England are looking to bounce back against Germany after suffering their first defeat to Hungary in 60 years in the Nations League on Saturday.
England’s 1-0 defeat came as a surprise – with Dominik Szoboszlai’s second-half penalty being the difference between the two sides.
The Three Lions now have just five games to turn their form around before boarding the plane to the World Cup in Qatar.
Their first step in the journey will take place this evening when they face Germany at the Allianz Arena.
Sportsmail has identified five things England must improve on against Germany to not only win the game but put themselves in the best position as the main event looms.
Sportsmail have identified five things England must improve on against Germany this evening
Create more balance within the team
Gareth Southgate fielded a relatively inexperienced team against Hungary and it showed in their performance on Saturday night.
Some fans were furious with Southgate’s selection and took to social media to vent their frustration after the game.
Their disappointment at the result was warranted given the fact England’s shock 1-0 defeat ended their unbeaten run.
However, England have just five games left before their World Cup campaign in Qatar and Southgate needed to experiment with his squad to establish his preferred starting XI.
That being said, Southgate must select a more balanced team heading into the England’s fixture against Germany at the Allianz Arena this evening.
Saturday’s game saw four players with 10 caps or less feature for England – with new boys Jarrod Bowen and James Justin being handed their first appearance for the Three Lions
Saturday’s game saw four players with 10 caps or less feature for England – with new boys Jarrod Bowen and James Justin both being handed their first appearance for the Three Lions.
Speaking after the game, Southgate said he would have to find a greater ‘balance of finding out about new things, and the consistent more regular team’ – admitting he didn’t think he got that balance ‘quite right’ on Saturday.
He told Chanel 4 after the game: ‘We have to accept we didn’t do enough to win the game. A draw would’ve been fair, we had enough possession, we weren’t incisive around the box, and we didn’t create too many clear-cut chances.
‘That balance of finding out about new things, and the consistent more regular team, I’ve got to look at whether I got that balance quite right.
‘I don’t want to be too harsh on the players, these are games we need to learn from. They’re bitterly disappointed, they want to win matches and if we want to be a team right at the top tier of world football, we have to come here and win.’
Justin struggled to impact game and went down injured before being substituted at half-time
Make better use of Jude Bellingham
If there is one thing that Saturday’s game against Hungary showed, it was that Southgate is not getting the best out of Jude Bellingham by using him as a holding midfielder in a 3-4-3 formation.
The 18-year-old star can distribute the ball well, but it is his ability to get forward that makes him dangerous. He thrives when he uses his athleticism and creativity to burst forward and threaten the opposition.
Bellingham is being wasted in that deep role. He struggled to impact the game on Saturday and his partnership with Declan Rice just looked awkward. The duo failed to provide the cover England needed to stop Hungary’s diagonal balls out wide and their connectivity going forwards was lacking.
Jude Bellingham is not being utilised by being played as a holding midfielder by Southgate
When Southgate reverted to a back four later on in the game, Bellingham played as an No 8 in a three-man midfield. The immediate difference in his performance was night and day.
Bellingham became a threat for England, creating several chances for the Three Lions. The 18-year-old made a couple of late runs into the penalty area to threaten Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.
Bellingham also unleashed a rocket of a shot at goal but, unfortunately for England, his shot was blocked before reaching the back of the net.
More energy in front of goal
England lacked energy and attacking rhythm during Saturday’s game against Hungary. The players looked heavy legged and tired – which is a cause for concern as they are playing four matches in 10 days.
Embarking on such an intense run of games just a fortnight after the 2021-2022 Premier League season ended could be problematic for Southgate’s side. They could lose the attacking prowess they developed during Euro 2020.
England went into the game against Hungary having scored in each of their last 14 games. Harry Kane was on course to claim his 50th international goal and new-comer Bowen wanted to make his mark by scoring on his debut. It was all looking good.
Harry Kane was on course to score his 50th international goal but couldn’t find the net
But, England were unable to find the back of the net and struggled to muster up any real chances despite dominating possession.
The Three Lions registered zero ‘big chances’ and had more shots off target than on during the game.
Southgate could have brought on the likes of Conor Gallagher or Tammy Abraham to bring some life back into the game.
Both players have proven to be the difference on several occasions for Crystal Palace and Roma respectively in the past 10 months. However, he decided against it.
Southgate insisted there is no reason for concern regarding his side’s fatigue during the game and admitted it was the ‘heat’ that impacted the players, not the 2021-2022 season.
The England boss said: ‘It’s been a long season, but I haven’t seen that [fatigue] in training. The heat was a factor, that took a lot out of the players and we tried to refresh the team a bit earlier than we would do normally.’
Rebuild their defensive fortress
Southgate has relied on England’s defensive strength over the years and developed an attacking system that suits their structure at the back. Even since the 2018 World Cup, Southgate has favoured a 3-4-3 formation.
His three at the back formation is deployed as something of a safety net, especially against fiercer opponents. It has allowed far more stability at the back with the likes of Harry Maguire and John Stones typically fronting up the defensive line.
Southgate then looks to use the pace of Kyle Walker to support the out-and-out centre backs should anything go awry.
Harry Maguire is struggling to produce his best form after a disappointing season at United
It has been a formation that has produced some memorable moments – it was in place for the run to the semis in Russia, and for the stunning 2-0 win over Germany at last summer’s Euros.
The success of his formation is also evidenced by Germany’s inability to score against the Three Lions. Hansi Flick’s side have failed to score in their last two matches against England.
England also have a good track record themselves – having not lost consecutive games since a run of three against Croatia, Belgium and Spain between July and September 2018.
However, Southgate’s backline is looking more shaky than usual. Maguire has been struggling for form at Manchester United and experienced one of his worst seasons to date during the 2021-2022 campaign.
While Trent Alexander-Arnold looked exhausted against Hungary after a stellar domestic campaign with Liverpool – who just missed out on landing the quadruple this season following last day heartbreak in the Premier League and the Champions League final loss.
Trent Alexander-Arnold looked shattered during the game after a long season with Liverpool
England need to keep Jamal Musiala quiet
The last thing England need after their Hungary heart-break is Jamal Musiala reminding the nation of what they missed out on. The Germany star turned down the opportunity to represent the Three Lions despite Southgate’s best attempts to convince him otherwise.
The 19-year-old star was born in Stuttgart to a German mother and British father. He was later more to the UK and grew up playing for Southampton and Chelsea’s youth sides.
However, Musiala returned home to sign for Bayern Munich – where his performances landed him on the radar of Southgate.
The England manager tried to convince Musiala to switch allegiances and play for the Three Lions but the 19-year-old was adamant he wanted to represent his birth country.
Jamal Musiala turned down the opportunity to represent Southgate’s Three Lions squad
Musiala is eager to prove he made the right decision when Germany take on England this evening. He told reporters that he is ‘desperate’ to impress during their Nations League game.
‘I’m desperate to perform well and make myself part of that squad – my first World Cup would be an amazing feeling,’ he told the BBC.
‘I want to take it up a notch, more physicality, stamina, get into better goalscoring positions and defensive discipline.
‘Hansi Flick’s style of play with Germany is more aggressive, like it was when he was at Bayern. We want to win the ball back high up the pitch to start attacks. It also means the opposition are further away from goal. We practise our high pressing a lot in training.’