Frustrated Gareth Southgate admits England are leaving themselves open to criticism after drawing another blank against Italy… as he concedes his side are ‘too reliant’ on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling
- Gareth Southgate says England have relied on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling
- Three Lions boss has called on others to step up ahead of this year’s World Cup
- Southgate revealed he was pleased with the overall performance against Italy
- But the manager also admitted his side are leaving themselves open to criticism
- Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates
Gareth Southgate admitted England are leaving themselves open to criticism after blank night left in danger of suffering Nations League relegation.
England drew 0-0 with Italy at Molineux and while they had a lot of possession, there was no real cutting edge and Southgate was unusually irritable on the sidelines for a lot of the contest, hurling his water bottle in frustration.
In three games over seven days, England only have a Harry Kane penalty in Germany to show for their efforts and this result leaves them bottom of Group A; there is now an even greater importance on securing a positive result against Hungary back here at Molineux on Tuesday.
Gareth Southgate says England have been heavily reliant on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling
But there are no guarantees about anything, given England’s lacklustre form, and Southgate recognises that critics will be lining up if there isn’t an upturn in what they are producing in the opposition penalty area.
Southgate said: ‘We used the ball better (that against Germany) and that is pleasing but we not got the rewards. We are very reliant on Harry and Raheem (Sterling) scoring goals for us and that is very concerning.
‘Harry and Raheem are the ones that consistently get goals and that is something we have to improve if we are going to progress as a team. Having lots of the ball does not guarantee you win matches and it doesn’t guarantee you will score goals. I’m sure we will be open to criticism.
‘We have got some very good forwards and our captain’s goal return is constant. But we have got to spread the load. There are players who score more regularly for their clubs here who have now got to convert at international level.’
To give depth to Southgate’s point: this was England’s fifth match of 2022 – they only have another three before their World Cup campaign begins in Qatar – and they have scored six times; Kane has two, Sterling has one.
The others were scored in friendlies against Switzerland and the Ivory Coast in March by Ollie Watkins, Tyrone Mings and Luke Shaw – none of whom were picked in this squad. It is a situation that Southgate recognises must rectified immediately.
Southgate conceded the Three Lions are opening themselves up to criticism from their fans
England did have some chances against the European Champions: Tammy Abraham missed a gilt-edged early opening, Mason Mount hit the bar and Sterling ballooned an inviting ball from Reece James over the bar but they eventually ran out of steam.
‘It’s not too much of a worry,’ said Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips. ‘The strikers that we have got here are prolific. We have just got to keep creating chances and, eventually, the goals will come. We do not feel fatigued and hopefully we do not look it either.’
Southgate shuffled his pack against Italy and he explained his team selection by saying: ‘We needed to look at different players. We knew on the back of a physically tough game in Germany that it was important to freshen things up.
Their winless start to the Nations League campaign continued following the draw with Italy
‘It was disappointing not to win. The two or three chances that we created, we did not take and that can hurt. You aren’t going to get 10 chances against the top level teams. We have got to make sure we keep getting the ball through our opponents.’
Italy’s team was unrecognisable from the side that had been victorious at Wembley last July, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma the only man to start both games; Manuel Locatelli, who was excellent here, had come on as a substitute in the final of Euro 2020.
But they are still top of the group and Mancini said: ‘England are still one of the best teams in Europe. They have got many, many good players. They are trying to do something different ahead of the World Cup and they are one of the main candidates to win in Qatar.’