Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick has spoken exclusively to CaughtOffside about his latest thoughts on England’s performances at Euro 2020 this summer.
Gareth Southgate’s side beat Czech Republic last night to ensure they topped their group, and it was a much-needed result and performance after some criticism that followed the 0-0 draw with Scotland.
Chadwick thinks the negativity surrounding the England team after the Scotland game was a bit over the top, though he did admit there’s some concern about Harry Kane struggling to adapt his game from the role he plays at Tottenham.
“I think negativity is to be expected really, it’s always the same when England play in a big tournament and don’t perform at the levels that are expected against the so-called lesser nations,” Chadwick said. “It was obviously a big game against Scotland, and built up because of the rivalry.
“The criticism was maybe a bit over the top, but everyone’s desperate for England to do well and for football to come home, as it were. We got the win yesterday to top the group, whether that’s a good or a bad thing I’m sure we’ll find out in the next round.
“I think Harry Kane was much better last night. He’s taken the way he’s been playing at Spurs into the England team and seems to be dropping quite deep, though he stayed a bit higher up last night, had a really good chance and looked closer to being at his best.
“Obviously the manager’s trying to find the right team that works, mixed it up a bit last night and I think Kane did a good job. It would’ve been good for him to get on the score sheet before going into the round of 16 but he’s a must-start for England after what he’s done for the team in the past. Hopefully he can come good in the latter stage of the tournament. It’s not often we see Kane go three games without scoring, so hopefully he can come to the party in the next game.
“At Spurs he was relied on for goals and assists, forming a brilliant partnership with Son, setting him up for goals.
“I’m sure Southgate knows as well as anyone that we want Kane a bit higher, but it’s sometimes hard to change your style from your club team to how you play for your national team. He did stay a bit higher last night so hopefully that will continue and the goals will flow in the rest of the tournament.”
Chadwick talked up the creative players in this England squad, with the team coping pretty well without a key player in Mason Mount in last night’s game.
Bukayo Saka earned a somewhat surprise start for Southgate’s side, and Chadwick admits it was a bit unexpected to see him get in over Man Utd ace Marcus Rashford, though he’s surely now put himself in contention for games in the knockout stages.
“I think England are blessed with a lot of creative players, obviously Mount couldn’t play last night, but with Grealish and Foden, Kane can stay a bit higher.
“I think Saka’s done himself no harm whatsoever and has every opportunity of starting in the round of 16. Saka was a real positive threat, as was Grealish on the other side. Particularly in the first half we had a more of a threat with our wide players.
“It was a surprising selection and I’m sure a lot of people will have wanted to see Jadon Sancho or Marcus Rashford, but I thought Saka did very well – he carried the ball well and got into the box. I thought it was a very good performance from Saka, and he showed maturity beyond his years really.”
Chadwick went on to say that he doesn’t buy into the idea that Southgate is setting his team up in a negative or cautious way.
Some pundits have slammed England for not being ambitious enough, but Chadwick thinks we might see more from England as an attacking force when they come up against more high-profile opponents, with the teams they’ve faced so far perhaps being more prepared to sit back and defend against all the attacking talent in the Three Lions squad.
“I’m sure Southgate’s put a team out to play attractive football and score goals. Grealish is the one everyone’s been crying out for and I think he should definitely start, but even when it was Mount, Foden and Sterling, it’s a very attack-minded team,” Chadwick said.
“We might have the opportunity to attack more in upcoming games … playing against the likes of Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic, they were probably set up to try and stop England, whereas in the next round when they’re playing France, Portugal or Germany, each of those teams will back themselves to beat England and that could give them more space.
“In tournament football if you get the foundations right and don’t concede goals, then there will come a point when the creative players come to the fore, and I think there’ll be an opportunity to do that against the bigger teams like France, Portugal or Germany.”