Mikel Arteta masterstroke could save England as Gary Neville makes ‘basic’ Arsenal point

Gary Neville is a pundit for ITV Sport for Euro 2024
-Credit: (Image: ITV Sport)

Manchester United legend turned pundit Gary Neville has told England manager Gareth Southgate to repeat Mikel Arteta’s move with Declan Rice to get the best out of the midfielder.

Rice has played both of England’s Euro 2024 games in a deep lying midfield position in front of the back four. A 1-0 win over Serbia on Sunday was followed by a 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday, with the performance against the Danes widely criticised.

The midfield balance is one of the areas that has been identified as a problem, with Southgate opting to play Trent Alexander-Arnold alongside Rice in a deep midfield position. While the full-back’s position change has been questioned, Neville has also pointed out that the position is not getting the best from Rice either, with the pundit referencing Arteta’s tactical switch during the season.

“I also want to mention a player that we all love 100 percent, Mikel Arteta moved Declan Rice out of that position for the last 15 games of the season to bring Jorginho and Partey in because he is not that good at playing there and today is the most nervous I’ve seen Declan Rice, and he’s a brilliant player,” he told ITV Sport.

“I think he’s better further up the pitch. If you think about Kroos and Rodri and what Vitinha does for Portugal, these players who get the team playing. Every team that’s really great has these sorts of players nowadays.

"We don’t seem to have that player. Mainoo is probably the one, Wharton can do it. We have to resolve that problem, and I’m not just talking about Gareth in the next four days, I’m just talking England generally, we’ve never been able to get out from the back properly in moments of pressure.”

READ MORE: Kieran Tierney told he's 'welcome' to leave Arsenal for dream transfer return

READ MORE: Arsenal target with £35m release clause transfer decision amid Liverpool links

When questioned further on Rice, Neville added: “I think when he goes to receive the ball deep with his back to play I think he’s quite basic at that, I don’t think he’s as good as the other players who play that position. Where I think he’s brilliant is when he’s marauding forward, he’s running onto the game, he’s up on top of the game, he’s being aggressive.

“If you look at his touchmap for Arsenal in the last half of the season, most of his touches were in the higher left channel and I get that he’s got Jorginho, he might have Zinchenko coming in or others to play in midfield. For some reason we haven’t got that balance in midfield and I do believe that it’s a massive problem.”

England are back in action on Tuesday when they take on Slovenia in their third and final group stage game. While not mathematically certain, the Three Lions are expected to secure their qualification into the knockout stages of the competition.