A solution to England’s lack of creativity?

It took a last minute winner from Harry Kane to secure a 1-0 win at home to Slovenia last Thursday.


It was a tepid performance lacking any form of creativity, something which has been a worrying trend in this country for a number of years. Glenn Hoddle was grossly misused by the national set up as was Paul Scholes, despite both having the intelligence and technical brilliance to control games.

In recent times, Gareth Southgate has opted for the pragmatic approach and picked two out of Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier or Jake Livermore to play in the central midfield areas.

In fairness, Southgate’s lack of established options to choose from somewhat tied his hands, however, there were certainly options the England manager could have chosen from that would have provided more creativity to the team.

Whether systematic or down to individuals, England need a change and RealSport have picked some other options Southgate could have gone for.

Harry Winks

With Fabian Delph having to pull out of the squad through injury, Southgate looked down to the Under-21s to select his replacement in Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Winks. The Spurs midfielder established himself as a crucial member of the squad last season and has impressed since returning to full fitness this season.

Winks helped control the midfield in Spurs’ recent 3-0 Champions League win away to APOEL Nicosia and then did so again in the 4-0 win at Huddersfield.

Winks is someone who doesn’t let the occasion negatively impact his game, and plays the same way no matter the opposition. He’s superb on the ball, and has excellent intelligence, knowing when to slow the play down, or look for that midfield splitting pass through the lines. Winks is also a good and powerful dribbler, able to get a yard and away from opposition players with the ball at his feet.

England have greatly missed someone who can control a midfield from deep and pass vertically through the lines. He may not have established himself as a regular starter for Spurs yet, however there is no doubt he would improve the structure and creativity in this England squad.

3-4-2-1

Chelsea proved last season that you don’t necessarily need an out-and-out playmaker for this system. Without the availability of Adam Lallana, perhaps Southgate should have opted to use this structure.

The role of the two central midfielders in the 3-4-2-1 is to shore up the midfield and not allow their side to get overrun, only needing to be able to play the simple pass to the more creative players in the team. A duo of either Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson and Jake Livermore should flourish in this system.

However, it would require ball playing centre backs to play as the wide centre backs. John Stones is the only established England star capable of this, so Southgate may have been forced to gamble with the inclusion of Harry Maguire and Michael Keane into the side.

Kyle Walker has proven himself as a supreme wing back whilst Ryan Bertrand is also solid defensively and is a good attacking outlet. Raheem Sterling is a far more intelligent player than he is given credit for and can fit in a number of tactical systems. Both he and Marcus Rashford being used to support Harry Kane in the 3-4-2-1 surely would have been far better than the style Southgate opted for.

Jonjo Shelvey

A controversial selection perhaps, but there is no doubt Shelvey provides a lot of the attributes this England side lack.

The Newcastle United midfielder was brilliant in the last game before the international break against his former club Liverpool, and provided the midfield, and defence-splitting pass to set up Joselu for the vital equaliser. It demonstrated his wonderful passing technique and brilliant vision.

Shelvey is similar to Winks in his ability at passing vertically through the lines, however, has a wider range of passing, which could prove crucial against sides that offer more space for England to exploit with the pace and trickery in the side.

The question mark over Shelvey is about his attitude and temperament. In the opening day loss to Spurs, Shelvey was sent off for an inexplicable stamp on Dele Alli. If he wishes to get back in the England squad, Shelvey must curb his often unnecessary aggression and decision making. If he is able to do this, he could become a key player for the Three Lions.

Jack Wilshere

By the time Jack Wilshere turned 25, he was supposed to be England’s star man, and controlling the midfield for his country against some of the best side’s and players in the world. However, Wilshere’s career has been blighted by injury after injury which has seen him struggle to hold down a regular place for club and country.

After breaking his leg whilst playing on loan at Bournemouth last season, Wilshere is back to full fitness. The Arsenal man has already reminded everyone of what he can do in his cameo appearances in the Europa League and brings that touch of class and subtlety on the ball that we seldom appreciate in this country, instead choosing the bigger more powerful players.

Wilshere’s intelligence and off the ball movement is superb. He is brilliant at progressing the ball through the midfield to the attacking third with his speed of thought and quick, intricate, often one touch passing.

England could certainly do with someone to knit the play together for the Three Lions, and if he can get fit and playing regularly for Arsenal, he’ll no doubt be back in the England fold in the near future.

Someone else?

England are often guilty of opting for the safe and easy option rather than taking a gamble. There are certainly players who can provide what England needs in the middle of the park, however don’t have the reputation, and are often bypassed in the selection process.

Tom Carroll has been excellent for Swansea since his permanent move to the club last January and is another brilliant technician who can play the ball through the eye of the needle.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been superb in his cameo appearances for Crystal Palace last season and is excellent at driving into the attacking third.

Nathaniel Chalobah is a deep-lying playmaker who has impressed since his permanent move to Watford in the summer, whilst James Ward-Prowse also has a brilliant range of passing and good vision.

The creative, technical and intelligent players are certainly around for Southgate to choose from. Perhaps we just need to be a bit braver and select a few of them.

What options should England try? Discuss in the comments below!

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

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