Gareth Southgate’s biggest concern continues to be England’s soft core.

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By Creative Media News

Always, there is room for improvement. The England camp is buoyant following Monday’s 6-2 victory over Iran, but nobody is resting on their laurels. There is an understanding that tougher tests lie ahead, beginning with Friday’s match against a quick and inventive United States side, and much of the focus this week has been on correcting the defensive lapses that allowed Iran to score two second-half goals at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Gareth Southgate has pondered this dip in concentration. It was a reminder not to get carried away during this tournament of surprises, and it lent credence to the notion that England’s defense is their biggest obstacle to winning the World Cup.

It has been forgotten that England kept five clean sheets during Euro 2020. Harry Maguire’s performance against Iran did not completely assuage concerns regarding his difficulties with Manchester United.

There was a moment of concern when the United center-back lost Mehdi Taremi before the Iran striker scored his first goal past Jordan Pickford, who was furious at being denied a clean sheet. It remains to be seen whether Southgate has faith in Harry Maguire and John Stones to thrive in a back four against the very best.

Gareth southgate's biggest concern continues to be england's soft core.
Gareth southgate's biggest concern continues to be england's soft core.

The consensus is that England’s preferred pair of central defenders have everything to prove. The fear is that Stones and Maguire will not be sufficient if England faces France or Brazil in the knockout stages, prompting Southgate to abandon the 4-3-3 formation that defeated Iran and bring in Kyle Walker as a third central defender.

The debate is ongoing. On the one hand, there is the argument that England will not be playing to their strength if they sacrifice an attacker. On the other hand, it is easy to see why Southgate prefers Walker’s speed as an insurance policy against the best teams.

Stones remarked, “It’s great that we’re versatile and able to go from a four to a five.” “Our thought process in this regard is, ‘How will the opposition organize? How will they attack, with specific movements and styles of play?

How are we going to combat and overcome that?’ If it’s a four or a five, we’re comfortable. In the European Championships, we even switched in games and did well.

Everything was very on-point. Only, Stones has played for Manchester City for the past six years. The 28-year-old can legitimately claim to be one of the best defenders in Europe, has won four Premier League titles, and can be excused for disputing the notion that England would have to retreat against Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, and Vinicius Junior.

Stones stated that he and Maguire would not be required to play in a back three formation against Brazil and France. “However, if we face these teams, it will be up to the manager and our team to adapt to a new system due to the qualities they bring to the game and how we can counter that.”

England has maintained two clean sheets in 2022. When facing the United States, whose attack is swift and deceptive, Iran cannot repeat its unfocused final moments.

“It was bothersome,” Stones stated. “I’m frustrated with myself because we’ve performed so well in previous tournaments when it comes to keeping clean sheets and playing solidly. We will review the footage once more to refresh my memory.

The prevailing sentiment was that what we did was phenomenal, and we simply need to brush up on the minor details that led to the achievement of our objectives.”

Stones are concerned about how VAR operates. He is still perplexed by the fact that he conceded a penalty against Iran for a light tug on Morteza Pouraliganji’s shirt. The displeasure was exacerbated by the umpires’ inability to give Stones and Maguire penalty kicks when they were fouled earlier.

“I know Harry was flagged in the first instance, but I’m not one to go to the ground, so I immediately appealed for a penalty,” Stones added. “I had no idea Harry was experiencing the same thing. Looking at that, I’m surprised that no penalty was issued for something that, in my perspective, was never, ever, ever a foul.

“I’m not one to concede foolish fouls, and with the amount of jostling that occurs in a box, I don’t believe that a slight tug on the shirt causes someone’s legs to bend and collapse. There must be consistency, and that is the source of everyone’s aggravation.”

England must be cautious when defending set pieces. Southgate stated, “We are aware of what we must do correctly, and we are aware that we risk being punished for certain actions.” “All teams in the tournament are concerned when they do not know exactly what they will receive.”

The pursuit of perfection has begun. “I believe I can constantly improve,” Stones stated. “However, football is a difficult sport, and I don’t believe you’ll ever complete a game without making some errors. It is the pursuit of perfection, which I do not believe can ever be attained. But that’s the objective.”

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