By Sean O’Brien
England manager Gareth Southgate insists his team are on the right track despite an alarming 1-0 defeat to Italy on Friday night.
The Three Lions were relegated from their Nations League group following a fifth-straight match without a win, having failed to score from open-play across all 450 minutes.
Travelling supporters at the San Siro appeared to boo Southgate after another uninspiring display – which sparked serious concerns ahead of the World Cup in November.
However, the 52-year-old believes there were positives to take from his side’s performance.
Southgate told talkSPORT: “I thought the performance was very close. I think we used the ball well, up to the final third.
“We had more possession, more attempts on goal. But the decisive moments, we are not dealing with in either box.
“When you are playing top nations and there are few chances in games, it’s those critical moments that make the difference.”
A number of alarming statistics were put to Southgate by talkSPORT correspondent Faye Curruthers.
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The Three Lions have now failed to score from open play in five matches, their worst run in that regard in 22 years.
Southgate admits he understands the ‘inevitably’ negative reaction – but will urge his players to block it out.
“We’re scratching our heads, given the attacking players we had on the pitch,” he said.
“We found the spaces and dragged their defence out of shape. But the final bits of quality weren’t there.
“That is hard to understand. I can’t stand in the dressing room and be critical of the players because I think we were on the right track.
“It’s a night where we have to be very careful, in the dressing room, not to lose faith in what we’re doing and get distracted by, inevitably, what will be a lot of noise because of the results we’ve had.”
Southgate added: “I completely understand, the run of results we’ve had, the fans are going to be disappointed, angry, and all those sorts of emotions.
“Whatever I say tonight to the fans isn’t going to land particularly well. I understand that.
“My job is to keep the team right, keep them on track, believing in what we’re doing.
“If you keep doing the right things, things will turn for you.”
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