times, as we have. We know there’s another level we have to find.”

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