David Seaman admits he was surprised to learn that Gareth Southgate intends to revert to a back-three for the Euro 2020 final – but is confident the England manager will make the right call in terms of selection against Italy’s ‘vulnerable’ defence.
Widespread reports in the build-up to this evening’s spectacle indicate that Bukayo Saka is set to drop out for Kieran Trippier at Wembley as the Three Lions prepare for their first final at a major tournament since 1966.
It was Saka’s cross which led to Simon Kjaer’s own goal in England’s semi-final victory over Denmark but the Arsenal youngster is expected to be sacrificed, with Southgate switching to the formation which had such success versus Germany in the last 16.
Ex-England goalkeeper Seaman – a star of Terry Venables’ Euro 1996 side – reacted to the news on Sky Sports and though shocked about Southgate’s tactical tweak, underlined that his former team-mate ‘knows what he’s doing’.
Asked whether he was surprised by the leaked team, the Arsenal great told Sky Sports: ‘Yeah, it does!
‘Everything he does surprises me because I was thinking he was going to name an unchanged team for the first time in the tournament but no.
‘He knows what he’s doing. By going with three at the back, does that mean we will be more attacking?
‘Hopefully we’ll be able to attack the Italians down the wings and that’s where they’re a little bit vulnerable and then hopefully get some crosses in for Harry Kane.’
Seaman has no doubts that Southgate would have done his homework on the opposition and how they managed to nullify the threat of Romelu Lukaku in their quarter-final win over Belgium.
He added: ‘Maybe Gareth has seen how Italy handled Lukaku and thought: “They might do that with Harry so lets try and get at them down the wings”.
‘They are vulnerable, there’s no doubt about that. And if we can get Sterling and maybe Mount or whoever is playing out wide and then the full-backs pushing on as well, there’s a lot of choice for crosses coming in and that’s where we want Harry.
‘We don’t want Harry dropping deep. I want him in the middle, occupying those two centre-halves.’
According to Seaman, England’s strength in depth in attack could be key at Wembley given the likes of Saka, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish are all in contention to come off the bench at Wembley.
He went on: ‘When you see that quality of player coming on, for the team it’s a great boost and for the opposition they’re thinking: “Oh, no we’re tired and they’re fresh!”
‘The beauty of it is that everyone has performed. Even when they’ve come on as a substitute, they’ve really performed well and it’s great to see.
‘We do have to be at our best because if that Italian team turns up that beat Belgium then we’re in for a really tough evening.’
Steve McClaren believes Southgate has made a ‘brave call’ in switching formation for tonight’s showpiece and hopes leaving out Saka does not backfire on the England head coach.
‘A brave call by Gareth. Brave, brave call,’ the former England manager told Sky Sports.
‘Only done once in the tournament against Germany and that was a massive call. It worked and it needs to work again.
‘Why has he done that? Gareth is very pragmatic. He’s been saying all along that it’s about how we win this game over 95 minutes, extra time, penalties.
‘And he knows that he has to stay in the game, keep it tight. Clean sheets win you games. If they do that, they’ll win this game and he knows that.
‘Three centre-backs, I think for three reasons. If you look at the Italian team, it is a lopsided 4-3-3 – . They attack, Emerson and Spinazzola before that was like a left winger, and Insigne came inside to allow that left-back to go high. Barella will drop in and go wide as well and the right-back will kind of stay so it’s lopsided.
‘We can play lopsided as well and he’s done that to counter that. They are very strong down their left and Gareth will want to nullify that.
‘The key thing for me was against Denmark they were vulnerable to transitions. There was too much space down the sides of Maguire and Stones and Denmark exploited that space until Gareth got the full-backs in.
‘I think he’s thinking that the Italians are very strong at pressing, winning the ball and counter-attacking. That’s what they’ve done 90 per cent of the time, that’s how they’ve won and they will want to nullify that.
‘At the other end, they’ll want to make sure they keep that attacking threat. It’s a brave call. To lose the pace of Saka against this Italy team, it’s going to be a huge loss.’
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