England boss Gareth Southgate has expressed concern over his team’s addiction to Harry Kane after failing to score against Italy at Molineux.
The goalless draw leaves them winless after three Nations League games and scoring only once in the campaign – Kane’s late-kicking penalty that equalized things against Germany.
Tammy Abraham replaced Kane in this closed-door match on Saturday, but couldn’t find the net with a chance at the start. Though Mason Mount hit the crossbar soon after and Raheem Sterling missed from close range, the goal didn’t come.
“We want to win games and we are disappointed not to win,” Southgate said. “We have two or three excellent opportunities to take.
“You don’t have many chances against the best teams. We would like to have created more from the possession we had. We depend a lot on Harry and Raheem for our goals right now and that’s a concern.”
Jack Grealish had a left start after making an impact against Germany, but Southgate noticed he only had one shot on goal.
“I go back to what I say about all our attacking players,” he added. “This is an area that we need to improve if we want to progress as a team.”
Grealish’s scoring record for Manchester City was insignificant, but perhaps Southgate had Mount in mind when he pointed out that “there are players who score more regularly for their clubs” than their country.
The Chelsea man has not found the net in his last 15 appearances for England and missed a golden opportunity in the first half to give England the lead at Molineux.
“We continue to work to get the balls to the right areas. In the end, in the offensive areas, the quality of the game will be crucial. In those areas there was little clarity.”
And without Kane, that could be a real problem.
“The concern is if you don’t have it for whatever reason,” added the England boss. “But each team relies on its best players.
“France were dead and gone last night and Kylian Mbappé is making up something. Our captain’s goal record is phenomenal. But we have to start sharing that load.”
Southgate commends Ramsdale’s performance
England’s missed goal did not translate into defeat thanks to the man-of-the-match performance of goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who parried brilliantly on Sandro Tonali in the first half and continued to deny Roberto Mancini’s side until the end.
“He made important saves and was very composed in possession,” Southgate said of what was only the Arsenal goalkeeper’s second appearance for his country. “This is what we hoped it would bring.”
It wasn’t entirely flawless. “There was an out of place pass in midfield,” Southgate recalled. But his ability with the ball at his feet was a real strength. “In general, I think the time he took, the composure he showed, helped us build from behind.”
The return of the crowd will help England
One explanation for England not being clinical enough was that it lacked the urgency of a packed stadium. “We were the dominant team in the second half. But we went back to that soulless experience we had during Covid.”
England were forced to play behind closed doors against Italy due to troubles at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final against the same opposition last summer. On Tuesday evening Hungary will find a very different Molineux waiting for them.
“Having a full house here will be a huge relief for the players,” Southgate said.
“To come here and play in front of no fans, [it is difficult] when you press for a goal and nothing comes to the stands and the opponents don’t have that pressure.
“We can’t wait to come here on Tuesday when the seat bounces back.
“Right now, we could do with that help.”
Mancini: England contenders at the World Cup
Just like exactly 11 months ago when Italy prevailed in the Euro 2020 final, Roberto Mancini would have been the happier of the two coaches as his experimental team produced impressive football at Molineux.
Despite another toothless offensive display, Mancini had no doubts that England would be in the mix to make it all the way to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“England are one of the best teams in Europe right now, they have many, many good players,” he said.
“Maybe they are trying something different right now, different situations, but I think they are one of the candidates to win the World Cup.”