Has England Outgrown Gareth Southgate?

Might Gareth Southgate be Left Behind?

In the ever-evolving world of English football, where new stars emerge and tactics shift like tides. With another continental tournament just around the corner, a question looms large: Has England outgrown Gareth Southgate?

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In recent years, the Three Lions have witnessed significant and continual growth and development both at the domestic and international levels of the game. A transformation that has led to concerns about Southgate’s tactical abilities and decisions on squad selections.

Gareth Southgate’s Pragmatic Tactics

Gareth Southgate earned recognition for his pragmatic approach to managing the national team. Especially during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. One could argue for him, as his emphasis on a rock-solid defence and set-piece proficiency guided the team to a fourth-place finish after losing to Belgium.

The game has seen a massive shift towards more dynamic, attacking styles of play. With an emphasis on possession, control, and high pressing. The English national team is not short on talented players. They can effectively carry out such tactics to the core with a majority of them playing under world-class managers who themselves employ such dynamic styles of play and bring in results good in the process.

Perhaps, the most compelling criticism against Gareth Southgate is his inability to seamlessly incorporate the emerging talents due to his conservative style of play. Players like Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, and Jude Bellingham possess such flair, creativity, and technical abilities to rival their peers from other national teams.

Even when these youngsters play, the team applies excessive caution in both the build-up phase and the opponent’s final third. Restricting these players from creating goalscoring chances without taking much-needed risks.

These young players have clearly outgrown Southgate, yearning for a manager who won’t stifle their burgeoning potential. Southgate’s conservative style of play was evident in the European championship final at Wembley.

Italy themselves are a team that takes pride in showing off their defensive competency. Sitting back and soaking up all the pressure while attacking counters. Southgate’s decision to start a double-pivot in the midfield (Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips).

Leaving on-form wingers like Saka and Jack Grealish on the bench limited the team’s attacking strength. England, despite going ahead in the second minute only managed to register two attempts on target compared to Italy’s six.

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Undoubtedly, Southgate is a likeable figure, defined by his sportsmanship and gentlemanly demeanour. However, this has led some to believe that his image as a ‘nice guy’ can be a hindrance when tough decisions need to be made or motivating players to reach their fullest potential.

Beyond the tactical and strategic demands. This matter of public perception and the gaffer’s popularity has waned even among fans who stood by him in the beginning. In the current squad selection for the Euro qualifiers, games against Ukraine and Scotland reignited the calls to relieve him of his job. Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips have seen a total of 36 minutes in club football prior to the September call-up.

Both came off the bench as substitutes for their respective Manchester sides and then there is the case of Jordan Henderson. His inclusion in the squad for the Winter World Cup in Qatar was met with much criticism. Such that his transfer to the Saudi League was seen as a ‘goodbye’ from future national team selections. His inclusion in the games against Ukraine and Scotland came as a surprise to many.

The way fans saw it, was as if Southgate had to choose between the former Liverpool midfielder and James Ward-Prowse. He opted to pick Henderson, ignoring Ward-Prowse’s convincing stats since joining West Ham, and further highlighting the fact that he lacks the ability to make the tougher decision.

England was abysmal against Ukraine at Wroclaw. The attacks were monotonous and easily snuffed out by the Ukrainian defence. There was no exuberance in build-up plays and the goal was scored by Kyle Walker. It was basically a moment of individual brilliance by Harry Kane. The former Spurs centre-forward found Walker with a remarkable long ball.

Such build-up plays are not sustainable to say the least, especially against sides that will ask serious questions of the team. It is almost a given that England will qualify for the showdown in Germany next summer. However, that is the barest of expectations from Southgate’s men, as they reached the final in the last edition.

Anything other than finishing top of the pile will be viewed as a resounding failure.

Gareth Southgate has undoubtedly played a crucial role in England’s recent resurgence in football. It is apparent that the team and the game itself have evolved.

The emergence of exciting young talents. This coupled with changes in tactical trends, has led some to believe that England has outgrown Southgate’s management style.

The future of English football remains an exciting prospect, with or without Gareth Southgate at the helm.

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