The less he plays, the harder he is to ignore – a situation that only affects the most recognisable players, and this week is even more true for Harry Maguire, the lost ship of English football now in Clearly visible in the fog and recalled to a manager who never lost confidence. –
The erstwhile Manchester United captain, who has not been in his club’s starting XI since the Brentford disaster on 13 August, is back and likely to be England’s Nations League starter against Italy. The £85m defender, who was cut by Erik Ten Hag only to be part of a United revival in his absence, has the full backing of the England manager. It has been a devastating year for Maguire on the pitch, Southgate knows it and, at least for now, sees something worth saving. He gave all indications that Maguire will start at Milan.
“If we think there are experienced players who are ready to step in and play on top of him, there are different considerations and there will be a different level of competition in certain positions,” Southgate said. , Maguire is “our most dominant central defender in the air”. John Stones was suspended for a red card and the options narrowed at the Molyneux Stadium in Hungary in June. However, in a team with three defenders, it looks like Southgate will choose Maguire ahead of Mark Gay and Fikayo Tomori, with the San Siro as their home ground.
“he [Maguire] John is unbelievable in possession, really,” Southgate said, “the pressure they put on the team in the games we play…because we don’t always have the pivots in midfield that push the game forward. player. That means more pressure on our centre-backs in possession, and these two are as good at that as anyone in world football. “
He went on to cite the experience of his rugby league opponent Eddie Jones and his decision to pick his “undercooked” Saracens star despite their reservations about competing in the 2020-21 secondary tournament. Southgate noticed Jones’ plight while reading one of his most recent books, and he was an observer of Jones’ training sessions in the past.
“For the Saracens players, he [Jones] Feels like they’re his best players, and while they’re not mature enough, they’re still going to be better than players who aren’t at that level,” Southgate said. “So, I don’t think there are a lot of players out there who aren’t at that level right now. Level, haven’t played the game yet. See, obviously, this is not an ideal situation. You want your best players to play regularly so they’re in good shape physically and mentally.but he [Maguire] An important player for us. I think it’s important to support our best players. “
‘We feel Harry is an important player’
It was pointed out that those Saracens players at least got game time. Maguire has only started one game since Brentford’s Europa League defeat by Real Sociedad on September 8, playing just 10 minutes in the Premier League during that time.
“Well, they [Saracens internationals] It’s not at that level,” Southgate said. “Physically, rugby is different from football in that the level in leagues is lower than in international [standard] It’s not really a test of your better players if you get into the league. So, our players actually do physical training every day with top players who have also played some European football. “
The determination to make decisions independently of club form, and to be with a stalwart who has played in two Championship semi-finals and a final, is very strong in Southgate. In Maguire’s defence, a Nations League game he did not start last June was the last, the most devastating 4-0 loss to Hungary, and he came on as a substitute in the final five minutes. Southgate hinted that he was forced to compromise over the four games, without elaborating, and he appeared to stand firmer than ever.
“Whatever reputation I have, I’ll put it there,” he said with a regretful smile, nodding to the hostility he encountered in his second game at Molineux. “I think you always have to support your judgment and we think he’s an important player.”
There are other problems with England’s defence, even beyond Maguire. In the first two Nations League games, against Hungary in Budapest and Germany in Munich, Southgate opted for a three-man backline. He switched to a No 4 for Molineux’s games against Italy and Hungary due to England’s lackluster performance, but somehow it took a turn for the worse. Now, given the prospect of England’s first international relegation in 150 years, albeit only in the Nations League, he needs to find something he can trust.
Maguire survived. Perhaps a stronger bond with the manager, who is himself a centre-back, and also felt the most ruthless anger England could unleash among the British public. Aside from the two games against Italy and Germany at Wembley on Monday, Maguire has plenty of room to play in club football over the next two months and could be in the World Cup squad in November. There is still a long way to go, but he has seen hope.