I don't know how he sleeps at night! – McClaren backs Southgate to seal Euro 2020 glory

By Sports Desk July 07, 2021

Former England boss Steve McClaren believes Gareth Southgate will guide the country to Euro 2020 glory ahead of their huge semi-final against Denmark.

McClaren thinks Southgate must be struggling to sleep at night given the array of options he has when trying to select a starting XI for Wednesday's match at Wembley.

But he feels England have everything they need to get over the line at the tournament by beating Denmark and winning the final.

Italy will play either England or Denmark in Sunday's final after beating Spain on penalties in the other semi.

McClaren has been so impressed by what he has seen from England and thinks they have a squad that can technically match any other on the continent.

 

"Physically, we are so strong, powerful," McClaren said to Stats Perform.

"And speed, we've got speed in the team, we didn't really have speed before, but now we can explode. You see the power and the intensity that we play with.

"What we've got over these last 10 years - we have produced players through the FA, through the Premier League, through the [Elite Performance Plan].

"We have created players who now technically can live with the best in Europe and the world and tactically they can now adapt to different situations.

"The key thing now is mentality because I think once we win a trophy, and we will, and I think it will be this year, then we will continue to dominate. 

"And that mentality will be so strong once you win, get over that hurdle, getting past the semi-final, getting into our final and winning - that belief that it gives you, that's the mentality part. 

"That's the bit that's missing. But this squad can deliver that."

 

McClaren has been impressed by the spirit Southgate has maintained in the England squad amid a huge public debate over who should be playing.

The lack of game time for the likes of Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho was a major talking point earlier in the competition but Southgate appears to have kept the whole camp on side.

"Look, he knows, all managers know, it's not about the one to 11," added McClaren.

"It's about the 12 to 26 and Gareth knows that you've got to look after those players who are not playing, who are sat in the stands, who don't get an opportunity to play. 

"One to 11, they're low maintenance or should be low maintenance. It's the 12 to 26. They're the ones you have to focus on.

"And he knows he's got to get a relationship, keep a relationship, keep them on board, because as he's proved, this isn't searching for England's best 11. 

"Yes, in terms of a core, what is the best core, but around that core, he's got players that he's used all the time.

"He's not afraid to use them, change the team, change the formation."

 

Southgate will be pondering whether to bring Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka back into the line-up after he missed the 4-0 quarter-final win over Ukraine with a knock.

McClaren added: "Saka came in and did well, Grealish has come in and everyone's clamouring for him, Sancho everyone's clamouring for him, [Marcus] Rashford doesn't even get a game. 

"So who knows how he sleeps at night!

"But certainly the core of the team is there, the back four is there. The [Declan] Rice and [Kalvin] Phillips partnership is there, [Jordan] Henderson can come in and add to that.

"Ahead of that you've got [Harry] Kane and [Raheem] Sterling who are nailed on, but you've got two positions in which you've got [Mason] Mount, [Phil] Foden, Grealish, Rashford, Sancho, Saka - they can all come in, so how do you pick two from that?"

 

Southgate must also decide whether to revert back to a three-man defence as he did against Germany in the last 16, but McClaren hopes he remains aggressive with a 4-2-3-1.

"I think he started the tournament wanting to get through the group stage and he did that," McClaren opined.

"Germany was a huge game. He wanted to keep it tight, be a bit pragmatic, but I think he just opened up against Ukraine and I hope he continues with that.

"[Kieran] Trippier, [Luke] Shaw, [Kyle] Walker, [Ben] Chilwell, they are basically full-backs and so therefore [playing in a] 3-4-3, especially with two controllers, Rice and Phillips, is hard. 

"We've only got three strikers and then it's very difficult as you're relying on supply. Those players are better full-backs with wingers ahead and then they can be overlapping. 

"[With a 3-4-3] we attack with three and it was easier to contain. Yes, we always were in control with Germany, Scotland and the Czech Republic but I just felt an extra attacker would help.

"It would better to have full-backs coming from behind."

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