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Graeme Le Saux: England must play with freedom not fear

Graeme Le Saux believes Gareth Southgate's men can put in an improved performance on Sunday
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Betfair Ambassador Graeme Le Saux looks back on England's victory against Slovenia on Thursday night and previews Sunday's encounter against Lithuania...

"There’s the option to try some new things and give starts to other players but I also think it’s an opportunity for the players that played on Thursday to go out and put in an improved performance"

Lithuania v England
Sunday October 8, 17:00
Live on ITV

I think the first point to say, given how I'd spoken about the game in my match preview, is that clearly it was a fairly disappointing performance. We struggled to really play to the required tempo and obviously the saving grace was that there was enough talent on the pitch to get the win.

Gareth said after the game that they've left it until late a few times to get the win and it says a lot about the attitude & determination of the group to get the job done. But equally that doesn't make up for the lack of cohesion and quality there was in the team.

That being said I think some of the criticism after the game was unfounded. We've got to get to a point where we're not comparing England to the Premier League as we're treated to such a free-flowing style of football that that's become our barometer for England.

The game can be really difficult at times and I'm not defending the performance but there are going to be plenty of teams at international level that are just doing enough to get through and move on to the next key match, or in this case, gain qualification for the World Cup.

We do seem to judge every England performance on whether they're then able to go on and win the next tournament which results in us either getting carried away or dejected. I understand this to a point as clearly our recent performances in tournaments perhaps haven't reflected the potential in the team. But I think you'll find that other nations have a very different reaction to qualification results than to results in the tournament itself.

I think Sunday's game boils down to all the questions that the players, and Gareth, have come off the pitch with and ironing out those problems. Everything I said before the Slovenia game applies here, there's no reason not to go out there and play with freedom and not with fear. They should be able to enjoy themselves and create a positive mind-set to take into the next game.

There's the option to try some new things and give starts to other players but I also think it's an opportunity for the players that played on Thursday to go out and put in an improved performance and try to build some cohesion within the team.

I suspect Lithuania will come out and try to play some decent football as they're playing for pride essentially which should open the game up for England to create some more space and enjoy themselves.


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