England’s coach Gareth Southgate, has revealed a shift in his plans for the England squad in the European 2024 qualifiers against Malta on Friday and North Macedonia three days later.
This adjustment stems from the absence of several players due to injuries.
Despite having secured qualification for next year’s finals in Germany with a win against Italy last month, Southgate now faces the challenge of reshaping the squad given the unavailable players.
“You always have to adapt. We’d maybe have written two possible teams for the next two games but you never really know what’s going to come your way,” Southgate said in a press conference on Thursday.
“We have lost more players than is normal and there’s some long-term injuries amidst that, which is a big shame for the players themselves, but then there’s always opportunities for the players coming in.”
Southgate confronts England’s last games of the year without essential players, including Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Chelsea’s Levi Colwill, who are sidelined with shoulder injuries.
The coach emphasised the managerial challenge of striking a balance and making tough decisions in light of these absences. This comes after he faced inquiries regarding the absence of Chelsea striker Raheem Sterling.
“As a player, you never agree with a manager’s decision to leave you out, but you just hope you do it in the most respectful way possible, with constructive points so they can go away and work on things,” said Southgate.
Southgate also spoke of how, despite England leading Group C with 16 points after six games, his priority is to prove they are a top team that wins games, despite facing constant criticism.
“The most important message revolves around our day-to-day standard on the training ground,” said Southgate. “We aspire to be a top team, and we’ve been consistent for a while, and that comes from everything you do and the things no one else sees.”