Former England captain Rio Ferdinand has questioned whether Gareth Southgate’s philosophy will lead the Three Lions to Euro 2020 success.
Despite reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup and Nations League in the past 12 months, Ferdinand feels the players at the manager’s disposal may be better suited to a different style.
Holland beat Southgate’s side 3-1 in their Nations League encounter last week, with defensive errors at the heart of the defeat.
John Stones, in particular, endured an evening to forget as he was caught out trying to play out from the back.
The defender plays a similar style at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola – but Ferdinand reckons adopting a similar approach to Liverpool, rather than the Premier League champions, could see England secure long-awaited success.
“A lot of my mates are football guys at all levels and we’ve probably had two or three hundreds of texts about John Stones and England in general, about the way they are playing,” he said.
“John Stones is trying to play that same way for England as he plays for Manchester City. Are the other players good enough in the positions they are receiving the ball, to play like that through to midfield?
“Are they coached the way that John Stones understands to play that role? And so there are a lot of different elements. Is the team shaped up to play like that? So there are a lot of different question marks.
“But I still think England are kind of finding their right system that suits their players. Are their players perfect for the Pep style of football, playing from the back through the whole pitch the way Pep’s teams play, the way that England seem to want to play?
“Is this team primed up to do that? Is it perfect for them players? I don’t know. Are they more akin to a team that plays a little bit like (Jurgen) Klopp’s team plays?
“I would lean a little bit more that way. High energy, aggressive, on the front foot, play the ball through the team quicker, not as patient but play the ball to the front three quicker.
“You look at the front three that played the other night, Sterling, Sancho and Rashford. I wouldn’t want to play against that, against that pace.”
Ferdinand did praise Southgate for having a clear way to set up his teams, something that has not been the case under former managers and sympathised that – unlike a club manager – he cannot simply buy a player to suit his philosophy.
“You are starting to see a trend in the way his team plays,” he added.
“But when you look back at the Holland game especially, is that the best way to play with the players that you’ve got.
“The way it is going, he seems very adamant that this is what he is doing and I respect and admire that because I think for far too long we have flitted between this and that or had a very blurred vision for how England should be playing, whereas at the minute he seems to have a clear idea.
“The players have a clear idea of what they are being coached which is great to see because it hasn’t been like that for years.
“So, for all I’ve said, I still think we are going in a good direction it seems but it is going to get us to where he wants to get which is obviously get his hands on a title, get to a final?
“I think, sometimes the shape of your team, you are only as good as the players you have got to do that and Pep can go out and buy a Bernardo Silva, with England you have got what you have got so you have got to work to what you have got a little bit.”
:: UEFA EURO 2020 will be the biggest and most inclusive celebration of European football, with hosting shared between 12 cities across Europe for the first time.
:: London is one of these cities, and Wembley Stadium will be the venue for seven matches, including both semi-finals and the showpiece final.