Gareth Southgate insists he should be known as a “very bold” England manager.
Southgate has come in for some criticism after failing to pick Jack Grealish, going back to a 3-4-3 system and then not playing to the strengths of his attacking players.
But he positively bristled at the accusation that he is a cautious boss and insisted that he is not afraid to give young players a chance.
He was also keen to strees England were top scorers in the World Cup campaign and European qualifiers.
However, Southgate’s persistence with two holding midfielders and his tactics when England have so many good forwards is beginning to leave players wondering if it is the right balance ahead of next summer’s Euros.
Three Lions boss Southgate said: “I think we’ve been pretty bold in many of our decisions over a long period of time really. Others might have a view.
“We’ve been top scorers in the World Cup, we were top scorers in the Euro qualifiers, we’ve been to two semi-finals. We’ve blooded any number of young players.
“We gave another two 20 somethings their debuts against Denmark alongside Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips who’s had four games in the Premier League, along with Kane and Rashford upfront.
“So I suppose I would point to that body of work but it’s for others to have that opinion. I’m not too concerned.”
What is interesting is that Southgate does seem bothered what people think for the first time, even rounding on the opinions of “people who should know better” after Harry Maguire was criticised.
TV pundit Roy Keane has been very critical of Manchester United captain Maguire and there has been a public outcry as to why Grealish was left on the bench against Belgium and Denmark having been man of the match against Wales.
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Southgate was asked what Grealish now has to do to make the step up from squad player to England starter.
“He’s done extremely well with us in terms of fitting in with the group,” said Southgate. “He’s got a much better understanding of how we want to play.
“Against Denmark, he was very unfortunate, any plans we had went out the window by going down to ten men because Harry (Kane) was doing such a good job of holding the ball up, winning headers, buying fouls for us.
“And we needed speed around him, we needed legs to be able to defend with 10 and Mason and Marcus have done that really well and we were still a threat.
“We felt we needed the speed of Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin either side because when you’re having to defend and wait for your moment you’ve got to be able to counter-attack quickly.
"So they were the changes that we decided on.”
England did beat Belgium, the No.1 team in the world, but perhaps took a step back against Denmark.
And in using the 3-4-3 system, it means there are three centre halves yet Southgate has used two holding midfielders as well, which can leave the front three isolated.
But overall Southgate insists the international break finished on a positive despite the Denmark defeat which may now make it difficult to win their Nations League Group.
Southgate added: “There were so many positives in terms of the steps we’ve made in players understanding of how we want to play, the young players who have come in and played so well.
“They are growing in resilience. They know how the level of training has to be every day. They know what’s expected of each other.”
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