Jermain Defoe admitted that it “always seems to be” Harry Maguire in the criticism spotlight after the Manchester United man’s latest tough night.
The centre-back has been under fire for a number of months after struggling to find his best form. While England manager Gareth Southgate has kept his faith in Maguire, Man Utd counterpart Erik ten Hag has not.
The September international break has therefore proved timely to assess if Maguire can get back to his best – and whether his respective managers have made the right calls.
Southgate defended Maguire on Friday after England’s 1-0 loss to Italy. And Maguire came out fighting after the result, reinstating his position as Man Utd’s captain and insisting that he is not listening to his critics.
However, the defender was in the spotlight again against Germany on Monday. He gave away possession and then a penalty as the Three Lions drew 3-3 in their final game before the World Cup.
And speaking after the match to Channel 4, former England striker Defoe had his say. The ex-Tottenham man insisted that Maguire needs to shake off the tension and play freely.
“You look at the goals and they were avoidable,” Defoe said. “Silly mistakes, you give the ball away and then you give away a penalty.
“Individual mistakes, and for some reason, it always seems to be him [Maguire].
“It’s a funny one because like I said at the top of the show, there’s been a lot of negativity around him and you want him to play well because he’s done well in tournaments for England.
“We’ve seen him in the tournaments, he’s done well to be honest. You just want him to take the handbrake off and just play.”
Maguire warned of huge run
England have no more chances to test out formations and tactics before their first game in Qatar against Iran.
As such, it is back to Old Trafford for Maguire – and back to the hunt for more Man Utd game time.
Summer signing Lisandro Martinez has usurped Maguire and is playing alongside Raphael Varane – in the Premier League at least.
And Joe Cole added that the England man is facing one of the most defining periods of his career.
“The next six weeks is a really important time in Harry Maguire’s career because we know he’s a quality player,” Cole said.
“We’ve seen him do it for England – he’s been incredible for England over the years. He’s obviously in a low point in his career.
“The next six weeks every day is an opportunity to build his confidence up and the people around him and everything and perform.
“But one thing we must never forget on the big stage at tournaments, he’s been outstanding for England. And the next six weeks are vital for him to get up to speed.”
England man likely to keep place
Given Southgate’s staunch defence of Maguire, there is surely no doubt the centre-back will be in Southgate’s World Cup squad.
There is also a big chance that he will start and look to prove his critics wrong once again.
Southgate has given Maguire massive backing in recent weeks and clearly believes the 28-year-old can turn it around.
Indeed, the manager has not forgotten the defender’s performances at both the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 last year.
Maguire needs to channel the confidence he had back then and take it forward into the next six weeks. His self-belief will no doubt be tested, but he has insisted he has the confidence to win back his place – and star for his country in Qatar.