Southgate ‘wouldn’t know where England would be’ without Arsenal star amid midfield ‘solution’ claim

News Desk
Gareth Southgate scratches his head during a game
Gareth Southgate scratches his head during a game.

Gareth Southgate admitted England are struggling to cope with the Euro 2024 pressure after his side were booed at the end of a poor draw with Denmark.

Among the favourites to win the European Championships three years after finishing as runners-up, they made hard work of beating Serbia 1-0 in Sunday’s Group C opener.

“We’re falling a little bit short of that…”

It meant another victory against Denmark on Thursday evening would book England’s place in the round of 16 with a game to go and wrap up top spot.

But Southgate’s side were jeered after fumbling that chance in Frankfurt, where they were fortunate to draw 1-1 after Harry Kane’s goal was cancelled out by a Morten Hjulmand stunner.

“Look, clearly, we’re disappointed with the two performances we’ve had,” said under-fire England boss Southgate, who has to refocus on Tuesday’s group finale against Slovenia.

“We’ve got to go and analyse that in depth and find some solutions to addressing the issues that we have. Over the next few days we’ll spend a lot of time doing that.

“We know the level has to be higher, we know the level can be higher.

“Maybe the biggest thing is we have to accept the environment that we’re in and the expectations that are around us. We are going to have to walk towards that challenge.

“At the moment we’re falling a little bit short of that. Ultimately that’s my responsibility. I’m the manager and I’ve got to guide this group in the best way possible.

“To achieve extraordinary things, you have to go through some difficult moments. Today was a difficult moment without a doubt, towards the end of the game especially.

“But England have never won back-to-back qualification matches (to start the Euros) I was told yesterday, so there’s a reason for that and we hoped to write a different story today. We haven’t managed that.

“We understand what that will mean for the next few days, but we have to stay calm inside the group and find good solutions to improve it.”

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Southgate admits England “didn’t function” as a team against Denmark and did not shy away from the negative reaction from the stands.

“Look, I think we have to accept this is the environment we’re in,” he said. “The environment of winning on the biggest possible stage.

“If we don’t hit the level, if I don’t hit the level that’s needed, then we have to accept what comes our way.

“We have to find the best way to solve that. Of course we need the fans, you know we need the fans, but I have to say they’ve been brilliant, absolutely brilliant in the stadiums.

“And I can completely understand their frustration with the way that we played, but what I would say is these boys aren’t lacking effort at the moment.

“It’s not a case that they’re not trying but we’ve got to find a better way of playing, we’ve got to find more quality in what we’re doing.

“I don’t think people would look at them and say ‘they don’t care’. If anything at the moment we care too much and we’ve got to find a way of getting that right balance.”

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Southgate repeated his belief that England’s players are struggling with the pressure that comes with being among the favourites and have to accept the need to deliver.

“This is the arena we’re in, so we’ve got to walk towards that challenge – and I’m intending to walk towards it, whatever the reaction is,” he said. “I’m not going to avoid going over to the fans at the end of the game.

“We confront it head on and what we’ve going to do is play better and show people what we’re really capable of.”

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Southgate refused to suggest the hodgepodge Deutsche Bank Park pitch was an excuse, but did mention England challenging lead-up into the tournament.

He also spoke about the impact of first-choice left-back Luke Shaw’s absence and raised ongoing midfield issues after Trent Alexander-Arnold was again deployed there.

“We have been trying to find a solution in midfield for seven or eight years,” Southgate added.

“If we hadn’t had Declan Rice for the last few years, I don’t know where we’d have been.

“Unfortunately, Kalvin (Phillips) wasn’t a possible for us for this tournament and Hendo [Jordan Henderson] the same, so we’re trying to find something different.

“Some of that has worked, some of that hasn’t worked so well, but over the years that’s been a consistent problem we’ve tried to find the best way of solving and we’ve got to do that in the coming weeks as well.”