Irreplaceable Declan Rice brings structure and security to England

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Recent displays against Australia and Malta show Gareth Southgate’s side are vulnerable without the Arsenal midfielder

It comes back to balance. While much is made of the possibilities offered by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s emergence as an option in midfield for England, a development that raises the prospect of the Liverpool player running games with his imaginative passing, it must not be forgotten that successful international teams usually prioritise stability in the middle.

That was clearly on Gareth Southgate’s mind after England’s scratchy win over Malta last Friday. He experimented with qualification for Euro 2024 secured, starting Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher and Jordan Henderson in midfield, but the plan faltered. Southgate, who removed Gallagher at half-time, will have been alarmed by how much space Malta found in front of England’s defence.

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Written by Jacob Steinberg in Skopje
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