Gareth Southgate has admitted many England players are suffering from a “psychological” fatigue after the World Cup, explaining a lot of sluggish starts to the club season.

The England manager says he can’t understand why the Premier League started so early, but it meant its clubs had to alter their pre-season programme, and that a lot of players went without a proper break to mentally refresh.

Southgate particularly pointed to the example of Tottenham Hotspur, who had so many players who made the semi-finals.

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“I think it's psychological freshness, rather than physical,” Southgate explained.

“Everyone adapts their training load appropriately. When you see the league, a lot of teams haven't started yet at the level when they are at their maximum. A lot of injuries across our league. I don't really understand why our league started so early, but they did, so a really difficult situation for the clubs. Some of the clubs couldn't field a team without... look at Tottenham, who had so many players in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Very difficult for their coaches, really.”

Southgate meanwhile praised Luis Enrique for refreshing the Spanish side, who did go out in the last 16 of the World Cup.

“Their style is a little bit different. They've got a new coach, a top coach. You can see the difference he's tried to make to the team. They're a little bit more direct, more players with speed in the front three. Saul gets in the box from midfield a lot more. Although the style and the philosophy is very similar, tactically it's a bit different. A bit more of a direct threat in the final third.

“They had wide players connecting the game from the flank in the World Cup. It's as big a test you can get in European, if not world football, at the moment. We were slow to get started at Wembley, but we adapted to their pressure and used the ball a lot better as the game went on.”

Southgate insisted his side would not just defend for 90 minutes against Spain.

Gareth Southgate was speaking ahead of the Spain match (AFP/Getty)

“It's good we have options because different teams pose different tactical problems. The other night we needed to get tight to Croatia's midfield [in the 0-0 draw in Rijeka]. Tomorrow is very similar. But Spain have a slightly different style to Croatia. We know their technical ability, but we have to cause them problems with the ball.

“We can't just defend for 90 minutes. We were more comfortable in the last 30 minutes at Wembley, but we have to do that earlier in the game, be brave enough to use the ball well, and cause them problems.”

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