Southgate faces major concern with midfield balance at Euro 2024, says Neville

By Sports Desk June 17, 2024

Gary Neville believes Gareth Southgate will have major concerns about the balance of England's midfield following their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia. 

Jude Bellingham's fourth international goal was enough to kickstart ther Three Lions' campaign with a win, but the encounter in Gelsenkirchen was far from straightforward. 

England had Jordan Pickford to thank to preserve Southgate's record of winning the opening game of every major tournament he has managed at, producing a fine stop to deny Dusan Vlahovic in the second half. 

Much was made of who Southgate would deploy in central midfield ahead of the tournament, with Trent Alexander-Arnold given the nod to feature alongside Declan Rice. 

"The midfield is the major concern and the fluidity of the game that comes through there is one thing we need to try and work on in the group stage because when we play against a good team, we'll have to have it right," said Neville. 

"There are some small alarm bells around balance and having a good group of players that are very talented but are we as good a team?

"Last night, you start to think about the impact and influence of Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips. The best players don't make the best team sometimes.

"We're aware Kieran Trippier is right-footed at left-back and is playing there because of all the injuries in that position which creates a further imbalance. But in midfield, somehow we have to try and get that right. Gareth [Southgate] will be more than aware of that.

Alexander-Arnold completed 37 of his 42 passes against Serbia, averaging a pass accuracy of 88.1 percent, the joint-third lowest from those who started the game, with only Phil Foden and Harry Kane below him.  

The Liverpool full-back started brightly, showing glimpses of his wide passing range, but made one mistake late in the first half which allowed Aleksandar Mitrovic a shot on goal. 

"We know [Alexander-Arnold] can do it when he moves into midfield from right-back and then can deliver those crosses and passes. There were times when he found himself with his back to play and that is a different story," said Neville.

"I don't really want to focus on him being a problem in there. It was the balance of the entire midfield and I include Declan Rice in that as well - and what England need to have in there to be able to move forward in this tournament.

"All eyes will be on Trent Alexander-Arnold. His best position is right-back and having the ability to move forward on that side or coming inside and playing that quarter-back role. It doesn't look like we're going to do that, it looks like we're going to stick with Kyle Walker which is absolutely the right decision.

"Gareth will know he's got an issue with these talented players and how he gets them all into the team - and most importantly with the right balance."

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