England’s back four is becoming a real issue – Southgate needs consistency

ENGLAND’S lack of continuity at the back is starting to become a real issue.

Since last summer’s World Cup, Gareth Southgate has failed to pick the same back four in consecutive games.

England’s back four is becoming a real issue – Southgate needs consistency1 Gareth Southate needs to settle on his strongest back fourCredit: AP:Associated Press

Harry Maguire has been a constant but his centre-back partner and the full-backs have constantly changed.

Injuries have played their part but in international football it’s so important to have a settled defence.

Changing your forwards doesn’t tend to be a problem as it’s more off the cuff.

But the same doesn’t apply at the back, where you really do need time on the pitch to breed familiarity and an understanding.

Southgate has very little time with his England squad so it’s little  surprise the defence is struggling — in open play and at set-pieces — with all the  chopping and changing.

For me, Trent Alexander- Arnold, Ben Chilwell and Maguire are definite starters, while there is a spot up for grabs alongside the Manchester United man.

But Southgate really does need to decide and stick with a unit if they want to have a successful Euros next summer.

I also think he needs to pick two ball-playing, attack-minded central midfielders, rather than just the one as he did against the Czech Republic.

He went that way to ensure, with the full-backs tasked with pushing up high, they were not caught out and always had four behind the ball. But they can still have that solidity by just having the one sitter.

If attacking up the right you’ve still got your four as long as the left-back stays back and tucks inside — just as both Liverpool and Manchester City do at times.

And obviously it then gives the team a better chance of successfully playing out from the back.

Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice will naturally take the ball off the centre-back from a deeper position.

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Whereas a more attack-minded player will be higher which allows the defender to step out, commit a player, and get England going further  forward.

England’s best performance since the World Cup was when they won 3-2 away in Spain last October. They had just 27 per cent possession but were brilliant on the counter.

But against a lot of sides, including tonight in Bulgaria, the onus will be on them to dictate — something they should find easier with two natural ball-players.

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