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Gary Neville says balance of England midfield is major concern facing Gareth Southgate at Euro 2024 | Football News

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Gary Neville says balance of England midfield is major concern facing Gareth Southgate at Euro 2024 | Football News

Gary Neville says the balance of the England midfield is the “major concern” facing Gareth Southgate at Euro 2024.

England sit top of Group C after edging past Serbia 1-0 in their tournament opener thanks to Jude Bellingham’s early header.

England controlled the first half but lost their way in the second, raising more questions over how Southgate can get the best out of his squad.

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Rob Dorsett looks at the positives and negatives from England’s opening Euro 2024 win over Serbia.

“The midfield is the major concern and the fluidity of the game that comes through there is one thing we need to try and work on in the group stage because when we play against a good team, we’ll have to have it right,” said Sky Sports’ Neville.

“There are some small alarm bells around balance and having a good group of players that are very talented but are we as good a team?

Jude Bellingham celebrates his goal with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold
Image:
Jude Bellingham celebrates his goal with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold

“Last night, you start to think about the impact and influence of Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips. The best players don’t make the best team sometimes.

“We’re aware Kieran Trippier is right-footed at left-back and is playing there because of all the injuries in that position which creates a further imbalance. But in midfield, somehow we have to try and get that right. Gareth [Southgate] will be more than aware of that.

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“Having that partner alongside Declan Rice is important because I don’t think he is at his very best when he’s sat back covering for other players. Mikel Arteta found that out at Arsenal and worked out he was better being able to move forward. Jorginho or [Thomas] Partey came in at the end of the season.

“There’s no doubt we’re a little undercooked, players having not played for a few weeks and maybe that’s the first time that team has played together, I’ll think they’ll get better.”

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Trent Alexander-Arnold made up a three-man midfield alongside Declan Rice and Bellingham. He showed flashes of his passing range and helped out defensively, but made one mistake deep in the England half which handed a chance to Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

“We know [Alexander-Arnold] can do it when he moves into midfield from right-back and then can deliver those crosses and passes. There were times when he found himself with his back to play and that is a different story,” said Neville.

“I don’t really want to focus on him being a problem in there. It was the balance of the entire midfield and I include Declan Rice in that as well – and what England need to have in there to be able to move forward in this tournament.

“All eyes will be on Trent Alexander-Arnold. His best position is right-back and having the ability to move forward on that side or coming inside and playing that quarter-back role. It doesn’t look like we’re going to do that, it looks like we’re going to stick with Kyle Walker which is absolutely the right decision.

“Gareth will know he’s got an issue with these talented players and how he gets them all into the team – and most importantly with the right balance.”

Jude Bellingham

Neville believes the answer could be for Southgate to stick with his current side.

“An imbalance may have been created last night not because of the wrong personnel. It may be they just haven’t played enough together. It may be when that team plays together for three games in the group,” he said.

“Sometimes we think Phil Foden didn’t work on the left, Trent didn’t work in midfield, let’s get them out and put two others in. It may be the way Gareth goes is for them to get good together and play them together because that’s what he believes in and have three games under their belts. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater may not be the thing to do here.

“Gareth has great experience of how to manage tournament football. It might be the opposite of what we all think which is getting someone else alongside Declan Rice, it may be that they need to play together a bit more.”

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