Our mid­field op­tions look bet­ter now – South­gate

YOUNG DUO’S EMER­GENCE BOOSTS BOSS

Sunday Sun - - Football -

GARETH South­gate has been buoyed by the emer­gence of Ruben Lof­tusCheek and Harry Winks, just months af­ter ex­press­ing his con­cern about Eng­land’s dearth of mid­field op­tions.

The Three Li­ons kicked off their World Cup prepa­ra­tion friendlies against reign­ing cham­pi­ons Ger­many on Fri­day, when an in­ex­pe­ri­enced side made light of in­jury trou­bles in an en­ter­tain­ing 0-0 draw.

Loftus-Cheek was one of five play­ers to make his de­but against the world’s top-ranked side and pro­duced a man-of-the match dis­play, just as Winks did when mak­ing his bow in last month’s 1-0 qual­i­fy­ing win in Lithua­nia.

The 21-year-old mid­field­ers of­fer an ex­cit­ing glimpse of the fu­ture and im­prove mid­field op­tions that South­gate was be­moan­ing just months ago.

Asked if the as­sured de­buts of Loftus-Cheek and cur­rently in­jured Winks made him feel more pos­i­tive about his op­tions, the Eng­land man­ager said: “Yeah, and I think the slightly dif­fer­ent sys­tem opens up dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“In the po­si­tion Ruben played (against Ger­many), you could play Dele (Alli) there, you could play (Adam) Lal­lana there, so that dif­fer­ent sort of pro­file of mid­field player with a deeper one be­hind. “I think we need the sta­bil­ity of the three be­hind that at the mo­ment, but also all of those guys at the back use the ball well. “At times it was dif­fi­cult for them to press us be­cause of the com­po­sure we showed and the sys­tem we played, so I think it was a bril­liant ex­pe­ri­ence for our play­ers.” Five-time World Cup win­ners Brazil lie in wait at Wem­b­ley on Tues­day, giv­ing Eng­land an­other chance to hone the three-man back line against elite op­po­si­tion. “In the qual­i­fi­ca­tion games tac­ti­cally you have got very few ques­tions to an­swer and you’ve got the same prob­lem to solve,” South­gate said. “I haven’t liked us in a 4-2-3-1. Our po­si­tional dis­ci­pline with the ball has not been good. “(On Fri­day night) we had to be tac­ti­cally right with and with­out the ball. That’s the na­ture of top games.

“I think the play­ers have taken those con­cepts on really well. They’re a bright group, they get it.

“But also we’re ask­ing them to not just go and play, but to think about what they’re do­ing all the time – where do they need to press, how do they press, not just blindly go­ing and chas­ing around the field and play­ing with their hearts.

“We’ve got to be a team that are switched on be­cause against the very best if you get the press­ing wrong then they’ll carve you apart. It’s hap­pened a cou­ple of times (against Ger­many).

“I think that’s one of the most pleas­ing things of work­ing with this group over a pe­riod of time. They’re re­spond­ing to that.

“I think they ex­pe­ri­ence some of that with their clubs as well and (against Ger­many) a very young team – I think in the end, by the time we made the changes, five debu­tants – really took those things on board well.”

South­gate knows “we’ve still loads we can get bet­ter at” but be­lieves their dis­play against Ger­many of­fered en­cour­age­ment to Eng­land fans, as did the new faces given a run-out.

Ever­ton goal­keeper Jor­dan Pick­ford pro­duced a string of fine saves on an im­pres­sive first se­nior ap­pear­ance, but Joe Hart will be be­tween the sticks when Brazil visit on Tues­day af­ter Jack But­land’s bro­ken fin­ger caused a re­think.

“We would have played Jack in the game against Brazil,” added South­gate. “We were al­ways go­ing to play Jor­dan (on Fri­day night), but we’ll now play Joe on Tues­day.”

Eng­land boss Gareth South­gate

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and right, Harry Winks

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