What is wrong with Gareth Southgate and his England squad?

They say a sailor is truly tested when his ship is in the waters that run wild. It seems Gareth Southgate is in the exact same situation. England has been going through a very rough patch at the moment in the UEFA Nations League. In their four games so far, they have drawn two and lost the other two. Interestingly, both their defamations came against minnows Hungary. They were beaten 1-0 in their first encounter against Hungary. This was thought to be a lucky day for the Magyarok, but they proved the critics wrong. In their recent and the second encounter against England, they thrashed the Three Lions by a humiliating 4-0 margin. This win has raised many eyebrows as to what is going wrong with one of the best squads in the World of Football.

The Early Success of England and Southgate

England undoubtedly was reinforced with the appointment of Gareth Southgate as the permanent manager of the national side in 2016. Southgate usually employs a 4-3-3 formation with attacking full-backs. Whenever the full-backs move up, the defensive midfielder drops down to form a 3-man defence which is supported by a double-pivot of cautious yet endearing Central Midfielders. The striker goes on a solo adventure at the shoulders of the last defensive line. He is then joined by either winger to introduce unpredictability in the attack. Nothing New. Just a plain old tactic which is executed with precision. This tactic has helped Gareth Southgate to guide England to the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the finals of the 2020 EUROs. 

Image Credits: Deccan Herald

Was it the Players or the Manager?

While it was true that England performed better in the international circuit, it would be an exaggeration to say Southgate was the cause of it. England already had stars like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and John Stones in their ranks. The emergence of the stars like Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Declan Rice and others have also had a considerable impact on the squad. Such a star-studded lineup would be expected to appear at least in the Top 4 of any competition. 

Gareth Southgate has just shown a direction to let all the players play cohabit symbiotically. The semi-final was a big red alert to the English side. They saw a relatively weak Croatian side suffocating them in the midfield and Harry Kane being isolated from the game. After the World Cup, Southgate claimed to know the problem and fix it, but that never happened.

The Ominous signs

England seemed to learn from their World Cup mistakes. They tried to create more from the midfield. Adding a new upgrade is never equivalent to changing the system. Southgate thought employing a creative midfielder would solve the problem, but he never grasped the inner holdings of the situation. This resulted in an abysmal run of form for the captain Harry Kane in the group stage of EURO 2020, where his pass routes were blocked once again. The exciting duo of Mason Mount and Phil Foden managed to get them through. In the quarter-finals and semi-finals, Harry Kane did manage to find the back of the net, but not as convincingly as he used to. 

The problem resurfaced in the finals when an extremely defensive Italian side held out the English attack for a total of 118 minutes after Luke Shaw grabbed one in the very 2nd minute. An inevitable Leonardo Bonucci header came in the 67th minute. After that, England attacked with all their might, but the Italian combo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci sniffed out all the dangers.

Image Credits: football.london

The match headed to a penalty shootout. England lost the shootout with a 3-2. Southgate was criticised for handing out the shootout spots to Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka. While it is true that all the three have showcased their potential, Penalties are all about composure. It’s a no-brainer that composure derives from the experience. Southgate made a substitution of Sancho and Rashford just at the 120th minute, in the stead of Kyle Walker and Jordan Henderson. Many pundits like Alan Shearer criticised this decision, stating any manager would want to field their senior players under the intense pressure of the Finals.  

Dismissing Criticism and Continuing the Blame game.

Southgate still hadn’t learned from his EURO disaster and insisted that it just wasn’t the day for the Englishmen. Results against poor nations like San Marino and Albania kept them under the delusion that Southgate is doing things right, but the World Cup Qualifiers were a clear warning to knowledged fans. England was unable to win their final World Cup Qualifier games against Poland and Hungary. 

Image Credits: Daily Express

Their pattern was becoming too predictable, and it was evident that England was utterly dependent on Harry Kane’s finishing. All that became crystal clear when Hungary tried to tie down Harry Kane. Italy and Germany tried their own versions of blocking Kane and succeeded in further confirming the significant weakness. Southgate didn’t bring any changes despite the results and kept blaming officials and opposition. He even blamed his own players for lack of spirit in their games. This disrupted the atmosphere and degraded the morale of the players. 

What next?

England has one of their best squads in history at the moment. All they need is a new manager who has an understanding of the tactics and can create a system for the team to work efficiently rather than depending on each other. Marcelo Biesla is one of the names that can provide the required rebuilding. The sacking of Southgate is an entirely different decision, but it would be wiser for England to fix an apparent defect before the World Cup. Stay Tuned with The Sportsway for more updates.

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