Gareth Southgate says England must be “completely ruthless” from here on out as World Cup preparations ramp up on the back of June’s chastening Nations League results.
England are in Milan to take on Euro 2020 final foes Italy on Friday evening knowing defeat will see them relegated from the top tier of the Nations League.
MEDIAWATCH: Grealish v Souness is the manufactured feud only an international week (and the media) could love
It would be an embarrassing moment and another difficult bump in the road for one of the World Cup favourites in their penultimate match before the tournament.
Southgate’s side are determined to get back to winning ways on Friday as they return to action for the first time since some fans called for the manager’s head during the humiliating 4-0 home loss to Hungary.
“Well the individual part is not important,” the England boss said of the stick he faced. “We analysed everything, every department.
“I think when you’re winning… we were on a run going into that summer of 22 matches without losing and you maybe don’t analyse the victories quite as acutely as you analyse the defeats.
“That’s probably not the right approach in actual fact.
“But I felt I compromised certain decisions internally, and you don’t win if you compromise.
“It was good for me to sharpen that focus again because what we’re going into we’ve got to be completely ruthless and I’ve got to create an environment for the players that allows them to excel.
“And to provide them with the best platform to be at the level they’ve been for the last five or six years.”
Asked what the compromises were, Southgate said: “No, because they’re internal things that we’re working on as a team, so there’s no need for that to be public.”
Defeats to Hungary bookended a miserable four-game slog in June, with the 1-0 loss in Budapest followed by draws at Germany and behind closed doors against the Azzurri.
But the 4-0 Molineux mauling was the crushing blow that leaves them at a crossroads with the World Cup just 60 days away.
“I’m not really sure it’s about form because when you’re in an international environment, there’s so many weeks and months between games that you’re starting from scratch every time, really,” Southgate said.
“There were so many circumstances in the summer with, firstly, high-quality games, high-quality opponents, but also the need to look after some of our big players.
“I think every nation did that. Talking to the managers of Denmark, Belgium and France over the summer, they all found that challenging because they’re all thinking about the World Cup as well.
“Also players that we wanted to see more of because there’s no friendlies after this, which you’d normally have for a tournament.
“Two games behind closed doors, so any number of reasons but also we reflected and dissected everything as a group of staff.
“When you’ve been through (challenging) spells as a manager, which I have, that helps you because you’ve got real clarity on what needs to happen and how to come through those periods.
“Also, I think if we were coming out of those matches wondering why things hadn’t gone quite so well, then that would be more of a concern.
“But we knew exactly the reasons and it’s a challenge for us as a group of staff and then ultimately for us to put that challenge to the players to respond.
“We know the level of performance needs to be incredibly high to achieve what we want to achieve in in the World Cup.”
John Stones’ red card against Hungary means he is suspended for the San Siro trip.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson came into the squad due an injury to Kalvin Phillips but Southgate says the plan was always for him to be involved against Germany on Monday rather than Italy.
“Great tests for us, great games to be involved with first of all,” Southgate said of the Group A3 double header.
“We play two of the strongest football nations historically in two of the most iconic stadiums you can play in, so great tests for us.
“We’re wanting to of course improve our performances from the summer and to leave the camp feeling good about ourselves going into the World Cup.
“To come here and play Italy in Milan is a great opportunity to do that.”