Gareth Southgate has no intention of picking a “fantasy football” lineup at Euro 2020 and is preparing to skip a couple of fan favorites in Sunday’s opening match against Croatia.
The manager is leaning towards going 4-3-3 at Wembley, with Raheem Sterling set to start despite Manchester City’s indifferent form in recent months. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford face a fight to reach the XI, with Southgate prioritizing the balance of his selection.
Southgate enters the tournament in a position of personal strength and his job is believed to be safe until the Qatar World Cup at the end of next year, barring disaster in the next month or so. The Football Association believes that Southgate’s young team will be closer to their prime for Qatar and wants him to lead them in that tournament. He is under contract until the end of it.
Not that hopes are low in the FA and within the team for the European Championship, with Southgate uttering a rallying cry on the eve. “We have to show that this squad has what it takes to win,” he told ITV. “Some of our younger players have experience in big games. Tournaments are about getting into form at the right time and we have to do our bit for the next four weeks. “
Balance remains the watchword. Some fans are interested in Southgate accommodating as many of his attacking players as possible; They include Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, and Jadon Sancho, along with Sterling, Grealish, and Rashford. But it was instructive to listen to Southgate’s assistant Steve Holland reminisce about Argentina’s history of tribulations at the 2018 World Cup and bring up the line about “fantasy football.”
“Argentina had Dybala, Di María, Agüero, Higuaín, Messi,” Holland said. “Icardi did not enter the squad. You have a wide variety of talents, but they came out in the round of 16. This is not fantasy football.
“It’s good to play that game, but you can’t just put four or five players together. What that team showed is that if you try to put in too many, you don’t even get the best of the individuals that, if you play with less, they can provide. So our challenge is clear: we have to find the right balance. “
It should be noted that Argentina, who sent nine goals in their four games in that tournament, never had more than three of those attackers at any point, but it was nevertheless easy to see the broad point of Holland or, to put it another way, their message. .
England fans will remember how, when the team was defeated in the knockout stages of Euro 2016 by Iceland, then-manager Roy Hodgson ended the match with Kane, Rashford, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy on the field.
Holland said he and Southgate were clear about Croatia’s starting lineup and line-up, although he made it clear that fluidity would be everything. He said he expected the five substitutes to be used routinely, particularly when temperatures were high: Sunday is forecast to be the hottest day of the year in England; the game starts at 2 pm, and the system is very likely to change within games. England married 3-5-2 at the 2018 World Cup, but Southgate is now comfortable at 4-3-3 or 3-4-3.
“In the wake of Euro 2016 and particularly the Icelandic game, I have a lot of respect for Roy and his staff, but it has been accepted that the sum of the parts does not represent what the ability was,” Holland said. “When the pressure came, there was a little drop in performance because the players weren’t comfortable with that pressure.
“The number one priority for the World Cup in Russia was trying to be very specific with the requirements and roles of the players in one form of play. Now we are in a different moment.
“The flexibility that is required now to play at the highest level is great. Manchester City play 4-3-3 normally, but defend 4-4-2 and attack, practically 2-3-5. Chelsea play 3-4-3 but defend in a back room sometimes with one side pressing in midfield. Mason Mount has been a No. 10 on the ball at times but, without the ball, he falls to midfield and is 5-3-2.
“Today’s footballer is used to adapting. In March we played 4-3-3 and in the fall we played 3-4-3 and we were happy with both. Each one is an option. I see it is very possible that we start with one [formation] and finish with another, at times. The players are well trained with both. “
On the heat in London on Sunday, Holland said: “The five substitutes is a good idea; 16 players are likely to participate in most matches. Never more than now have the starters and finalists of a match been more important. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism