Southgate puts England woes down to final-third sharpness, not cautious tactics

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Gareth Southgate dismissed suggestions England's recent struggles are down to a conservative approach, instead ruing a lack of sharpness in the final third.

England drew 0-0 with Italy on Saturday as the Three Lions were left rooted to the foot of their Nations League group with just two points from three games.

Across the trio of matches played this month, England have scored just one goal – Harry Kane's penalty in the 1-1 draw with Germany.

The Three Lions' performances have been widely criticised, and while they did create chances against the Azzurri, they were at times second best to a team undergoing something of a transformation.

A common criticism of England throughout Southgate's time in charge has been that they lack an identity beyond their often pragmatic approach, but he did not want to entertain such an idea this time.

Asked if he saw the performance as cautious, Southgate told Channel 4: "I don't see how you can really.

"We tried to move the ball through a very good, well-organised team. We've got the ball into our forward players and we've given all of them a go, tried to refresh it because we know the state of the season we're at.

"So, I think at the moment that little bit of sharpness in the final third isn't quite there, but I was pleased with the general performance."

Tammy Abraham started in place of Kane in attack, with the Roma striker supported by Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish.

While Sterling and Mount each managed three shots and Grealish laid on a game-high four key passes, Abraham mustered only two shots.

One was a harmless off-target header and the other a wasteful finish after robbing Italy of possession inside their own area, as he scuffed wide of the right-hand post.

Nevertheless, Southgate seemed encouraged by Abraham's display.

"I said earlier in the week, we've been too reliant on Harry and Raheem for our goals," he continued.

"Other players have got to step into that phase. A number of them do it for their clubs but at international level they've not managed to convert that.

"So we've looked dangerous without getting the goals that are needed in the bigger games.

"I thought Tammy was fine. I haven't seen that chance back from right at the start, but that's probably the one [England should have taken].

"We felt we needed to refresh the team when we did it [brought Abraham off] but I wasn't unhappy with Tammy's performance at all."

England will hope to finally get their first win of their Nations League campaign on Tuesday when they host Hungary, to whom they lost in Budapest last weekend.

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