The talk has raged a lot of the summer and escalated on Friday after one other tepid display within the 1-0 defeat to Italy in Milan. From pundit to pub bore, everybody appears to be asking why England don’t ditch the back five and experiment with a more attack-minded flat back 4.
So I made a decision to place the identical query to Raheem Sterling – only to be pinged with essentially the most definitive of conversation-stoppers. “Since the manager desires to play a back five,” the Chelsea winger said.
Conversation stopper since the FA media officer stepped in at that time to maneuver the discussion along. But Sterling had already let slip that England players spent most of their training session at Tottenham’s training ground yesterday trying alternative ways to unlock attacking players with that extra central defender within the team.
“Even today we needed to go over things to try to search out where we are able to find that extra man with this five on the back,” Sterling said. “Can we put a midfielder higher up within the build-up? The manager is working on things to get us that space within the attacking third to try to change that however it’s not a time to panic and say, ‘We haven’t scored, we haven’t scored!’
“We’d like a superb performance and certainly one of our big players to step up and alter that narrative. That’s greater than likely what’s going to occur.” Gareth Southgate isn’t stubborn; he has fixed upon this unpopular system because he has calculated it gives England their best likelihood of progressing at Qatar.
Given his track record – those two semi-finals and a final – perhaps he’s owed a little bit of loyalty. Actually the players he has melded together from the void after Euro 2016 are keen to indicate him some – not least Sterling, certainly one of a handful who has been there for all the journey.
“Like every part it has to come back from the boys,” he said. “We’ve said that these results over the previous few months haven’t been adequate and we’d like to take responsibility. We’ve to have that winning mentality. When the boys have been speaking, the message has been to get more out of one another, push one another, take criticism. If someone isn’t doing something right then now we have to push one another to try to get the very best for the team.
“I do know there was quite a bit on Gareth and what he has been doing – formations and whatnot – however the performances haven’t been right. It’s not nice to see your manager getting criticised. However it’s also not something we’re surprised by. We’re expected to win. We’re expected to supply good football and over these last couple of months, it has not been as much as the extent.”
The last time the Three Lions played Germany, in fact, the performance was exemplary, a curse appeared to have been buried and England remained heading in the right direction for his or her first major final in 55 years at Euro 2020.
“Football is brutal at times,” Sterling smiled at what he described as certainly one of the highlights of his profession. “Yes, it was an incredible tournament last summer but when you produce like that, people expect more.
“Then while you put results like our recent ones on the table, they’re going to be asking questions. For me, they’re right to ask these questions. It’s right down to us to alter that and make people realise we’re the actual deal.”
ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Stones, Dier, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Rice, Chilwell; Sterling, Kane, Saka.
GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Trapp; Kehrer, Süle, Schlotterbeck, Raum; Kimmich, Arnold; Hofmann, Müller, Musiala; Nmecha.
REFEREE: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)