Now, I’m not a massive fan of international football because it just ruins the club game by interrupting the season and it’s rarely any good to watch. Especially in the case of the England men’s team over the last few games, with Gareth Southgate’s players failing to register a win in their last five and struggling to score a goal that wasn’t from the penalty spot in the latest round of Nations League fixtures. The only other team to have that exact same stat about the goals is San Marino, so that tells you how bad the situation is.
When Gareth Southgate first arrived, England fans had a view of an optimistic future. And in fairness to him, he has done a job of helping England progress through major tournaments. However, he has never done it with the England team looking like they did things with ease or class, every affair apart from those against minor opposition like the Faroe Islands and other similar small nations are an absolute slog. Narrow score lines and hard fought battles a common theme with most games.
That may seem impressive when holding the likes of Germany to a 1-1 draw, however, when you end up losing 4-0 to Hungary, at home as well, it shows there are clear signs something is wrong. The problem is, Gareth Southgate has failed to be a man of his word.
Southgate Fails To Act As He Said He Would
When Southgate got the job, he said that he would select players based on form and not just bring players in because of their name. Yet Harry Kane starts almost every game and never gets replaced unless it’s a friendly or a forced substitution.
You may argue that Gareth Southgate picking Kane makes sense because he is one of England’s top scorers. But compared to the likes of Shearer and Lineker who spent the majority of their time playing tough opposition like Argentina and Germany, Kane spends most of his time scoring from the spot or in open play against nations that don’t even field a full professional XI sometimes.
We have plenty of other strikers who are in form and could do a real job, but he ignore the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ivan Toney and Tammy Abraham. And when he does bring them on in the last few minutes, they barely have time to settle into the game, never mind affect it. Yet each player offers something different, but Southgate refuse to ever try a Plan B, he’d rather die on his sword of Plan A working out even when the whole world can see it isn’t.
We then have the same issue in defence. Harry Maguire continually starts, but his form is shocking this season and he barely plays. Yet you have players like Ben White who is leading the way for clearances and goals conceded in the Premier League, and he doesn’t even get picked.
Then for some reason Southgate takes four Right Backs in Kyle Walker, Reese James, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold (TAA), and Southgate will often play two at a time using walker as a RCB in a back three and the other as more of a Wing Back. This would be great if he did this when playing with TAA who has had a poor season so far defensively, as he would have the cover needed to create the chances for England that he does for Liverpool.
But otherwise, it isn’t needed and you end up using vital spaces that could go to players like James Maddison who despite Leicester’s position in the league, is clearly a huge talent that England could use with having in the team.
His Play Style Is Too Conservative
Considering the wealth of talent that Southgate has at his disposal, it seems that his teams play too cautious and conservative. There are times to play that way, especially against the top opposition to limit chances, but he now takes this approach in all games. He sets up to keep the ball and pass it around, rather than letting players express creative freedom to try some more risky approaches by attacking the game. It seems that if a pass isn’t safe to play, he’d rather his players pass back and wait for an opening. Sometimes you just have to hit and hope. And when players play together more often, they know where people will be.
Look at Haaland for City. He barely gets a touch in any game, but when he does, he is always in the right position at the right time and the ball more often than not it seems, ends up in the net. That’s what happens when you take risks and try to win games rather than just trying to manage them. And the talent he has at his disposal are full of players who play that way too, Foden for City, TAA for Liverpool, Bellingham for Dortmund.
All these players are used to playing high-intensity football being made to play like a team such as Burnley under Sean Dyche hoping to defend for their lives and counter. But since Harry Kane barely runs, that isn’t going to happen often.
Is It Time For A Change?
As I said, on paper, Southgate has done a job as he has helped England progress when it comes to international tournaments, but at what cost? England seem devoid of any confidence playing his way, and picking players who are not in form has translated to their performances on the pitch. They have now been relegated from their group in the UEFA Nations League, and if there was any confidence going into the 2022 FIFA World Cup this November, it is slowly and surely being extinguished.
Combine that to how prolific the England Lionesses were in their own European Championships and the way their manager seems to encourage and inspire, Southgate just seems to do the opposite and its becoming more apparent by the day. Now, the problem we have is, there are no more international breaks before the next major tournament, and that means any new face coming in would barely have time to implement their ideas and philosophy and so probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.
But if Southgate doesn’t perform a miracle turnaround in this next tournament, he could well be out of a job and England could be out at the group stage the way they are playing. Even if he does, I personally feel now is time for a change.
Sadly, I doubt any subsequent manager would do much better as the FA only really hire yes men who will pick the big names time and again even when they don’t deserve it. Instead of picking players who deserve to be there on merit. Leicester’s triumph when they won the Premier League shows it doesn’t always take the big names and best players to win silverware, and the FA and whoever is manager of England could do with reminding themselves of that going forward.
What do you think will happen? Will Southgate keep is job beyond the 2022 FIFA World Cup or will he be gone before then? If so, who replaces him? Let us know all your thoughts in the comments below.
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