Is playing out from the back an issue? Is a lack of dynamic midfielders the problem? Or did England just make stupid mistakes?
Sky Sports’ pundits give their verdict after England pressed the self-destruct button against Netherlands in extra-time, losing 3-1 in their Nations League semi-final on Thursday night.
England, who repeatedly attempted to play out from the back into a midfield of Declan Rice, Ross Barkley and Fabian Delph, had already experienced some nervy moments in possession going into extra-time with the score at 1-1, before Netherlands capitalised on two lapses.
First, John Stones dwelled on the ball to allow Memphis Depay to force Jordan Pickford to save, before Kyle Walker’s own goal under pressure from Quincy Promes.
Then in the second period of extra-time, Ross Barkley’s miscued pass to Pickford allowed Depay in, and he squared for Promes to wrap up the win.
Carra: Playing out from the back NOT the issue
Jamie Carragher believes the principle of playing out from the back is not the issue, and blamed individual poor decisions for England’s defeat.
“I don’t think we’re taking huge risks at the back. England never took risks tonight. The goals didn’t come from risks and it never came from playing out from the back, it came from stupid decisions.
“John Stones is facing his goalkeeper, pass to your goalkeeper – he doesn’t have to go long. It’s stupid. That’s got nothing to do with going long. He’s made a stupid mistake and a stupid decision to turn on it and try to be clever. It’s got nothing to do with ‘he should have gone long’.
“As a centre-back, you play what’s on. If there are no options in midfield, and you’re facing your goalkeeper, you’re taught from an early age to play where you’re facing.
“Trying to be smart, trying to turn, whatever he’s done, he’s made a bad decision. Forget the talk of playing out from the back being the problem. He made a stupid decision.”
Neville: There’s a deeper problem here
While Gary Neville agreed with Carragher, the dearth of England midfielders who can play on the half-turn provides a bigger issue.
“The superficial mistake is that Stones has made the bad decision. The deep, embedded problem for English football and England teams is that they had no options to play through midfield, and that is a bigger problem than the individual error.
“Until we have players who can receive the ball on the half-turn, it’s so critical. Individual errors are the issue, but gluing together the back to the front in midfield is the biggest thing. Not just this England team, but England teams for 25, 30 years.
“At the end of the day, I think England are in a good position here. We’re in semi-finals of tournaments, this is about the next jump up.”
Redknapp: Don’t rip it up
Jamie Redknapp highlighted what Virgil van Dijk would have done in Stones’ situation, but says the direction England are moving is positive.
“There’s a reason why Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world, it’s because he doesn’t take liberties. Do you think in that moment on the ball, he’s going to pirouette on the ball?
“We’re not saying let’s rip this apart, otherwise you’ve got a major problem, because all the kids are playing out from the back now.”