Gareth Southgate believes set-pieces can yet be a decisive weapon in Euro 2020, as England have so far underused them. Unlike 2018, all of the team’s goals so far have come from open play. Southgate did admit that preparation for set-pieces was affected by the absence of Mason Mount and Phil Foden from the starting line-up against the Czech Republic, since most of the squad’s work on deliveries had come through those two.
“Our delivery hasn’t been good, really,” Southgate admitted. “We had an issue [against Czech Republic] as yesterday in training it was Foden and Mount so that wasn’t helpful. There was the one where [John] Stones hit the post, which was bang on the money, and [Kieran] Trippier’s delivery in the first game was excellent. We haven’t matched that since. It’s quite rare for us. We have gone four or five matches without a set-piece goal, and that’s an area we can improve on.”
Southgate does believe England will generally grow into Euro 2020, and that some of the more disjointed elements of the early performances were down to the disrupted preparation. The 10 players from the Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United players joined late due to the European finals.
“There are a lot of players who are lacking a bit of match sharpness and match fitness and I am not sure there is a way round that. It’s why the squad is going to be so important because we are going to have to bring fresh legs into the games. We have not been able to put that intensity of performance together but what we have done well is manage the games and see the games out and look really solid. In doing that we have to find different ways to win.
“It’s a strange one because of course we have so many good attacking players. There were moments tonight when I thought it was definitely a bit more cohesive and it’s important that we get the ball into them a bit quicker at times as well. In the first half we managed to do that. Maguire’s pass for Kane’s chance was a fabulous one. That’s the type of thing we have to do a little bit more.
“To get 10 of the players so late, and not be able to get them into the friendly and then have [Harry] Maguire not available, [Jordan] Henderson early stages of rehab, Jack [Grealish] having only played the last couple of games of the season and still having to miss training…one or two others with small issues. So we have known the team was going to have to evolve and we were wanting to get some players match minutes tonight. Even with the Scotland game we wanted to get players on to the pitch. Reece James started for example because he hadn’t played since the Champions League final.
“So had one or two of those players been needed going forward then they had match minutes and the fitness and sharpness we are going to need. As we saw yesterday, it’s never more apparent than preparing one of those players and getting them up to that level is so critical in these times. Players adapted brilliantly yesterday. Some of the things we had to change we couldn’t do on the training pitch and considering that and considering the short period between the two matches, I thought they implemented a lot of the things that we were trying to do very well, they just weren’t able to do it for the full 90 minutes.”