Southgate admits England did not hit usual heights in Malta win
Gareth Southgate admitted England were under par as a flat performance produced a 2-0 victory over Malta at Wembley.
A first-half Enrico Pepe own goal and a Harry Kane strike 15 minutes from time secured three points but the Three Lions struggled to produce the quality that secured Euro 2024 qualification at a canter.
Although Southgate, 53, was underwhelmed by the display, he refused to be too critical of his players.
He said: "If you don't start games well it's very difficult to pick it up and we didn't. We know the level should be better and can be better.
"Those games you know you can win at a canter, the number of games these players are playing, it's almost a self-regulation.
"We didn't hit the heights we have done this calendar year.
"Not enough chances were created but I have been a player and I know exactly how those games feel.
"We could have had three or four with the decisions [that went against us] as well but we didn't create enough clear chances to deserve that."
One positive on a disappointing night at Wembley was the performance of Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield.
The 25-year-old Liverpool star, along with Phil Foden, played at a higher tempo than most of his team-mates and suggested he could be a reliable option in the centre of the pitch.
Southgate added: "Trent has got outstanding quality.
"He and Phil were the two in the first half that looked like opening the game up for us.
"Marc Guehi was good at the back and the changes brought more quality."