Gareth Southgate got a lot wrong on Thursday, but he got two things right.

Speaking just after his team’s dire 1-1 draw with Denmark, the England head coach admitted his group has “problems.”

Nailed it. No argument there.

And Southgate was right on the money when he predicted the English public and press would be deeply “disappointed” with the pair of displays at Euro 2024 so far. 

But good press-conference performances won’t do anything to appease the general sense of dismay at England’s woefully disjointed start to a campaign they began as one of the favorites.

Sure, England sits at the top of Group C, having followed up an unconvincing 1-0 win against Serbia with a markedly worse tie against the Danes, a showing that laid bare some of the deficiencies with their head coach’s approach.

Southgate has done more at major tournaments than any recent England coach, reaching a World Cup semifinal and quarterfinal and coming within a couple of penalty kicks of winning the last iteration of the Euros.

Yet the most oft-cited criticisms revolve around an inability to finish teams off. Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag spoke this week of how Southgate too frequently seems content to get into an early lead, then instantly adopt a defensive mindset, aiming to close out the game.

Denmark vs. England Highlights

The difficulty with that comes if there is a ton of time left on the clock. That’s what happened in the Euros final in the summer of 2021 and it is exactly what took place on Thursday, where Harry Kane scored on 18 minutes and England then went passive.

Suddenly, Denmark’s crew of talented midfield players found themselves with space and time to create something of value. It didn’t take long for Morten Hjulmand to poach the ball off Kane in a low-lying position and smash home the equalizer.

“There is a huge amount of work,” Southgate told reporters. “That’s evident from the two performances we’ve given and we’ve got to be tight. We understand people will be disappointed with the performances and rightly so, and we’ve got to make them better.

“(This) I clearly not what we’ve hoped for. We are not using the ball well enough and we have to accept that if you do that you will suffer at times, as we have tonight. We know there is a level we have to find.”

Denmark vs. England Reaction: Is it coming home?

Southgate denied that he instructs his teams to become actively more cautious once they go into the lead.

“No,” he said. ‘We’ve played teams that are fluid and it is not easy to get pressure on them. We have got to do better than we have in the last two matches.”

England next plays Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday. A win would secure the top spot in Group C; a point would ensure qualification and may be enough for first place.

Between now and then, the conversation will again revolve heavily around the formation. Southgate admitted that using Trent Alexander-Arnold in the center of midfield had been an “experiment”, and it is one that has surely now ended. Replacing Alexander-Arnold with Conor Gallagher just after halftime was a clear indicator of that.

Phil Foden was allowed to play more often in the middle but his connection with Jude Bellingham still didn’t work out. Declan Rice had an awful game, often losing possession.

And in the most surprising move of all, Southgate replaced his entire front three — Foden, Bukayo Saka and captain Kane — with 20 minutes left.

England has an avalanche of talent, but there is a growing feeling that Southgate doesn’t know what to do with it all. While there has been a complete absence of innovation and ingenuity on the left side, Cole Palmer, who had such a sensational impact on the English Premier League last season, remains stuck on the bench. So too, does Anthony Gordon, perhaps the purest “left-” based player in the camp.

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Vice-captain Kyle Walker, who played an influential role in the goal, admitted this sort of showing will not be good enough if England are to go on any kind of run in the bracket.

“We take away the point and we are top of the group, (but) I can’t stand here saying it was a fantastic performance,” Walker said. 

“Collectively, we need to know when to go and when not to go. That is something we need to practice because you come to the knockout stages and slight things like that can cost you.”

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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