Football

England brimming with energy but lacking creativity

England manager Gareth Southgate's 23-man selection to take to the World Cup in Russia has won plaudits for its youthful verve, but some English football pundits are worried the squad lacks guile.

The Three Lions squad features just three players over the age of 30, but late bloomer Jamie Vardy's, 31, explosive pace hasn't dimmed with age while Ashley Young is an effervescent 32-year-old enjoying a career renaissance at fullback.

Only Gary Cahill, 32, may come off stodgy, but if there is one position where an old head tends to be required, it's in the heart of the defence.

Former England striker Alan Shearer believes lowered expectations due to the youthful nature of the squad could work in its favour.

He told the BBC: "The squad has got energy and youth...

"I don't think there are huge expectations from the English public. People know where we are and that we have a better chance of being more successful in four years' time than on this occasion."

The epitome of youth and energy in the England ranks is uncapped right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is likely to start for Liverpool against Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 26.

Former England international defender Martin Keown believes Southgate should send a signal by starting the 19-year-old from Merseyside in England's tournament opener against Tunisia on June 18.

He wrote in his Daily Mail column: "This squad feels like a new beginning. What better way to signal the start of a new era than by playing Trent Alexander-Arnold in the first game against Tunisia?

"Gareth Southgate is not afraid to prioritise form over experience. While (Kieran ) Trippier has seemed tired in the final few weeks of the season, Alexander-Arnold looks as if he is running mid-race.

"If he is good enough to play in the biggest match in club football, why can't he start at the World Cup?"

Fellow former England defender Terry Butcher believes while Southgate has promising young defensive talent like Alexander-Arnold and John Stones, the lack of experience in defence and between the sticks mean that attack might be the best form of defence.

He told the BBC: "I like us going forward as a package and we have got plenty of zip and energy.

"It's the other way, defensively, and with the goalkeepers' lack of international caps you think the best form of defence is attack."

But former Three Lions winger Chris Waddle believes England have too "many similarly defensive-minded players" for that approach.

He told the BBC: "For me, it (the squad) is lacking in creativity and imagination.

"Raheem Sterling is going to be the one to run with the ball, Marcus Rashford will if he gets a game, but apart from that, it is a physical, strong, tall, grafting side that can pass the ball quite well.

"Every team needs a point of difference, but there are so many similarly defensive-minded players."

However, ex-England midfielder Dennis Wise believes Southgate's left-field pick of Ruben Loftus-Cheek gives England that "something different". He told Sky Sports: "He has got ability. In the game against Germany, I thought he was outstanding.

"He is somebody who can give you something different when you need it. He is a physical presence, he's got great ability and he can open doors when he runs at people."

Football