Gareth Southgate must ignite England’s attacking play at Euro 2024 – or it will be end of the road for him and his team | Football News

You can’t start a fire without a spark – and England have no spark.

Yes, there was a slight improvement in performance level but that was only in the second half and it wasn’t enough to inspire any confidence that England are going to win the Euros for the first time this summer.

The first half against Slovenia was just more of the same. At times it was like one of those games from the 1970s before the backpass rule was introduced when players would just pass the ball between themselves at the back. It was all sideways and backwards. There was no movement off the ball and no bravery on the ball. There was no width, no invention and no cutting edge.

Marc Guehi looked assured at the back and Phil Foden tried to make things happen but that was about it and it was no surprise to see England booed off at half-time. Jan Oblak didn’t have a difficult save to make and when he was beaten by Bukayo Saka from close range, the goal was disallowed because Phil Foden was offside in the build-up.

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England boss Gareth Southgate believes the changes his side made had a positive affect on the team, with Cole Palmer and Kobbie Mainoo impressing off the bench against Slovenia

If this was the England reset we had been promised then another reset was going to be required. Gareth Southgate and his players had accepted that the performances against Serbia and Denmark had not been good enough. They had honest and frank discussions and the problems had been addressed on the training pitch. Southgate had admitted that the team was not functioning and it was his responsibility to find solutions.

To be fair to Southgate, there were some signs of life in the second half. Kobbie Mainoo made a difference when he came on for Conor Gallagher at half-time and Cole Palmer received the biggest cheer of the night from England fans when he replaced Saka after 70 minutes.

England looked much better balanced and more compact with Mainoo in midfield and Palmer looked at home at this level. Southgate has to be bold and put Mainoo and Palmer in his starting XI for England’s last-16 game on Sunday.

With Mainoo in midfield England managed to pin Slovenia down in their own half for most of the second period. Even though they didn’t create that much more than the first half, England looked more threatening and the increased tempo forced Slovenia to settle for the draw they hoped would get them through to the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.

Slovenia were more than the sum of their parts while England continue to be the opposite. A squad with so many exceptional players should not be producing the kind of performances fans have witnessed so far in Germany. It’s pointless to keep looking back but this was a game where an in-form Jack Grealish or Marcus Rashford or Raheem Sterling could have made a real difference.

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Rob Dorsett delivers his verdict on England’s goalless draw against Slovenia, saying that Southgate’s side showed signs of ‘desperation’ in their final Group C game

While Slovenia celebrated their progress in front of their fans, England players walked off to boos after finishing top of the group. Southgate also had two plastic glasses thrown at him by disgruntled fans.

Watching Slovenia made your mind drift back to the days when England used to line up in the same 4-4-2 formation, a formation which will surely come back into fashion one day. There is no way an England side with a strike partnership of Harry Kane and Ollie Watkins or Kane and Ivan Toney would so ineffective against Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia. Surely Kane would be much more at home and dangerous linking up with a strike partner rather than dropping deep or leading the press – or closing down as it used to be called in the old days.

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Sky Sports News’ Mark McAdam explains England’s potential route to the Euro 2024 final

So, what next for Southgate? Sunday’s game could be his final game as England manager. Even though the FA want him to stay, it is difficult to see how he will continue in the job long-term. Southgate will be asked about his future when he speaks to the media on Saturday. He will say the focus has to be on the crucial game the following day.

That will be the right answer. Southgate never wants to make anything about him. The team always comes first. In the meantime he has to find that missing spark. Otherwise he’ll just be dancing in the dark.

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