England once again outgunned a team in qualifying for Euro 2020, as Gareth Southgate’s team hammered Kosovo 5-3 at St Mary’s. The front three of Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and once again Raheem Sterling were simply outstanding.
All three got on the scoresheet and posed a constant danger to the opposition defence for a fourth straight qualifier the Three Lions scored four or more. While there are few concerns about England’s attack, there were major alarm bells at the back.
Keane and Maguire looked vulnerable
Everton’s Michael Keane and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire cost fees of £110million between them. The pair are usually very solid for their club sides, yet they looked vulnerable on Tuesday night.
Both made individual mistakes during the game. However, it seems that it is Keane’s mistake that has gained the most focus. In reality, neither of the now highly experienced centre-backs covered themselves in glory against a lively Kosovan attack.
Ironically, Keane has enjoyed something of a renaissance at Everton over the last year or so. This revival led to his inclusion in the England team at the heart of the defence. His performance certainly did not do his chances of maintaining a starting spot any good.
However, Maguire also needs to up his game. As a pair, they just didn’t look good enough. The fact that the two full-backs were the inexperienced Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell may not have helped either. Both are good prospects, but they are raw at international level.
A centre-back conundrum for England
Once in the not so distant past, England had a plethora of centre-back options. Now Gareth Southgate’s centre-back options are not great. Despite his mistake against Kosovo, Maguire is first-choice in the position.
Manchester City’s John Stones has lost his way in recent months through a loss of form and injury. When fit he is likely to partner Maguire in the heart of defence. The other options beyond Keane are the likes of inexperienced Joe Gomez, uncapped Tyrone Mings. James Tarkowski and Lewis Dunk have also played in recent internationals.
The central defensive position could prove to be a headache for Gareth Southgate and his team. Kosovo made the most of the home team’s defensive vulnerabilities superbly. It could have been far worse for the Three Lions, as Kosovo looked a constant attacking threat. On another day the visitors may have taken something from the game.
England need to improve defensively to win Euro 2020
England are now regarded as one of the best teams in the European game. In fact, Gareth Southgate’s team are now odds of 9/2 to win Euro 2020, with only world champions France shorter odds with some bookmakers to win next years tournament.
They certainly have the attacking players to win a major tournament. However, defensively England needs to improve majorly. The Three Lions could be embarrassed defensively against the better teams in Europe.
There are definitely signs of a potentially trophy-winning team, but Southgate needs to find a solution to the defensive problems. Hopefully, now that Stones is back fit and in the Manchester City team he can return to top form and prove to be the solution to England’s defensive problems.
If not, then that may prove a major stumbling block to England claiming only their second-ever trophy in the international game.
Is John Stones the answer to England’s defensive concerns?