Why England need to analyse their midfield performance

Yesterday England and the Netherlands faced off in the second semi-final of the first ever UEFA Nations League, for a chance to play the hosts in a battle to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Unfortunately, it ended in misery for Gareth Southgate and England, in another semi-final of a major competition which the Three Lions led, leading to a slip up. Having seized the initiative through a Marcus Rashford penalty, following a clumsy passage of play from Mattijs De Ligt, the Dutch fought back, eventually securing victory after extra time.

Although, many will say that the Ronald Koeman’s side were handed two goals which settled the tie, a major problem that was clear throughout the game was the midfield for England. On the opposing side, Frenkie De Jong was controlling the play throughout, dominating the ball and keeping the tempo moving forward for his side. However, England just couldn’t settle in the middle of the park, continuously struggling.

There were several issues that appeared as the game went on, with the midfield battle being clearly dominated by Koeman’s side. On numerous occasions possession was lost cheaply and pressure put back on the defence by England, a major factor in losing the game if you consider Ross Barkley’s poor attempt for the third and final Netherlands goal.

In times of need, there was no one really capable of settling the game down and keeping the ball. A player that would have to sprung to mind in terms of who might be able to influence that in future games could be Harry Winks, the Spurs man really showed his capabilities against Liverpool in the Champions League final, dictating the play.

The Dutch were afforded too much space on the ball and after initially struggling to break down a compact line of defence, towards the end of the game England were really put under pressure. It seemed like their opponents wanted the ball more, there was much more pressure on the ball from them.

Assessing what England could have done better in hindsight, it could be suggested that there needs to be more movement in the middle of the park, in order to create options for the defence. This could prove vital, especially when taking into consideration Southgate’s desire to play out from the back. In addition to that, the ball must be protected better. Against top class sides, getting caught on the ball could very much prove critical.

Speaking on the game yesterday both Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp commented on the game, via Sky Sports.

Neville suggested he could see the costly errors on the horizon, stating:

“Those errors have been coming all night,”

“The midfield just didn’t look competent against a really good midfield.”

Redknapp agreed with Neville, adding:

“The major problem was the midfield. We can talk about playing out of the back, but you need to have players in midfield who can take the ball in tight areas.  We still struggle to retain the ball.”

By no means should one loss effect the feeling towards the players and the job Southgate has done so far in his time with his country. However, it could provide an area for thought in regard to moving forward and preparing for future challenges.

(Image via the Daily Express)

James Miller

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