Heartbreak for England in Guimarães as the Three Lions crash to Netherlands defeat

Three Lions bow out in Guimaraes

England slumped to a disappointing 3-1 defeat to the hands of the Netherlands in Guimaraes last night, 11 months after the Three Lions suffered World Cup heartbreak in Russia. Though plenty of positives have come out of the national team's rejuvenation under Gareth Southgate, ultimately we have still fallen short when tested by a high-pressing team with quality personnel.

Last night's crashing defeat highlighted the issues we have in this current Three Lions squad. Outplayed in the midfield by 21-year-old Ajax starlet Frenkie De Jong, blocked out by the ever-flawless Virgil van Dijk, it would be difficult to disagree with anybody saying that Southgate possibly got it wrong last night. With seven players involved in last Saturday's Champions League final, the 48-year-old decided to rest not just one, or two, but each of those seven players.

An understandable move which many agreed with before kick-off - especially in the case of Harry Kane who looked far from fit in Madrid - but would it have been more beneficial to stick with Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park as opposed to the seldomly-used Fabian Delph, who made just 11 league starts for Manchester City during their impressive treble-winning season? The Liverpool man would have been on a high following Saturday's Champions League victory over Tottenham, determined to imitate that success in Portugal for his national side.

rashy
Marcus Rashord's well-taken penalty put England a goal to the good in the first-half.

Henderson's introduction sured up the midfield

Henderson's introduction last night offered England an instant improvement, he got on the ball more and looked much more assured in possession. Koeman entrusted both Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum with starts - both of which repaid him with stellar performances against the Three Lions; it would have perhaps been a better option for Southgate to have done the same. Henderson's inclusion in central midfield last night would have also helped the in-experienced Declan Rice, who was making only his third senior appearance last night.

Rice is a player of unbelievable quality and has a scarily exciting future in front of him, but looked isolated at times last night - it was only Henderson's introduction on the 77th minute that helped to aid the West Ham man's performance. Had he have been next to him from the get-go, you can't help but feel that maybe things would have been different last night. Despite silly defensive errors, the game was ultimately lost in the midfield with the exceptionally talented Barcelona-bound De Jong pulling the strings with relative ease, simply because he was allowed to.

Trent Alexander-Arnold enjoyed a phenomenal season for Liverpool and is only 20 years of age, would he really not have been able to perform last night because of a match played out five days previously? Celebrations of course would have hindered the Liverpool players' preparations for the Nations League, but these men are professional, elite-level athletes at the peak of their physical form, it is unlikely that any (bar Kane) would have struggled to cope with the demands of last night's match.

Jordan Henderson England
Jordan Henderson looked assured when introduced last night.

Defensive naivety

Defensively, England were found out last night against a high-pressing side which possessed an abundance of pace, but thankfully not much quality. Had the Netherlands had a decent striker up top, things could have been [even more] embarrassing. John Stones has spent the season training and playing under the guidance of Pep Guardiola and is encouraged to play out from the back. He is, to all intents and purposes, a modern day, ball-playing centre-half who spits at the idea of clipping it into the channel.

There is no problem in that, when it works it is fantastic and with the way in which the game is now evolving, these types of players will become even more in demand. However, there has to be a balance, you need to know when to play and when to simply get it upfield and switch the phase of play - too often Stones doesn't realise when he needs to do that and last night it cost England dearly.

Harry Maguire was uncharacteristically poor, but off days will come and go in football and it can be excused considering how well he has performed for this England side in recent outings. The same can be said for Kyle Walker, who has looked shaky for large parts of the entire season at Manchester City - the 29-year-old seems to be lacking composure and it's difficult to understand why.

Walker has always been such a threat going forward but question marks are continually raised over the former Tottenham man's defensive capabilities - last night summarised that point to perfection. Trent Alexander-Arnold has to hold the starting right-back birth moving forward.

stones
Stones is a fantastic modern-day defender, but needs to understand when to play out from the back, and went to take a different approach.

Onwards and upwards

Last night's loss hurts right now, it's frustrating and will provide plenty of talking points for this weekend's beer-fuelled conversation in various watering holes across the country, but lets not forget how far this team has come in the previous 12 months. Though the Nations League was snuffed at when it was first introduced, I think we can all agree that it has provided a positive alternative to the usually so mundane, dreary chore of the standard international break.

England made it through to the finals of this competition, remember, beating Spain and Croatia along the way. And while now all we can hope for is the somewhat unwanted prize of 'third place' - should we beat Switzerland in Sunday's pointless clash in Guimaraes - there is still room for hope and optimism for this young, invigorated England side who now have to simply learn from their mistakes, regroup and get ready to go again ahead of next summer's European Championships.

Southgate England Fans
We go again, Sir Gareth.

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