England manager Gareth Southgate is set to lead his Three Lions against Italy and Germany in vital clashes in Group 3 of the UEFA Nations League as the nation sits last after four matches played and without a win, which included a pair of shock losses against surprising group leaders Hungary.
With Qatar 2020 just two months away, Southgate’s latest squad offers insight into the mind of England’s top boss when it comes to who will be on the plane and who will be left at St. George’s Park this winter, with Manchester United’s Harry Maguire still viewed as a key cog in the wheel for his country.
Unfortunately for the 29-year-old center-back, his value at Old Trafford under new manager Erik ten Hag is not nearly as prominent after the arrival of the Dutch tactician this summer in conjunction with the former Ajax boss prioritizing a deal for Lisandro Martínez, which now sees Maguire no longer viewed as a first-choice option in the heart of the United defense.
But according to ESPN’s Mark Ogden, sources closely linked with Maguire have criticized the English giants for not building a squad - particularly a back line - that has failed to support Maguire while masking his biggest weakness; a lack of pace.
On the surface, the criticism could perhaps be justified when it comes to United’s propensity to build squads poorly in recent years, struggling to focus on key problem areas appropriately, and rather looking to secure big names for big fees that are not guaranteed to succeed after their arrival.
However, there are many who that feel if a club spends £80m on a center-back, such a player would be able to rise above certain difficulties and adapt to the environment around them and excel if they were good enough.
There have been plenty of top-level center-back’s across the history of football that lacked pace but made up for that with an uncanny ability to understand the game in front of them while boasting flawless decision-making. This is where Maguire is also lacking, and that simple notion, not a lack of pace around him, is why he has ultimately lost his place in the team to a Martínez-Varane partnership that is a much better balance both physically and tactically.
Moreover, questions can also be levied in the direction of the England camp and why Maguire continues to perform for his country, with one key aspect rising above the rest; a back three in defense.
With two partners in defense on either side of him and deep-sitting midfielders in front of him, Maguire is far less exposed for pace on average for England and can thus rely on his aerial prowess in key moments.
And with no plans for Ten Hag to turn to a back three at any stage in his managerial evolution to date, Maguire’s time at the club may well be up after the current season if he fails to make it back into the starting XI at England’s biggest club.