Gareth Southgate blames forwards for England’s defensive struggles ahead of Euro 2020

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No wonder Gareth Southgate has looked a worried figure in the build-up to the Euros.

Even the England boss has admitted his defence will be “punished” if they carry on making mistakes during the tournament.

But the underlying concerns have affected Southgate’s mood as the training camp has had a very different atmosphere as compared to before the 2018 World Cup as they went all the way to the semi finals.

Last week, Southgate turned it into something of a “boot camp” with long, hard sessions and a few dressing downs as the players have felt the tension.

Southgate even gave the front line a rollicking at half time against Romania for not tracking back and a lack pressing which just added to the defensive problems.

(Image: The FA via Getty Images)

They look nervous at the back, they miss their defensive kingpin in Harry Maguire and that may tempt Southgate to go with a back three in the tournament to shore up a dodgy defence.

Southgate will almost certainly be without Maguire for the Group stage but the return of John Stones and Kyle Walker will be important as the Manchester City and Chelsea players have joined the squad.

That explains why Brighton ’s Ben White was called up to reinforce the defence rather than another midfielder added in James Ward-Prowse because they have been lacking numbers and the inclusion of a half-fit Maguire looks a big risk.

Southgate pulled no punches in his assessment of his defence despite the clean sheets against Romania and Austria as it was more of a case of getting lucky and better teams will undoubtedly expose England’s soft core.

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Southgate said: “I didn’t like us without the ball in the first half but that was the whole team. That started from the front. We weren’t disciplined in the way we defended. Our recovery runs were not good enough.

“It meant that the midfield was stretched the back players had too many decisions to make. They were having to come in spaces where they shouldn’t have needed to be. Without doubt we can improve on that.

“I have also got to allow the team that played the reality that we had made a lot of changes and had to preserve some players and give others minutes that they needed.

“There is a lot of work to be done on the training ground as without a doubt we cannot give up the number of chances and not expect to be punished.”

Now there are so many dilemmas for Southgate to work through starting with which formation to start with, the fitness of Maguire and also Jordan Henderson and also a lack of time with the players on the training pitch.

Southgate added: “This is the different challenge if international football. You have to be concise with your information and get the right balance of working with the players but not over loading them with information as well.

“I don’t think there is one area or aspect that is key. To win tournaments we have to get every aspect of the game right and all the small details right.

“We can improve on all the small details on the two performances we have had. We were able to pick up a lot of learnings from the first game and feed them in. You know, some of the things on discipline and details on defending set plays.

“There were other things that weren’t good enough and need emphasising and need to be put right before next week’s game. This now is a period where you can build with a team.

“It’s one of those rare occasions where you get some work with the team, some continuity and opportunity to improve and we will take every opportunity we can over the next few weeks to be able to do that and polish every aspect of our game.”

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