Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Maybe England are not doomed under Southgate after all

David Nugent in Editorial, World Cup 3 Nov 2017

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I have to admit international football knocks me cold sometimes. That is probably because as an England fan I get barely any joy out of watching the Three Lions in qualification campaigns.

Inevitably, England are drawn alongside a group of teams that give them few problems. Gareth Southgate’s side may have drawn a few of the games in World Cup qualifying, but there was never any doubt in most fans minds that we would qualify for Russia 2018.

This confidence was not arrogance or a belief in the quality of our team. This confidence was not because England was great, more from the fact that the opponents were limited.

There is less than a year until World Cup 2018 begins. England boss Gareth Southgate is now attempting to make his mark on the team. For the forthcoming friendly clashes against Germany and Brazil, the England boss has omitted some squad regulars and it is a move that deserves praise.

Players left out of the squad

Southgate stated after he announced the last squad that he felt some of the players did not deserve to be in the squad. However, the former-Middlesbrough boss has actually done something about it this time around and omitted some familiar names.

The omission of Liverpool pair Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, alongside Manchester United centre-back Chris Smalling seems to have caused a stir with the media and fans.

However, for me, Southgate has done the right thing. All three players have been in and out of their clubs starting line-ups, while we are still waiting for them to fulfil supposed potential.

Sturridge is no doubt talented, but he struggles to stay fit. Then when he is fit cannot seem to get into Liverpool’s starting line-up.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is a mystery to me. Why did Liverpool sign him? The former-Arsenal star has tremendous pace and power. However, something hinders him from actually becoming a good footballer.

Maybe it is lack of confidence, as Arsene Wenger once said during his time at Arsenal. Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has recently stated that the Ox’s form has been ‘dynamite’.

I always thought Jurgen’s English was very good, I think he got dynamite mixed up with dreadful.

Smalling is a decent defender. He has played in United’s last four Premier League games, but prior to that run, he had played just 15 minutes in the first seven league games of the season for United.

Southgate also omitted Arsenal pair Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere from the latest squad. Both again have struggled for first-team football. Wilshere has still not lived up to his early career hype.

Neither will get into the England squad unless they can somehow force their way into the Gunners starting line-up.

England team has lost its identity

The identity of teams has always been an important factor in successful teams. A powerful and skilful Germany team won the last World Cup, while before that Spain’s ability to pass teams to death won La Roja the trophy.

The two teams had very clear identities. In the past, England football was characterised as ‘physical’ and less technical than other countries. The England team were renowned for their fight, if not their flair.

However, the game has moved on and playing the old style of ‘English football’ is not good enough to be successful. England have attempted to adapt their style of play to a more continental style of passing.

Despite many of the England squad play under foreign coaches who prefer a passing game. However, the players seem to struggle to play the same way for their country as their clubs.

I hope that the coaching from some of the foreign coaches, particularly Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino will help those stars develop into far better players on the ball.

Southgate may not be so terrible

Gareth Southgate is not the most charismatic football boss. I do believe I described him as ‘Mr Beige’ in an article last year. However, it is a difficult job.

Arguably, this is not England’s best squad heading into a recent tournament. The fact that the Three Lions are odds of 20/1 to win the World Cup tells you that even the usually patriotic England fans are not even hopeful of their team winning the competition in Russia.

Southgate has done okay so far in the job. The fact that he has decided to omit some of the usual suspects from the squad is highly encouraging for me. I may need to upgrade Southgate to ‘Mr Cream’ if he carries on in his current vein.

Is Gareth Southgate right to shake up his England squad?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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