Stuart Pearce believes there should be ‘alarm bells’ ringing after England’s lacklustre displays against Malta and North Macedonia.
The Three Lions ended their Euro 2024 qualification campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw in Skopje, in which Gareth Southgate’s men created little.
England were trailing 1-0 at half time after debutant Rico Lewis was harshly adjudged to have fouled Bojan Miovski in the box. Jordan Pickford saved Enis Bardhi’s spot kick, but the taker was there to slam home the rebound.
The Three Lions levelled in the second half when substitute Harry Kane caused chaos in the box, but it was Jani Atansov who stuck the ball past his own goalkeeper.
England pushed for a winner but never looked like breaking the hosts down and managed just two shots on target against a team ranked 62 places below them.
Despite this, England still topped Group C and will be in pot one in the Euro 2024 draw, but Three Lions icon Pearce saw some worrying signs.
Speaking after talkSPORT’s live commentary with Adrian Durham, the ex-England defender revealed his concerns about the lack of creativity displayed by the Three Lions.
He said: “I always put a positive slant on things, but I have got to say alarm bells will be ringing in regards to these two games [Malta and North Macedonia].
“We just haven’t been able to break teams down freely. I think that is an Achilles heel of ours.
“As a counter-attacking team, where teams come on to us, we aren’t bad when we have space.
“But we’ve got to work out how to break these teams down.
“I think our build-up from the back line is too slow and easy to defend.”
Of course, England were without Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham for both games due to a shoulder injury.
In his previous two England appearances, the 20-year-old scored once and provided three assists, so they undoubtedly missed his influence.
However, the Three Lions still had more than enough good players in this squad to manage more than five shots on target across two fixtures against Malta and North Macedonia.
And Pearce would like to see England play some different passes rather than just keeping possession across the back.
He said: “We are too slow in midfield. We need to mix it up. There are too many short passes.
“Every time we played the ball over the top, we either regained it 40 yards up the pitch or were in behind their defence.
“And this isn’t kick and rush, it’s a cultured pass.”
The man behind these passes, that Pearce was talking about, was Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The Liverpool defender started both games in midfield, but bar the odd pass; he kept things very safe.
And because he and others weren’t playing the ball forwards, the wingers and strikers stopped moving.
Pearce went on to state he couldn’t believe how few runs Ollie Watkins made during the North Macedonia game.
He said: “If you are playing at the top end of the pitch and you know that ball’s not forthcoming, you might make one or two runs, but eventually, you say, ‘I am not running in behind because you aren’t even looking for the ball in behind’.
“Ollie Watkins made as few runs tonight as I have ever seen him; for him to do that [make runs], you have to supply him with the ball.”
So definite improvements are required in the attacking third if England are to reach their full potential and stand a chance of winning the Euros next year.
On paper, they have some of the best attacking options in the tournament, but football isn’t played on paper, and it’s up to Southgate to unleash this team and allow them to play with freedom.
Source: Talk Sport