England came up short in the Euro 2020 final but Gareth Southgate has hit back at suggestions he employed negative tactics, citing Chelsea’s success with the same system
Gareth Southgate has hit back at the critics who said negativity cost England Euro 2020 glory by insisting he has never put the shackles on.
Accusations that the Three Lions were too defensive after taking an early lead in the final against Italy were quickly levelled at the manager.
And they came after senior players approached him following the goalless group-phase draw with Scotland to express concerns that they weren’t playing freely enough.
Southgate insists, however, that if there were times England were playing with the handbrake on, those instructions did not come from him.
And as he prepares his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and Poland from Thursday, supporters will be hoping that is a message he is reiterating.
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Southgate said: “I don’t think we’ve ever had an environment where players aren’t free to express themselves. The only time I can remember any reference to that was after the Scotland game, when one or two seemed to be saying they felt they weren’t allowing themselves to go.
“I remember saying to them at the time, ‘Well, let’s be clear about this, we’ve never stopped you or given you that sort of message’.
“I’m not going to sit and make a big defensive argument, but football isn’t just about letting players go and freely do what they want. Chelsea are European champions – they play three attacking players and they have a fantastic structure.
“So there are many different ways to play, and we have to get the best of the players we’ve got and get the balance right.
“We’ve got some very exciting attacking players, many of whom aren’t yet the finished article. The nice thing is we’re looking to get better on the back of a semi-final and a final, and not after a root-and-branch review having gone out in the group stage.”
England supporters were desperate for Manchester City pre-season signing Jack Grealish to play a bigger part in the summer and they hope to see more of his creativity in the next three games.
Southgate added: “Jack missed 14 weeks of the season towards the end so what we had him inked in for during the summer was a little bit more complicated.
“He could only train two days out of three and we had to try to get the best physically from him without breaking him.
“He’s now up and running with his new club and settling into that.
“That’s going to take a period of adaptation because Pep Guardiola is very specific on positional discipline with and without the ball, and for any player that’s going to take time to get used to.
“We have four or five players at Manchester City now in one team and that’s obviously a help for us because they get that cohesion and experience of playing together.”