Gareth Southgate has said England have no chance of winning big matches and tournaments if they don’t strike the right balance between defense and attack.
The England manager, who faces demands to play at the forefront in Wednesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Poland, wants his young side to be tactically astute at the European Championship. Undeterred by complaints about his pragmatic approach, Southgate has spoken highly of the skill of recent tournament winners and plans to return to three against Poland, who visit Wembley without the injured Robert Lewandowski.
“We have to find a balance,” he said. “We have a lot of exciting and creative players and we have to allow them to be as much of a threat as possible. We need to give the opposition something to worry about. But absolutely if we don’t defend well as a team, we won’t win big matches.
“We have to find that balance. I am still aware of it. Terry Venables was really big on it. What is the balance between offensive and defensive players? He had some who could do both very well in certain situations. This is what we are looking for.
“We are always learning more about young players. Will they thrive in certain situations? The development of some of them is rapid due to their age and the exposure they are undergoing this season. We need to make the best decisions possible. “
England used a 4-3-3 system when they opened their qualifying campaign with wins over San Marino and Albania. However, Southgate wants to be flexible. He praised France, who won the 2018 World Cup with a strong team, and Portugal, who were on the defensive when they won Euro 2016.
“When I looked at the French and Portuguese teams that won, they are savvy and experienced,” Southgate said. “This is something we need to add to this group. There are a lot of young players in this group. We have to help them learn to win big matches. “
Declan Rice, who is expected to start again in midfielder, admitted Wednesday’s game is coupled with an audition for the Euros. “As there was no international break in April, then obviously the two matches in June which are warm-up matches, this is the last chance to go there and make a performance”, declared the West Ham midfielder. “No disrespect for San Marino and Albania, but it will be a real step forward.”