Neville advises Southgate to copy Arteta tactic at Arsenal to help ‘nervous’ England star

Joe Williams
Man Utd legend Gary Neville on England during punditry duty for Sky Sports
Gary Neville during punditry duty for Sky Sports

Gary Neville thinks Gareth Southgate should change Declan Rice’s position for England after watching him in their first two Euro 2024 matches.

Among the favourites to go all the way in Germany this summer, the Three Lions have opened the finals with a narrow win and an underwhelming draw, just as they did three years ago.

England went on to reach a first their Euros final and suffered a heart-breaking shootout defeat to Italy, but the current feeling around the national team is lower than at the same point in 2021.

Sunday’s performance in the 1-0 win against Serbia raised concerns that were exacerbated against Denmark, with the team struggling across the board and booed by fans following the 1-1 draw in Frankfurt.

The balance of Southgate’s team still feels off with Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold – who has been utilised in an unfamiliar midfield position – has been pinpointed as the major problem but lots of other players have also been off the pace too.

Rice had a poor match alongside Alexander-Arnold – who was taken off for Conor Gallagher on 54 minutes – on Thursday night and former Manchester United defender Neville reckons Southgate needs to copy Mikel Arteta to get the best out of the midfielder.

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“I want to mention a player who we all love 100 per cent,” Neville said on ITV.

“Mikel Arteta moved Declan Rice out of that position [No.6] for the last 15 games of the season to bring in Jorginho and [Thomas] Partey, because he’s not that good at playing there.

“That’s the most nervous I’ve ever seen Declan Rice and he’s a brilliant player. I think he’s better further up the pitch.

“If you think about what [Toni] Kroos, Rodri and Vitinha do, they’re players who get the team going. At Manchester United it was Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. It’s Jorginho at Arsenal.

“We don’t seem to have this player. [Kobbie] Mainoo’s probably the one. [Adam] Wharton could do it. We have to resolve this problem and I’m not talking about Gareth in the next four days.

“I’m just talking England generally. We’ve never been able to get out from the back properly in moments of pressure.

“When he [Rice] receives the ball deep with his back to play, I think he’s quite basic at that. I don’t think he’s as good as the other players who play that position.

“Where I think he’s brilliant is where he’s marauding forward, he’s on top of the game, he’s being aggressive. If you look at his touch map for Arsenal in the last part of the season, most of his touches were in the high-left channel.

“I get that he’s got Jorginho, he might have [Oleksandar] Zinchenko and Partey in midfield. For some reason we don’t have that balance in midfield and that’s a massive problem.”

But Arsenal legend Ian Wright doesn’t agree and thinks Rice can play as a No.6 for club and country, he said: “With the way that Rice plays Arsenal, we’ve got progressive centre-halves, inverted full-backs…

“Declan then has to move forward because there’s no space for him. That’s why he’s pushing up the field.”