LONDON: Gareth Southgate – unusually for any England manager – said he “enjoyed” watching England’s football in Friday night’s 1-0 win over Holland in Amsterdam.
England’s first win over the Dutch since the group stage of Euro 96 was not necessarily so enjoyable for fans – a hooligan element of which disgraced themselves in the city, not for the first time – But there were positive signs ahead of Tuesday’s next test against Italy at Wembley.
Jesse Lingard’s first goal for England, early in the second half, was the least reward they deserved after dominating most of the possession against a reshuffled Holland on Ronald Koeman’s managerial debut.
Jordan Pickford was solid in the disputed goalkeeping role again and the three-man back line worked well despite losing Liverpool’s Joe Gomez to a sixth-minute injury. Manchester City’s Kyle Walker played on the right of defence rather than an rightback and was surprisingly impressive.
England missed injured Harry Kane in attack and Southgate was disappointed in being unable to recall injury-prone Jack Wilshere to provide some creativity in midfield.
Southgate’s alternative was to use captain Jordan Henderson as anchor behind Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lingard as old-fashioned inside forwards.
Southgate’s loyalty to a three-man defence has been a surprise but an effective one. England have kept clean sheets in their last five games and a sixth tomorrow would equal their all-time record. It also forces England to play higher up the pitch which can be important in the World Cup ties they will dominate against cautious, defensive Tunisia and Panama. The greater the possession and pressure, the greater the possibility of goals.
Spurs’ Eric Dier and Dele Alli are likely to start with Jack Butland in goal and Jamie Vardy at centre-forward, hoping for a better return than his substitute’s 22 minutes in Amsterdam when he never once touched the ball.
Wilshere and Joe Gomez, injured after six minutes against Holland, have pulled out of the Italy game.