England needed a reaction on Monday night in Bulgaria having produced arguably their worst performance of Gareth Southgate’s reign in Prague three nights before.
Declan Rice anchored the Three Lions midfield alongside Jordan Henderson in that 2-1 reverse against Czechia, but was replaced by Harry Winks for the 6-0 victory in Sofia.
The standard of the opponents was barely comparable – and Rice was suffering with a cold (Mirror) – so perhaps not too much should be read into Winks’ efficient display at the base of the midfield.
But it seems clear now that the Tottenham and West Ham academy graduates are locked in a season-long battle over who can anchor the England midfield at Euro 2020.
TBR’s View – Winks the perfect playmaker for Southgate’s passing style, Rice offers more physicality
Southgate has always preached a passing style with emphasis on playing in tight areas. He was content to go to the World Cup with Jordan Henderson, a box-to-box midfielder anchoring his engine room.
That suggests that Winks is better suited to the style he wants to play. England’s lack of a deep playmaker was bemoaned after the World Cup and while Winks is not at elite level yet, he’s the best in that mould we have.
If Southgate wants to offer more protection to his defence – which has been shaky at times lately – he may well turn to Rice. Rice can play, but his passing has been slack against relatively modest opposition at times.
With Henderson suspended against Montenegro in England’s next game, the pair may get the chance to play together, which would be interesting to see.