England v Denmark Reaction: Fundamental flaws laid bare in Frankfurt

Gareth Southgate, England
Southgate anxiously spies a midfielder advancing into final third

Ste Tudor rakes through the ashes of a terrible England performance and highlights four key issues that must be addressed.

The pitch was poor in Frankfurt on Thursday evening but England were worse.

Fractured, passive, and notably lacking options when in possession this was a side that looked like it was trying out a brand new system for size, and it wasn't to their liking.

If only that was the case. At least then they could revert to the old way.

As it is, we are two games deep into a major tournament and England are in desperate need of change, change that would amount to experimentation, and you're left wondering what those six friendlies post-Qatar have been for. What purpose did they serve if the supposedly finished product is a team so startlingly unsure of itself?

By the closing stages, with mistakes and bad decisions the norm, what we witnessed was a collective crisis of confidence and in all honesty, after two hugely disappointing outings, the only positive to glean is the four points on the board. That's the same as Euro 2020 when the final was reached.

A reaction therefore is essential against Slovenia next week, as much to reassure the players as the public. And it's these four issues that will be keeping Gareth Southgate up at night between now and then.

Bellingham and Foden

Going into the tournament one of the big talking points was whether Southgate could get the best out of both Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden. Those seem like innocent salad days already.

Because based on the evidence so far, when one performs the other is all-but-anonymous as a consequence.

Against Serbia, Bellingham ran the show, scoring, enjoying 93 touches, and successfully executing every long-ball attempted. Along with John Stones he was statistically England's best player.

Foden meanwhile was a shadow of the vibrant superstar who has lit up the Premier League on a weekly basis this past year.

On Thursday, the roles were reversed. Given greater license to roam, the Manchester City man was impactful for the most part. He took on four shots, one striking the post. He completed four dribbles and won six ground duels.

By comparison, his 20-year-old midfield cohort was ineffective. Passes were misplaced. He too often inhabited the same space as others. He ran into cul-de-sacs.

It is inconceivable that either player will be sacrificed ahead of Slovenia, such is their heightened skill-sets. And it feels much easier to tweak Bellingham's role than to tether Foden back on the left.

Could the widespread calls for a Rice, Bellingham and Foden midfield three finally be given a chance? Here's hoping.

England sure miss Shaw

It is neither a coincidence nor a surprise that England so often gravitated to their right flank when building attacks against the Danes.

By the game's end 44% of their forays forward had come down the side where Bukayo Saka looked lively in his natural position, accruing two key passes and causing Victor Kristiansen problems, in the early stages at least.

Crucially, Saka was ably assisted throughout by Kyle Walker's energetic over-lapping.

Across the park meanwhile, the right-footed Kieran Trippier was stationed in isolation.

In advanced moments it was necessary for the Newcastle defender to cut inside which allowed the Danish rearguard to set. Even when Bellingham drifted over to enjoy some rare space England's left-wing was little more than a dead-end.

The return of Luke Shaw will help rectify that but the big question is when will that be?

A tentative hope that his recovery could be accelerated in time for the Denmark clash has now been parlayed onto the Slovenia game but now the stakes are higher with England's need for greater balance acute.

Not for nothing, but Shaw is also somewhat of a good luck charm for the Three Lions, losing only twice in 28 outings where he's played a half or more.

The Kane conundrum

When Harry Kane exclusively stayed high up the pitch against Serbia he was roundly criticized. It led to England being too stretched, it was claimed.

Against Denmark he dropped deep and got involved but again he was subjected to brickbats, his lack of pressing scrutinised by a BBC punditry team who are strangely reluctant to point out that England's biggest problem right now might be standing in the technical area.

Seemingly, the forward is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

kane denmark.jpg

Not that such criticism is unwarranted for the 30-year-old goal-machine.

In both instances, Kane had only a single touch inside the box and it's pertinent that these touches resulted in a goal and the striker hitting the woodwork. It starkly brings home what England are missing in there the rest of the time.

Elsewhere, his input has been lacklustre and would it be any surprise if it came to light post-tournament that the extent of his back injury has been downplayed?

Whatever the root cause and whatever the solution is, the Kane conundrum urgently needs addressing. Answers on a postcard please to Gareth Southgate, Blankenhain, Germany.

The forward's woes meanwhile have altered the thinking regarding the Golden Boot market, and the same goes for Kylian Mbappe's broken nose.

Value entices beyond this duo and the sheer number of chances Spain are conjuring up leads us to one man.

Remodeling on the go

The optimists are right to say that, on the odd occasion, teams in the past have struggled in their group then gone on to win the tournament. Those sides though were not in need of reinvention with a manager groping around for answers as to what his most productive eleven is.

Concerning Trent Alexander-Arnold's hit-and-miss displays in the middle, Southgate said last night, "We know it's an experiment and we know that we don't have a natural replacement for Kalvin Phillips. We're trying some different things."

Phillips last played for England way back in November and even then he was a spent force on the international scene. So again we go back to the question posed earlier: What on earth were all those international breaks for if not to go into a major tournament with a fully-formed plan?

In the Serbia review it was highlighted that 5/23.50 for England to exit the Euros at the quarters was a tempting price. It's not an over-reaction to now suggest that a repeat of Euro 2016 is possible, with a last 16 knock-out.

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