CHRIS SUTTON: Solving problems will have pleased Gareth Southgate… the England boss deserves credit but there was an alarming lack of intensity in the first half against Belgium
- England deserve plenty of credit after fighting back to beat Belgium at Wembley
- Gareth Southgate will be pleased after beating the world’s best-ranked team
- But there was an alarming lack of balance and intensity at the half-time break
- The selection over the back line was questionable and the midfielders were poor
Credit to England. This wasn’t some inferior nation who they were expected to wallop at Wembley.
This was Belgium, the best-ranked team in the world, and to do what they did is hugely encouraging for Gareth Southgate.
At half time, there looked to be an alarming lack of balance and intensity to England’s play.
Gareth Southgate deserves credit after solving problems in England’s victory over Belgium
There were three right backs on the pitch in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Kieran Tierney and none of them were playing in positions they suited.
Walker coped well of the three, but Alexander-Arnold does not carry the same threat when asked to play as a wing back.
Eric Dier at the centre of the back three was questionable. Romelu Lukaku is not known for his pace but he had the Tottenham defender beat when winning that penalty.
Eric Dier being fielded at the centre of England’s back three had been a questionable decision
Harry Maguire playing on Dier’s left felt unusual, too, while the pairing of Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice wasn’t quite working in midfield. But the second half was different.
Southgate didn’t change his personnel, but he did change the way they were playing. England became more compact and cut off Belgium’s supply line to Lukaku, who was making Manchester United regret letting him leave in the first half.
They suddenly weren’t as easy to play through. England ended up securing a big win against the world’s best-ranked team because of this. So credit to Southgate.
Southgate changed the way England were playing and his team soon became more compact
It will be interesting to see who out of Mason Mount (above) and Jack Grealish will earn the nod
The battle between Mason Mount and Jack Grealish for a slot in this team is an interesting one. You suspect Southgate views Mount as more reliable, perhaps more trustworthy when out of possession.
But England did look like Grealish could come in handy when they were struggling to have any joy up front in the first half. That will be an intriguing battle ahead of next summer.
England may not have played their best football but at the end of the day, they won against one of the big boys. That’s never a bad thing.
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