The English Nations League matches brought a lot to think about … The experts at Sportsmail give their verdict
England took four points from their two Nations League appearances during this international hiatus, passing Iceland 1-0 for a goalless draw with Denmark.
The resignation of Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood from the team caused a lot of discussion, while Gareth Southgate was criticized for the English playing style.
Here, Sportsmails experts Chris Sutton, Martin Keown and Sami Mokbel give their verdict on the Three Lions.
There is a lot for Gareth Southgate to think about after England’s Nations League matches
Four in the back or five?
CHRIS SUTTON: The 3-4-3 experiment against Denmark, with Kieran Trippier as the left-back and Eric Dier as the left-back, didn’t affect me much. England has an excellent attack, but the connection was lost. It’s early days and I’m sure Gareth Southgate will want to take another look at this setup. After all, it worked well at the 2018 World Cup. But four is better balanced.
SAMI MUGS: If everyone is available, five in the back have the potential to be very effective. The system formed the basis of England’s run to the semifinals in 2018 and could have an equal impact on the euro. It didn’t work in Copenhagen, but Southgate should at least give it another try if its preferred personnel are available.
MARTIN KEOWN: We’ve seen the back three used successfully in the Premier League by Sheffield United and Wolves. Also by Arsenal, who won the FA Cup. But I’ve always preferred a back four. England has a good partnership with the center-back Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire. That has the basis for a strong foundation in a 4-3-3 system.
In Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire, England has a good central-defensive pair that works
One goal in 180 minutes. Where’s the creativity?
MUG: Well, there was none in central midfield. Southgate’s decision to deploy two tenacious midfielders in Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice against Denmark stifled the team’s creative juices.
The front three will always be a threat, but getting the ball to them in all the right places is key to unlocking the door. Two defensive midfielders are not the answer.
TEST: Yes I agree with you. It’s the midfield. Against Iceland, which showed no intention of attack until they fell behind late, England was screaming for someone who could break through the lines.
Foden and James Ward-Prowse did not have the desired effect. That’s why I wanted to see Jack Grealish come up in that match and would have liked him to get more than 14 minutes against Denmark. I’m not saying Grealish is the answer, but shouldn’t he get more chance?
KEOWN: The attackers were not fed in Denmark, but these matches were during the preseason. We cannot ask too much of these players.
Jack Grealish should have been given more of a chance to help England’s creativity
What should England’s midfield be?
TEST: When we talk about 4-3-3 and everyone is fit, I want to see Jordan Henderson between Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mason Mount.
They would complement a front three from Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. By the time the euro rolls around, Southgate wants to make sure he has his best midfield.
MUG: In a 3-4-3: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Phil Foden, Ben Chilwell. In a 4-3-3: Henderson, Foden and Harry Winks.
Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could play an important role for England if he is fit
Should Foden and Greenwood be picked in October?
MUG: No. Their actions in Iceland were wrong on so many levels. Southgate can’t let them get away with it. If he does, the wrong message will be sent.
TEST: I would be surprised if they were selected, even though they have shown remorse. In order to get these two youngsters to get another call for England so soon after embarrassing themselves, their manager sends the wrong message.
Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden could be excluded from the next England squad
Stay with Pickford in goal?
TEST: No goalkeeper gave more long passes to the last third than Nick Pope and Dean Henderson in the Premier League last season.
That’s not what Southgate wants. Pickford tends to go shorter, and his fit accuracy for Everton was 60.14 percent in 2019-2020 – while Pope and Henderson achieved 37.57 and 36.72 percent. But Southgate needs to know that Pickford has been erratic for Everton.
KEOWN: Southgate trusts Pickford and the Everton goalkeeper has done well in an England shirt under him. He was calm with Denmark.
MUG: I don’t think Southgate is convinced by any of his keepers. But for the sake of continuity, he should persevere at Pickford, provided he can eradicate the mistakes at the domestic level.
Gareth Southgate has faith in Jordan Pickford and the goalkeeper is likely to keep his place
Name a winner and loser of the games
KEOWN: Southgate is the winner. He dealt with players leaving and a tricky situation with Foden and Greenwood to secure an away win and a draw.
He now knows he can fall back on that three-on-the-back system and still get a result. I have to mention the two youngsters who abandoned themselves as losers.
MUG: Winner: Conor Coady – an excellent start to his international career. Looks like he has at least earned his place on Southgate’s next squad.
Loser: Kyle Walker. Southgate played a downright bat to suggest that the Manchester City star’s career in England is over after his red card in Iceland. But the England manager was not happy.
TEST: Winner: Yes, Coady for me too. And a loser? Difficult. I could go for Jadon Sancho, who was unusually quiet.
Conor Coady was composed during his England debut and deserves further chances
Kyle Walker’s red card against Iceland could spell the end of his career in England