England exclusive: Mills uses two Mourinho transfers to explain why TAA criticism has been harsh

Joe Williams
England star Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold claps the supporters after the match.

Former England right-back Danny Mills thinks it’s “time to have a change” in the Three Lions midfield but he has sympathy for Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Gareth Southgate’s side put in a woeful display in a 1-1 draw against Denmark on Thursday night as they missed their chance to guarantee qualification from Group C in only their second match.

England put in a performance lacking energy or ideas with Southgate’s men looking unbalanced throughout and now critics want to see changes to the side as they face Slovenia in their final group match on Tuesday night.

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold has come in for the most criticism since the tournament started with the right-back playing out of position as a midfielder.

Danny Mills: ‘It’s time for a change to try something a little bit different’

And Mills admits a change needs to be made in midfield for the next England match but insists it’s “very, very difficult playing with your back to goal”, especially when you aren’t used to it, like Alexander-Arnold.

Speaking to Football365 on behalf of BetVictor, Mills said: “The word drop always seems a little bit harsher than it needs to be but I think it’s time to have a change in that midfield.

“It’s an experiment that hasn’t worked as well as a lot of people thought it would. There was a lot of clamour from media, from pundits from so-called experts to put Trent in that midfield area, and it hasn’t quite worked as yet.

“And that’s not just down to Trent. That’s down to other players not making runs in behind, not making the pitch big enough to create that space. It’s been difficult for him. It’s also very, very difficult playing with your back to goal against very good opposition.

“When you look at Hojbjerg, Mourinho brought him in at Tottenham to do a certain job. Mourinho rarely gets that defensive midfield area wrong. Makelele, Mourinho brought him to that position once upon a time, so it not easy for Trent in that area.

“It’s time for a change to try something a little bit different because we didn’t have control in that midfield at all last night. I’d be tempted to maybe put Kobbie Mainoo in there.

“I know Kobbie’s very, very young and I’ve said before, maybe it’s the next tournament that he’s gonna be a superstar at. This one might be a touch early, but we don’t have too many options. You have to say to him, ‘sit there and stay there’.

“Maybe with a younger player Gareth can say ‘Look, this is all we want you to do. We don’t want you to go forward and score goals. We want you to sit and tidy up and get the ball and break things up and pass it simply and track runners and that’s your job’.

He would do that diligently and do that very, very well. That would allow Declan Rice to play slightly further forward in where has been his better position for Arsenal this season, especially when the likes of Jorginho have played in that out and out holding midfield player in the six.

“Then you’ve got the dilemma of what you do with Bellingham with Foden, because we saw last night, sometimes they’re getting in each other’s way a little bit.
We have a real lack of balance on that left hand side.

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“Phil Foden’s an absolute superstar but coming in and playing narrow in the middle, sometimes even on the inside right position – where he gets his shot away and goes over the bar – it makes the pitch very, very small.

“It’s much easier to defend against Kieran Trippier left out on the left wing as the outlet. If I’m a right back, I’m looking at Kieran Trippier and going ‘Go on, give him the ball all day long’ because he’s gonna have to have an extra touch, come inside, make a pass.

“It’s not an Anthony Gordon or a Jeremy Doku situation where if he gets it, I’m one on one. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, dear. Now I’m in a bit of trouble.’

“There’s gonna have to be a sacrifice that is made and somebody’s gonna have to be put out on that left hand side to keep the width and give those midfield players a little bit more space cos I think we saw last night when it gets very, very congested in there, we got overrun.

“Teams looked at the Serbia game and thought, ‘Can England be physically intimidated?’

“There were a lot of tackles last night where players were looking for free-kicks, a lot of shoulder barges where players were going down looking for free-kicks and not getting them.

“The referees, we’ve seen in the tournament so far, have been a lot more lenient compared to what they would be in the Premier League.

“Maybe we need to just physically, mentally toughen up a little bit and not get brushed off the ball cos it doesn’t look like we’re gonna give be given fouls, perhaps like we are in the Premier League.”