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ENGLAND HEAD TO FRANCE WITH PROBLEMS CLEAR FOR ALL TO SEE
Posted by Alex King on Tue, 13/06/2017 - 12:46
England and France players have one final mountain to climb before heading off for their summer holidays: an international friendly on Tuesday.
After a season which for many consisted of upwards of 50 games and a World Cup qualifier at the weekend, the last thing jaded minds and bodies would want is a friendly kickabout in Paris. But, thanks to FIFA’s scheduling, that’s exactly what they’ve got.
It may not be as laid back as one of those adverts for walking football involving pensioners that are seen on the television, but don’t expect a full-bore contest with crunching tackles at every turn.
With a mere three days between the games, those who were heavily involved in the 2-2 draw with Scotland at Hampden Park on Saturday were excused training on Sunday. The lack of numbers saw England manager Gareth Southgate feature in the session. We don’t believe he was asked to take part in the post-session penalty shootout.
The whole squad will travel to France for the 31st meeting between the two nations, but it’s highly likely that it will be a much-changed Three Lions side on show at the Stade de France.
Ben Gibson and John Stones were paired together in training on Sunday, which appeared a broad hint that the Middlesbrough man will be handed his first England cap alongside the Manchester City defender.
The draw with Scotland on Saturday highlighted the flaws that remain in Southgate’s squad – and acted as a reality check with regard to a World Cup challenge.
Qualification for Russia should be accomplished with relative ease – England are two points clear of Slovakia with four games remaining – but the reality is that Southgate’s team must improve.
England are extremely impressive, and potent, in attack – with Harry Kane leading a line supported by the likes of Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Adam Lallana.
The attack has pace, dynamism and ruthless finishing, but it cannot mask deficiencies in other areas. A central midfield of Eric Dier and Jake Livermore simply will not cut it at the elite of the game.
Southgate can dole out praise to Livermore, as he did after the Scotland draw, but it does not disguise the fact that he is functional, solid defensive-midfield option. He is not a player capable of grasping a game by the scruff of the neck and turning defence into attack in the manner needed to break down teams who will be lurking in the later stages of World Cups and European Championships.
Southgate has mentioned Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere as possible candidates for the role, but both – particularly the latter – are increasingly injury prone and pinning your hopes on them staying fit and being in form is not a working template for success.
The manager is aware of the problems, but admitting to the Telegraph’s Jason Burt “we’ve obviously gone into this game without Jack, Henderson, Drinkwater, Delph and if you are looking at English players playing; there’s no-one else” is a damning assessment of what he has and what he thinks is, or isn’t, coming through.
Southgate added, “we have to hope there are some young players in the under-21s and under-20s that can add to that.”
England’s recent victory in the U20 World Cup raises hope for the future and with a dearth of established talent, it may be time for the manager to make a bold call and bed a couple of the youngsters into his senior squad.
Tottenham’s Josh Onomah would be an obvious contender for a defensive-midfield berth, given how composed he looks in possession. Onomah may struggle for the amount of game time with Tottenham to make him an England starter, but incorporating him into the squad can only be of benefit for the future.
Back to the present, and a much-changed England side are in for a tough evening; take France to claim the win at 1.88 with 188BET.
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