England

Gareth Southgate insists Hungary loss proved perils of focusing on attacking

Tom Gott
Southgate has come under fire
Southgate has come under fire / Danehouse Photography Ltd/GettyImages
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England manager Gareth Southgate has warned critics of his play style that the recent 4-0 defeat to Hungary showed the perils of being too focused on attacking.

Southgate has come under immense fire in recent days after England went through the entire international break without winning a game, scoring just once in four matches as they tumbled to the bottom of their Nations League group.

The most disappointing result was undoubtedly the 4-0 defeat to Hungary at Molineux, during which Southgate was met with a chorus of boos and chants of 'You don't know what you're doing' from a huge number of disgruntled supporters.

Questions have since been asked about Southgate's tactics and England's struggles to create chances over the past few weeks, but the boss warned fans to be careful what they wish for.

"I think some of the desire to see open play … we saw [against Hungary] that you’ve got to have the balance of a team right,” Southgate said. “With a club, maybe if you’re at the top and you’ve got a long time working with the players, you can play a more expansive game, although even the top teams are bloody good defensively.

“The idea that we can just play lots of attacking players and rely on talent to win matches – it’s not the way it is. It was a reminder to myself in the second half that, OK, you go for a gamble to try to win the game because you think that’s important. But what happened can happen.”

Some of the loudest boos came late on when, at 3-0 and moments after John Stones' red card, Southgate opted to remove Bukayo Saka and replace him with Manchester United defender Harry Maguire, selecting damage limitation over a real push to get something from the remaining seven minutes of the game.

“That [the booing] was directed at me [and not Maguire],” Southgate said. “We’re losing 3-0, I took an attacker off and put a defender on. But we needed to solidify. There’s no way you’re going to win the game and you’ve got to try to protect the players on the pitch.

"I didn’t view that as a criticism of Harry. He’s actually had three really strong performances with us.”

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