Cascarino says Sheffield United ace O'Connell can solve this England issue
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Cascarino says Sheffield United ace O'Connell can solve this England issue

Tony Cascarino thinks England should be playing Sheffield United defender Jack O’Connell ahead of Eric Dier.

Dier started both of the country’s recent Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark at centre-back. In the 0-0 draw with the Danes, the Tottenham Hotspur man played on the left of a three-man defence.

It’s the role that O’Connell excelled in for the Blades last season, helping them to a ninth place finish in the Premier League and a defensive record only bettered by the top three.

“Eric Dier cannot play on the left of a back three. If you are a defender in a three, it is vital that you do not let people run in behind you and you do not get turned by the opposition,” Cascarino wrote in his Times column.

“He has been vulnerable in both of those areas and was lucky England did not concede from a rare incisive run from (Denmark midfielder Christian) Eriksen past him in the first half.


“When you think of the pacy attackers in world football such as Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappé, the idea of Dier against them in this formation would not work at all,”

“Someone like Jack O’Connell from Sheffield United would be a much better fit in this formation.”

Why Sheffield United star O’Connell is the perfect choice

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The absence of O’Connell in the Three Lions squad is starting to become a little bizarre. At the beginning of the year it was reported Gareth Southgate was monitoring the 26-year-old ahead of a potential call-up.

Yet still Tyrone Mings gets in ahead of O’Connell, despite the fact only relegated Norwich City conceded more league goals than Aston Villa in 2019/20.

The issue has always apparently been that Southgate prefers a back four. With O’Connell operating in a three for United, the England boss feels he doesn’t fit into that.

Yet that wasn’t the case against Denmark, with Southgate reverting to a wing-back system that served him so well at the 2018 World Cup.

It meant a first senior cap for Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady. The 27-year-old was another who hadn’t been selected because he plays in a three-man central defence for his club.

But while Coady got his chance on the international stage, O’Connell was overlooked. Instead Dier played on the left and looked uncomfortable.

The 26-year-old has featured in the formation for Spurs in the past, but always in the central role. Cascarino, it seems, has a point.

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