Gareth Southgate started with three centre-backs in England’s 3-0 friendly win over Wales – and he might just have to stick with that system whether he likes it or not.
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Recording ahead of the Wales game, Winty and Mark Smith were as prescient as ever, with Mark comparing Dominic Calvert-Lewin to Cristiano Ronaldo in the air before he predictably nodded one in on his debut, and Winty suggesting Southgate might feel forced to play three at the back for the foreseeable – basically because none of the available centre-halves are good enough to play in a two.
“It’s tempting to go with the three because there’s more stability and also because some of the players who are coming through are much more comfortable in that three,” Winty said.
“Certainly Conor Coady is an option in a three, and he’s not an option in a two really. As soon as you go into a three you’re opening it up to Kyle Walker again, who did so well in that position in the run up to the World Cup.
“People have even talked about Wan-Bissaka in that position because he’s not a great attacking full-back; he may end up being more of a third centre-half. Even Luke Shaw has played that position. They’re far away from the England squad at the moment, but we do have various players who play better in that system.”
Maguire remained on the bench against Wales but is expected to return to the starting XI for the Nations League games against Belgium and Denmark. As unpalatable as it might be, Sarah says there can be little argument that he is still “England’s number one centre-back.
“I think Gareth Southgate initially wanted to build around John Stones rather than Harry Maguire,” she says, “because Stones fits in better with his way of playing. But he’s so far down Pep Guardiola’s thinking at the moment that he can’t be anywhere near England.
“You don’t really want to build around Harry Maguire because that means you have to sit deeper, you have to take account for his lack of pace, you have to take account for the fact he can get turned quite easily, which immediately puts you back in the John Terry where you have to go further back to recompense for that.
“[Three at the back] worked in the World Cup because you had Stones, Maguire and Walker. The recovery pace of Walker was massive. Maguire is going to get caught on the turn, he is going to get caught too far up the pitch. And Stones will make mistakes so you had that combination of the three – but that all feels a long time ago now.
“But Maguire will find his form again. I think Man Utd need to find a different way of playing with him, maybe dropping deeper and giving him a bit more cover.
“They spent a massive amount of money on him; he’s not worth that, but that’s not his fault.”