Carragher fears Southgate will ‘compromise’ England star by turning him into Man City man

Jason Soutar
England captain Harry Kane did not impress Jamie Carragher against Serbia
Harry Kane did not impress Jamie Carragher against Serbia

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher has criticised England manager Gareth Southgate for ‘reinventing Harry Kane as Erling Haaland’. As if that’s a bad thing.

Carragher obviously says this knowing that Kane has more to his game than Haaland, but you know, it’s hardly going to hurt England if they have a ridiculously prolific goalscorer up front.

The former Tottenham striker was very uninvolved in the Three Lions’ Euro 2024 opener against Serbia, with Jude Bellingham’s 13th-minute header enough to secure the three points.

Some are concerned by Kane’s lack of involvement but it could be a blessing in disguise having been criticised for dropping too deep to get involved for England.

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Unfortunately for the player, he can’t have it both ways. He actually plays up front and gets criticised. That’s punditry for you. Double-edged swords everywhere.

It is fair to be unimpressed by Kane’s performance vs Serbia on Sunday and Carragher believes Southgate using him more as a poacher “reduces his effectiveness by 50 per cent”.

England doomed as Southgate ‘reduces Kane’s effectiveness by 50 per cent’

“Kane had only two touches in the entire first half against Serbia – England will not win the Euros if that continues,” the former Three Lions centre-back wrote in his Telegraph column.

“Of all Gareth Southgate’s strategies for winning the Euros, few anticipated Harry Kane being reinvented as Erling Haaland.

“On the surface that sounds like a great plan for the country and for any striker. The role is specific and in some respects old-school; to play as much as possible on the shoulder of the last defender, stay on the fringe of the action as the midfielders assume all the creative responsibilities, patiently awaiting one moment to strike.

“The problem with a player of Kane’s many abilities is that it reduces his effectiveness by 50 per cent. Kane is a multi-tasking, modern centre-forward who was reduced to one-dimension during the 1-0 win over Serbia.

“If Southgate persists with the same system for the rest of the tournament, his No 9 will be heavily compromised. Possibly too much. Having come into the Euros with a Phil Foden conundrum, after one game Southgate has a Kane one.

“In the first half, Kane registered just two touches of the ball. For a player of his class, that is deeply worrying.

“By full time that had risen to 24, showing that he was more involved in the second half – ironic given that England were less dominant in possession. There is a tactical curiosity that when England played well, Kane was not involved at all. When they didn’t, he nearly scored and had more possession.”

Carragher continued: “Kane is at his best when he is surrounded by pace. At the last three international tournaments, he liked to drop deep and supply passes to rapid wide strikers like Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling, or (when selected) Marcus Rashford.

“Even when England were in control during the first 30 minutes against Serbia, Saka was the only attacker running beyond the defence. He was brilliant, but there was too much responsibility on him to make those runs.

“The lack of pace hurt England the longer the game progressed, so it was surprising Anthony Gordon was not introduced. There is also an argument that Ollie Watkins should have replaced Kane for the last 20 minutes because he is quicker and could have freshened it up physically.

“True, Kane nearly had his reward when he forced an impressive save on 77 minutes. Like Haaland, interpretations of whether he played well or not become defined by such opportunities.”

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Indeed, Carragher believes England’s lack of pace hurts the team with “too much responsibility” on Bukayo Saka on the right wing.

“I have always distinguished the best centre-forwards between great players and great goalscorers,” he added. “Haaland is a great scorer. Kane is a great player who scores lots of goals.

“The reason he is world class is because he does not need to score to have an impact on a game. At his best, he is a goalscoring No 9, a false 9 and a creative No 10.

“Redefining him as a poacher to accommodate so many team-mates who want to occupy the deep, No 10 position will be the most contentious decision Southgate makes if England are unsuccessful.”

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