Harry Winks delivers his verdict on Southgate's England tactics

Sam Preston November 17, 2020
Harry Winks delivers his verdict on Southgate's England tactics
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks came on as a half time substitute in England’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium on Sunday night.

Before that, he started the 3-0 stroll against the Republic of Ireland, getting some much-needed gametime as he finds himself out of the team at Spurs.

Gareth Southgate’s switch to a 3-4-3 system with two holding midfielders has sparked plenty of debate, with England netting just three goals in five Nations League matches.

In the Telegraph, Winks delivered his verdict on Southgate’s tactics, which have been perceived in some quarters as negative.

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“It all depends on the opposition we are playing against,” said Winks. “The way the system we are playing and the way we want to play is about keeping the ball and giving our expressive, talented forwards the ball.

“It’s important to be able to find that link between the three centre-backs and the forward players. It’s a key role in international football. We have all played three at the back at our clubs and we are used to it now.

“We forget that we’ve got two full backs that like to get forward and create overloads in the opposition half. So it’s not really three players in the forward half, you’ve got the two full backs to attack as well to create five.

“It’s just about getting that balance right and finding the openings, but against good sides like Belgium this is always going to be difficult to do that consistently.”

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Southgate’s tactics aren’t universally popular. But international managers don’t get much time to work with their players.

Take a look around Europe and that means most managers err on the side of caution.

Southgate will be judged on a small number of games next summer, when keeping it relatively tight, maximising set pieces and hoping one or all of Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are on form might be enough for another deep run.

The challenge for Winks, Southgate and everyone involved with England is to ensure a goal record of three in five games – one from open play – is improved then.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.