England have endured a mixed start to Euro 2020 this summer with victory over Croatia and a goalless draw to Scotland to start their tournament campaign.
The Three Lions’ stalemate with the Scots raised some important questions about how manager Gareth Southgate should manage his 26-man squad for the rest of the tournament, starting with the final group game with the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
With question marks over the likes of Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Kalvin Phillips and Jadon Sancho in Southgate’s starting eleven, Sportsmail experts JERMAINE JENAS and DANNY MURPHY try to tackle the issues facing the Three Lions boss…
England have endured a mixed start to Euro 2020 – by winning and drawing the first two games
Gareth Southgate has plenty of dilemmas to solve ahead of the crucial matches this summer
QUESTION ONE: How do we get the best out of our captain Harry Kane?
Murphy: Give him the ball more. Some of the criticism aimed at Kane following the Scotland game is unfair because we were too safe and conservative in our passing. There were times when we could have got the ball into him more and so he started coming deeper to try and become involved.
I’d blame the service more than Kane himself — our build-up play wasn’t progressive enough, we seemed content to be a possession team rather than taking risks.
Harry Kane is yet to score in his first two Euro 2020 matches and has been substituted twice
The more you give him the ball, the more threatening he’ll become. I’ve seen comments that he looked sluggish and leggy but I don’t think there is a problem physically.
You have to give Grant Hanley credit — I played with him at Blackburn and he’s under-rated, one of the few centre-backs as strong as Kane. My message to England’s midfield is to feed Kane regularly, he is more than capable of having a fight for the ball, it doesn’t have to be perfect service into his feet.
Jenas: Just give him time and get him playing. Harry is at his best when he’s involved in everything, competing, putting in tackles and you can see it in his face, he knows he’s just not at the races.
Kane had a golden chance to find the net against Croatia but was not able to convert
We need to be playing quicker, getting the ball into his feet or spotting his runs quickly and putting in crosses and little zippy passes. But he needs to look at himself.
Could he make more runs forward instead of taking the easy option to come short? He just needs a goal. When he gets one, he’ll be away.
QUESTION TWO: Should Jack Grealish start against the Czech Republic?
Murphy: Yes, this is the perfect game for him. Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling have started the last two and deserved to keep their places after the Croatia win.
Jack Grealish has a second-half substitute against Scotland but failed to make a real difference
Gareth Southgate will want to freshen things up ahead of the knockout stages. Grealish showed in the last two warm-up games he is ideal for international football when you need creative players who can stand defenders up and play with courage and freedom. He plays as if running out at Wembley is no more pressure than playing with his mates.
Jenas: He absolutely has to come in. Don’t think you have to play him out on the left, either. Play him in the 10 role. He lights up a stadium.
He spends a lot of time playing deep for Villa, driving between the lines and making things happen. I’d bring him in for Mason Mount who didn’t have one of his better games against Scotland.
Grealish could be in line to be part of the front three against Czech Republic on Tuesday night
QUESTION THREE: Can Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips play in the same team?
Murphy: You didn’t hear too many complaints after the Croatia game but it does depend on the opposition.
For a knockout game against France you may want two defensively capable midfielders — in a group game against Scotland, or the Czech Republic, you can be afford to be more expansive.
Jenas: They can because they played against Croatia and it was a pairing which worked really successfully. Against the Croatians, Phillips played in a slightly different role, more of a No8, so further ahead of Declan Rice, who was sitting deep.
England used two holding midfielders in Declan Rice (right) and Kalvin Phillips (left) on Friday
I’m a big fan of Phillips. I thought he played so well against Croatia offering penetration but they were sat next to each other against Scotland. So it wasn’t the personnel that was wrong, just the roles they played.
QUESTION FOUR: Are we getting most of our top-class full-backs?
Murphy: We’ve got tremendous full-backs but it’s been hard for them to build a rhythm so far with four of them playing a game each and Ben Chilwell not yet used. Luke Shaw found it hard to come straight into the Scotland game and perform with the same freedom we’ve seen at Manchester United.
On the other side, Reece James, who has good pace, played a bit safe. He often had space to run into or deliver a cross and cut back instead. It might be helpful for Gareth Southgate to decide who his first-choice full-backs are and give them a run to gain some rhythm.
The Three Lions also have top quality full-back options including Luke Shaw (middle)
England lacked cohesion in those positions against Scotland. My choice would be Walker and Chilwell.
Jenas: We have reverted to what happened in the qualifiers when our full-backs weren’t getting high enough up the pitch, yet that’s such an area of strength in this team.
Our full-backs can all get high up the pitch because they can all get back. They are physical, fast and strong. You want Shaw and James pushing as high up as possible, then you have Foden and Sterling coming inside and creating pockets and that would have asked questions of their full-backs. I don’t mind the system but it’s the way you play it that matters.
Kieran Trippier (right) and Kyle Walker (left) were used in the first match against Croatia
QUESTION FIVE: Why hasn’t Jadon Sancho had any game time at all?
Murphy: The simple answer is that we are just blessed in attacking positions. Perhaps there is less hype around Sancho because we don’t see the same amount of Bundesliga coverage as we do Premier League but most people would probably have selected Foden over him on the right.
Having said that, Sancho’s statistics are fantastic, he’s always had an end product in his game which is a huge bonus for a winger and his goals and assists record is very impressive. Like Grealish, this next match looks an ideal time for him to show what he can do.
Jadon Sancho has not played a minute so far this summer and was left out the Croatia squad
Jenas: Gareth Southgate might have missed a trick by not bringing on Sancho. Andy Robertson had had a pretty comfortable evening defensively but it might have been a different last 20 minutes for the Liverpool left back had Sancho been running at him, having to deal with a guy who drifts all over the place, links up with Grealish or Foden on the left-hand side and creates overloads.
We have artillery off the bench and certainly Sancho is part of that.
QUESTION SIX: Can England still win Euro 2020?
Murphy: They can. Look at past winners, not all of them breeze through the groups with lots of wins and lots of goals. At Euro 2016, Portugal drew their three group games, qualified as one of the best third-placed teams and still lifted the trophy. It’s how you finish that’s important.
Of course England won’t win it if they play like they did against Scotland but they are more than capable of raising their game — they have the players and experience of tournament football.
England could still go on and win the competition despite failing to score against Scotland
The margins in the knockout stages are so tight, you’d be foolish to discount our chances. We got it wrong against Scotland but it’s rare for a team never to have an off day. Group games are a means to an end. Even if we limp past the Czech Republic, if we find our form in the knockout games, this England team will still be remembered in a positive light, just like the Italia 90 side were.
Jenas: One hundred per cent they can. English mentality especially from a fan’s point of view; we are superstars against Croatia, the worst team on earth after the Scotland game. We as a nation need to learn to manage expectations. But we have still got to believe.
Danny Murphy (left) and Jermaine Jenas (right) have picked their England squad for Tuesday