Flashback to the summer of 2018, and England’s centre-backs were stealing headlines for their ability to win headers (as if the game of football isn’t set up for them to do that.)
They were this elite group of defenders who were ready to take on the world.
Now, here we are in 2019, and they can’t defend. We watched Harry Maguire and Michael Keane somehow allow Kosovo to fire three goals past them, and then the duo put on another defensive horror show on Friday in the 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic.
Maguire, billed as one of the greatest centre-backs around after winning a few headers at the World Cup, has looked shaky and unconvincing, whilst the less said about Keane’s performances the better. He gave possession away almost every time he touched the ball, and he constantly invited pressure on his team.
Let’s not forget, this is the same Keane who has played every minute of Everton’s disastrous start to the Premier League season. If only Southgate had some other options at his disposal. Wait, he does?
Both Fikayo Tomori and Tyrone Mings deserve to start ahead of Keane, whilst you could even make a case that Joe Gomez would be a better option.
Tomori certainly came into this game in better form. The Chelsea starlet has been one of the breakout stars of the season so far, and it’s no surprise that the Blues have started playing better with him at the back.
The 20-year-old has put in the kind of performances which usually merit a starting place at international level, but Southgate seemingly didn’t agree. Yes, perhaps the England boss did not want to throw Tomori in immediately, but why not? Could it really have gone worse than it did with Keane?
Only four Premier League clubs have conceded more goals than Everton this season, whose defence rests largely on Keane and (noted England starter) Jordan Pickford.
The thing is, out of all of England’s centre-back options, not a single one of them came into this game in better form than Tomori, not even Maguire. Tomori deserves Keane’s spot in the team, and you could argue that he even merits inclusion over the Manchester United man as well.
Southgate’s answer to the Czech threat was to change formation at half time, but not to change personnel. He persisted with both Maguire and Keane, despite both being responsible for too many errors throughout the game.
It’s time to start accepting that a new centre-back partnership is needed, and Tomori must be part of that. He has been England’s top defender this season, and he needs to be rewarded with a place in Southgate’s lineup.