Gareth Southgate's flawed England tactics have resulted in frazzled minds, chaos and a team shredded of self-respect, writes IAN LADYMAN

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There are ways to under-perform or under-achieve on a football pitch and then there is the way England did it on Thursday in Frankfurt.

Frazzled minds and empty reserves of confidence lead to poor decisions, dismal performances and bad results. Add that to a tactical plan imposed by a manager that simply doesn't work and the end result is the chaotic and frantic 90 minutes of self-harm that sees one of the tournament favourites shredded of self-respect and seemingly hope ahead of a game against Slovenia on Tuesday that simply must yield drastic and permanent improvement.

Where to start? The middle of the field seems as good a place as any.

When he announced his squad for this tournament, England manager Gareth Southgate conceded that he had a problem in the centre of midfield.

'We don't have another Declan Rice-type profile of player,' he said exactly a month ago.

England produced a chaotic and frantic 90 minutes of self-harm in their 1-1 draw with Denmark

England produced a chaotic and frantic 90 minutes of self-harm in their 1-1 draw with Denmark

Gareth Southgate must do something different before their final group game against Slovenia

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'In the last few months I've been thinking: 'Declan with who?' And: 'Who if we don't have Declan?'.

'When everyone is saying we have a procession to the final Berlin, they are the things I have to worry about.'

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EUROS DAILY: Is Kane doing enough for 'chaotically, pathetically bad England?'

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So Southgate can say he warned us but what he can't say is that he has come anywhere near solving the problem. Indeed his post-match admission at Frankfurt's Waldstadion that his decision to play Trent Alexander-Arnold next to Rice had been an 'experiment' was quite startling.

For all the talk of issues with Harry Kane and the fact England have a right-back at left-back, it is the heart of this team from which most of its problems stem. All teams need a platform on which to play and build and England do not have one. All teams need a consistent supply of ball and England do not have it.

'We are not keeping the ball well enough,' admitted Southgate after Thursday's game.

'It is as simple as that. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control. Then we will be defending less and we'll have more confidence.'

There is no magic, complicated coaching formula within all this. Steps can be taken forward if Southgate picks the right players and what is devastatingly clear is that Rice needs help. The Arsenal player was imperious in his first season at the Emirates and would grace most teams at this tournament. But his own standards have been dragged down by the rest here to the extent that on Thursday night he was invisible.

Southgate's 'experiment' with Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield has not paid off for England

Southgate's 'experiment' with Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield has not paid off for England

It's also evident that Declan Rice needs more support in central midfield for the Three Lions

It's also evident that Declan Rice needs more support in central midfield for the Three Lions

If England can find a way to play higher up the field then Kane – criticised beyond measure by the likes of Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker over the last 48 hours - will no longer have to drop so deep in search of the ball and Jude Bellingham may just take a step back from trying to solve all the world's problems on his own.

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How to sort England's mess: Mail Sport's experts argue Palmer must play against Slovenia

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Of England's front four, only Bukayo Saka has demonstrated any real tactical discipline. His performances on the right side have at least on occasion looked like yielding something. Indeed it was the 22-year-old's cross that provided Bellingham with his goal when things were briefly so much brighter against Serbia last weekend.

Foden flickered on occasion against Denmark but seemed unable to resist the temptation to head infield, only adding to the over-crowding and the confusion. Bellingham, for all his talents, has too often been tempted to take on teams single-handed and this is not what wins big summer tournaments.

All of this points not only to tactical deficiencies but also to the emotional and psychological issues that Southgate talked about before stepping on to the team bus on Thursday night to head back to the east side of the country.

To hear Southgate suggest his players were struggling with the expectation and the pressure of a big tournament was quite remarkable. Indeed it was put to him that players such as Walker and Stones are serial domestic and European winners. Bellingham has just won the Champions League, meanwhile, and Trippier, Foden, Kane and others are playing in their third or fourth major championship.

'We're in an intense arena and have to find a way of embracing that, of walking towards the challenge and understanding what it is and playing in a more composed manner than we have so far,' said Southgate.

Some of the Three Lions' top players, such as Harry Kane, must begin stepping up for the side

Some of the Three Lions' top players, such as Harry Kane, must begin stepping up for the side

'For me it is not about individuals. It is about the team and it is my responsibility to sort that out.

'This is a different environment to anything else and I know that from over the years. I have to guide the fellas through that.

'And it is simple - we have to play better than we are at the moment.'

Southgate is right to take responsibility. This is his squad, his team and his tactics. Equally, he should not have to guide senior and experienced players through these Euros.

Germany and France and Spain and others already have players who are rising to the challenges presented here in Germany. England do not have any – with the possible exception of Guehi – and the reasons for that go beyond the way a coach sets up a team. Germany's young players are playing with freedom, England's with fear.

It has often been said in the past that England players too often failed to bring club form to the international stage, that the shirt weighed too heavily. In terms of the so-called Golden Generation of Beckham, Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard, it was regular and valid criticism two decades ago. Now, maybe for the first time, we can say it about this current crop too.

Southgate must take responsbility but, equally, should not have to guide senior and experienced players through the Euros

Southgate must take responsbility but, equally, should not have to guide senior and experienced players through the Euros

So far in Euro 2024 far too many of Southgate's players have been unrecognisable. The 53-year-old said after Thursday's game that some of his players still have fitness issues that are preventing them pressing the ball as intensely as they do in the Premier League, Bundesliga or La Liga. It is hard to understand this. Of the players who started in Frankfurt, only Stones, Tripper and, to a lesser degree, Saka lacked football towards the end of the domestic season.

Undoubtedly, though, England do look leggy. The pitch was strangely soft and heavy on Thursday but at the end it was only the English players and not the Danes who were lying flat on their backs on the turf. Physically spent or emotionally drained? Perhaps a bit of both.

Strange as it seems after all this, England are top of Group B. They may well finish top even if they don't beat Slovenia in Cologne. That would present them with a palatable game against third placed qualifier in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.

Right now all that feels immaterial. The England we have seen in Germany so far do not look capable of beating anybody of note. Southgate actually appeared calm and measured as he tried to make sense of it all late on Thursday evening. It does not appear to be a countenance shared by any of his players and if that doesn't change we could all be home before Wimbledon starts.

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