England’s dire defence may stop them winning Euro 2020

Defence in question

England conceded three goals at home for the first time in seven years last night, with the five they scored overshadowed by an incompetence to defend against a team ranked 121st in the world.

Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling were all on the scoresheet, with the latter putting in as good of an attacking performance as I’ve seen this season. Admittedly, it was against Kosovo, but last Tuesday’s defeat was their first in 16 matches.

England’s exhilarating attacking display was almost forgotten about as the defence failed to keep out strikers from Valon Berisha and Vedat Muriqi - who had scored just seven international goals between them before Tuesday.

And that’s no disrespect to Kosovo. They played well in large parts at St Mary’s, not cowering in the shadows against the World Cup semi-finalists, instead, taking the game to Gareth Southgate’s side. And it worked.

Costly mistakes

England were forced into mistakes, as both Michael Keane and Declan Rice inadvertently gave the ball straight to Kosovo players before the first two goals. The finishes were executed in expert fashion, but the Three Lions did nothing to help themselves.

Their third was almost comical, as Harry Maguire, who recently became the most expensive defender ever, failed to defend a tame cross from the right. The Manchester United centre-back then tripped Muriqi inside the box, before the big Kosovan striker went down theatrically, to say the least.

Along with the disappointing nature of the goals, England’s defensive line as a whole looked shaky. Ben Chilwell was perhaps an exception, as the Leicester man put in another consistent performance on the left.

Even Trent Alexander-Arnold had a poor game at right-back, which was probably down to him not having Virgil Van Dijk marshalling the defence beside him. Whilst the Liverpool full back is almost untouchable going forward, there is some doubts when it comes to his defensive work.

Perhaps all of this is down to the goalkeeper not instilling complete confidence in his back four. Jordan Pickford seems to be the no.1 at the moment and, whilst the Everton man has undoubted quality, he is prone to a mistake.

What’s next for the three lions

So, what happens next? Is a change in system needed? A 4-3-3 seems to be Southgate’s preferred system at the moment, but maybe a switch back to a three-man defence is required. It allowed the full-backs to get forward at will, also permitting Maguire to make his ventures forward, knowing he’d have players covering behind him. However, this would mean you’d have to sacrifice an attacking player and, after last night’s display, no-one wants to see that.

Or could an alteration in personnel do the trick?

Declan Rice is one of very few out-and-out holding midfielders England have got, so it seems likely that he will continue in that role for the foreseeable future.

Aaron Wan-Bisakka would provide more defensive solidity at right-back, with the Manchester United man making the most tackles in the Premier League so far this season. And at center-back, Joe Gomez could be an option to come in, but he’s struggling to get minutes under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Whilst Southgate appears to like Pickford because of his ability to play out from the pick, Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton would provide a more reliable ‘keeper, with more experience to his name too.

Assuming England qualify for Euro 2020, they have ten months to work out their best formation and XI, going into a tournament they should see as winnable. But there’s no chance they’ll be lifting the trophy at Wembley with more defensive displays like last night.


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