A lot has changed not just in football, but in every aspect of life over the past year. Something that remains unaltered, however, are the question marks surrounding Gareth Southgate’s credentials as England manager, and if anything, the latest international break left us with more questions than answers.
More than two years after England bottled their best shot at World Cup glory in decades, the delirium over their journey to the semi-finals has settled and the previously papered-over cracks are now more visible than ever before.
Southgate now is a far cry of the man who got the job after Sam Allardyce’s disgraced dismissal and then secured his position on the back of a deep run to the semis. No longer the man who made the waistcoat a fashion statement in England in the summer of 2018, Southgate’s days of riding waves of positivity are over.
Often considered an emotional full-time option till the next World Cup, Southgate did deserve his chance and was rightly given time to prove himself after England’s semi-final run. However, despite a decent record that’s seen him win 29, draw eight and lose nine matches as England boss, it’s safe to say he fails to inspire confidence among observers, players and fans alike.
Never was his inability to recognise solutions for obvious problems more evident than the last international break. Whether it’s his underutilisation of Jack Grealish in a team bereft of creativity or his ineptitude in man-managing the woefully out of form Harry Maguire, Southgate’s failure to recognize obvious issues and solutions is becoming painfully difficult to watch with each passing match.
The fact that some of the country’s best young players are either not getting enough game-time or breaking squad rules doesn’t paint a nice picture when it comes to his authority and influence on the squad.
Apart from Grealish, Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho have all been dealt with in a questionable manner albeit the highly talented trio didn’t exactly help their own cause with their actions. That said, rumblings from the aforementioned clubs too have made it known that the England manager could have dealt with some the situations better.
And all this before we even start assessing his tactical nous and competence as a manager. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Southgate’s only other job apart from the England U-21s and the senior team, was as manager of Middlesbrough, who he took down to the Championship from the Premier League.
Watching his England teams though should serve as timely reminders of his incompetence and it doesn’t take a genius to see his obvious shortcomings. If not being able to beat Croatia in the World Cup semis wasn’t warning enough then England just need to look at their national team’s recent performances.
From using three right-backs and three holding midfielders in his starting XI to being too cautious and having unjustified faith in certain members of the squad, there are plenty of sticks we can beat Southgate with.
But petty biases aside, managers should always be judged on the way their teams play and watching England at the moment isn’t very entertaining and exciting, to put it mildly. That itself should be a damning indictment for a team that boasts some of the best young talents in the world.
Furthermore, even if we were to judge him on his results alone which many backers of Southgate could point to, it’s worth mentioning that besides their recent 2-1 win over Belgium via Mason Mount’s deflected goal, England have more often than not come up short when facing top opponents during the former Middlesbrough manager’s era.
His nine losses include defeats to Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Croatia and Belgium twice. That’s not a record of a big-game manager now, is it? And the sooner the FA realise that Southgate’s quite clearly out of his depth and relieve him of his duty, the better for the future of English football.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas