With some of the recent England’s recent results lacking the standard required, I started thinking about Gareth Southgate’s squad selection, team selection and tactics and I have come to the conclusion that the way he lines up teams is too defensive.

Gareth Southgate has always been a fan of a 5 at the back formation, and for most of his England career this has been successful however recently this formation has become underwhelming. Let’s go back to the summer of 2018, the golden era for Southgate and his England team, goals were flying in and everyone thought it was coming home. Of course, it did not but if we look at the team that Southgate used in crucial wins against Colombia and Sweden then we can see a 5-3-2 used. The difference, however, in this team is all in the midfield. Henderson is playing as a deep holding midfielder however the other two spots are occupied by Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard. These two players are both very attacking players who have both been used regularly as CAMs for their respective clubs. This meant that the team had the manpower to push forward and attack teams while their 3 centre backs and CDM sit back, the two wingbacks also tracked back to help defend. The use of Ashley Young, who had been utilized as a winger before for club and country, as a wing-back also meant the squad had very good attacking width, despite their lack of wingers. This meant that during the competition when the wingbacks were forward, they could swing in crosses for the two strikers to convert.

Now that we have looked at this past tactic and team selection, we can compare it to recent England teams, specifically the narrow win against Iceland and the particularly poor performance in the draw against Denmark. Firstly, in the Iceland game, the England team lined up in a 4-1-4-1. This unusual change in formation by Gareth Southgate was to accommodate the likes of holding midfielders James Ward-Prowse and Kalvin Phillips, incidentally this is where I think the issue lies. The switch to the 4 at the back meant that there was not as much width coming out from the back, however this was not  the main problem, as mentioned earlier, the real trouble lies in the midfield, which consisted off Kalvin Phillips, James Ward-Prowse and Phil Foden. Both Phillips and Ward-Prowse are defensive minded players, this meant that there was a lot less of a push when England went forward. Next, moving onto the Denmark game, 5-2-3 was rolled out with this time no attacking options in the midfield at all. In this match the England attack felt as if it consisted of only 3 men as even though the wingbacks were attacking, the double up on the wings left nothing par Harry Kane in the box, therefore England struggled to score.

This lack of willingness to attack through the midfield has caused England to drop points before and, I am sure, will again. So to answer my original question, yes I think Gareth Southgate has become too defensive however I think it could be an easy fix. If Southgate does take the time to consider his past mistakes and make a change to the next team, then I can definitely see an England return to Southgate’s 2018 “glory days”, hopefully just in time for the Euros next summer.