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Southgate considers moving Man City defender Stones into England midfield

Date Posted,June 12, 2017

Gareth Southgate could not resist a smile when he was discussing formations, tactics and options for England’s friendly with France.

“When Terry did it, it was genius.” laughed Southgate, recalling when Terry Venables putting him into midfield during Euro 96.

Southgate was discussing the possibility of John Stones moving into midfield for England as an option because of the dearth of holding players.

It is a major issue for England and is the reason why Southgate is looking at Stones as a genuine option and also another factor as to why they will play three at the back against France.

John Stones in training ahead of the France game (Photo: PA)

England boss Southgate has to look at different options, has stressed the need for “flexibility” to his squad in training and wants them to be adaptable.

That has to come from England not having a vintage squad, there are real strong points (good forward options and attacking midfield) but also weaknesses (holding midfield).

Phil Jones, Stones and Gary Cahill will be the back three against France to try and curtail the attacking threat of Didier Deschamps’ squad.

It’s a system which must surely suit England, worked well in Germany in the March friendly and helps them keep a balance.

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The midfield is the big issue. Jordan Henderson is out injured. Jack Wilshere has gone off the radar a bit. Then you have Eric Dier and Jake Livermore.

And who else? If you play a back three with wing backs the it allows you to pick just one holding player and tonight it will be Dier again with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the other central midfielder.

If Southgate is to be successful then there has to be a way of finding a balanced team, getting the players to be flexible and also finding a system to get the best out of the most talented players.

Stones is definitely one of those, excellent of the ball, composed and can bring it out. But his season at Manchester City has been tough, often highlighting that he is still learning and a back three might suit him as it gives a little more security.

John Stones has come under fire at Manchester City (Photo: Getty)

The idea of him playing midfield was actually first raised by Roy Hodgson before the last Euros and it makes sense for Southgate to look at it at some point.

The worry for England is not just now but who is coming through? There is no great strength or young ‘uns for the future like there is with the keepers.

England desperately need to see a player like Nathaniel Chalobah come through at Chelsea.

Nathaniel Chalobah reacts
Nathaniel Chalobah has a big future for both club and country (Photo: Reuters)

The only issue for England is that a year or so ago, the dearth of strikers looked bad. As did the shortage of centre halves.

Now there is plenty in both departments. Things can change very quickly. Hopefully it can, but until that happens then Southgate is right to experiment and a back three looks a good option.

England (probable): Heaton; Jones, Stones, Cahill; Trippier, Dier, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bertrand; Sterling, Alli; Kane.

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