Another international break is over and England have disappointed their fans with two well below par performances.
First off they scraped past Iceland with a 1-0 win, thanks to a 90th minute Raheem Sterling penalty before Iceland themselves missed a 92nd minute penalty of their own. Then on Tuesday night they were held to a 0-0 draw with Denmark after Southgate opted to field a 3-4-3 formation with just 3 attacking players on the pitch.
After dealing with the incident of Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood breaking COVID-19 guidelines by bringing girls back to the team hotel following the Iceland game, Southgate has shown once again that he deals with issues off the field much better than those on it.
We’ve seen several times over the last 18 months that Southgate is a very good speaker and is open about his selections and reasons for making certain decisions. We heard him speak following the racism problems that Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings among others faced, we heard him talk about the Black Lives Matter movement also.
But when it comes to getting a strong, entertaining football team on the pitch Southgate seemingly struggles.
Despite some big scoreline wins in the past, they almost always come against minnows. Against top sides, they’ve struggled. They lost to Spain, Belgium (twice), Croatia, Holland, France and Germany and despite having some of the best attacking options in Europe they seem to prioritise not losing over winning.
The Denmark game was the final straw for many with Southgate fielding all of Joe Gomez, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in the same side. It was no surprise to anyone when Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho barely got on the ball and England struggled to bring the ball past the halfway line at times.
England currently have attacking options that include Sterling, Kane, Sancho, Rashford, Saka, Hudson-Odoi, Greenwood, Foden, Grealish, Maddison, Ings and Abraham. It’s criminal that they’re going into games looking to not lose rather than to win, especially games against teams who aren’t as good as them.
Southgate got the job after guiding England U21’s to a group stage exit at the World Cup and getting Middlesbrough relegated from the Premier League. Had Sam Allardyce not been sacked for his naughty behaviour off the field after just one game in charge, he likely would never have even been considered for the role.
The World Cup semi-final was a fantastic achievement, but England didn’t play particularly well in the tournament. They scraped through the opening game against Tunisia, hammered minnows Panama, lost to Belgium, drew with Columbia in an uninspiring performance, beat Sweden comfortably then lost to Croatia and Belgium back-to-back. The fact it was a semi-final convinced a lot of people that they had done something fantastic but if you go by performances, they weren’t good.
England have a year now to prepare for the upcoming European Championships and with all the talent they have they should be among the favourites for the competition. With Southgate in charge though, it’s hard to see how they can be.
His methods aren’t of the level required, his coaching is average and his selections often leave plenty to be desired. If England want to win the next tournament or maybe even the one after that, maybe they need to consider moving Southgate on sooner rather than later.