England’s performance against Malta (England vs Malta) was far from impressive, leaving manager Gareth Southgate concerned about the team’s readiness for the upcoming European Championship. Despite the likelihood of being a top seed, Southgate acknowledged that they were not at their desired level and needed to improve.
The match against Malta revealed several shortcomings. England struggled to break down the minnows, taking 64 minutes to register a shot on target. The paper airplanes made a return at Wembley Stadium, reflecting the fans’ frustration. Marcus Rashford’s injury, Jordan Henderson’s booing, and Harry Kane’s controversial caution for alleged diving added to the night’s peculiarities.
Conor Gallagher make the squad for England 3 lions.
— Nicholas Jackson 💎 (@Cfcdesssy) November 17, 2023
Southgate defended his team, citing the players’ self-regulation due to the frequency of games and weak opposition. However, the lackluster performance raised concerns, especially as fringe players failed to make a compelling case for inclusion. Even in the recent friendly against Australia, no standout performances were observed. (England vs Malta)
Captain Harry Kane eventually scored, but the overall gameplay lacked fluidity. Phil Foden showcased promise, and Trent Alexander-Arnold played in midfield, showing potential for a regular England role. Debutant Cole Palmer, though getting an opportunity, left questions about Jarrod Bowen remaining on the bench.
Sloppiness, according to Kane, was a significant issue. Southgate criticized the lack of quality on the ball, flatness, and a dearth of chances created. Despite the win, Southgate acknowledged that the team didn’t reach the heights of their previous performances in the calendar year.
Southgate attributed some issues to the disjointed nature of the camp, with injuries and players managing physical concerns. However, he hinted at the need for more motivation, raising eyebrows given the stakes involved in securing a place in the Euros. (England vs Malta)
The match highlighted the struggles of Conor Gallagher and Fikayo Tomori, both substituted at halftime. Tomori, playing out of position at left-back, appeared uncomfortable. Some players may feel assured of their Euro spot, but others, like Rashford and Henderson, failed to seize the opportunity to prove themselves.
Despite the underwhelming performance, England has comfortably topped Group C, defeating Italy, Ukraine, and North Macedonia. Even if they lose to North Macedonia, it would take an implausible goal difference for Turkey or Denmark to surpass them. While not a crisis, the performance against Malta raises questions about England’s form and Southgate’s approach. (England vs Malta)
Looking ahead to Monday’s final qualifier in North Macedonia, Southgate may need to inject more risk into the team. The disappointment against Malta should serve as a wake-up call for the players as they aim for a more entertaining and convincing performance in the crucial upcoming matches.