England manager Gareth Southgate has come under some strong criticism in the last few weeks. The Three Lions have now failed to score from open play in 4 games in the Nations League. Their sole goal in the tournament came when Harry Kane slotted a penalty in the 88th minute against Germany.
Fans have been livid with the ex-Middlesbrough manager. With an abundance of attacking talents at his disposal, such performances are quite damning.
The treatment of one particular star has been scrutinized in particular. Jarrod Bowen is that player. He had a stellar campaign in the 2021/22 Premier League season with 12 goals and 10 assists. It earned him his first international cap. He started against Hungary but was hooked off at half-time for Raheem Sterling against Hungary. Fans were delighted to see him start. But his first full start lasted only 45 minutes. England went on to lose 4-0.
The performance was indeed alarming. It does not bode well for the national team if they are having results like these against inferior opposition 6 months before the World Cup. Southgate has been labelled as overcautious by many. His insistence on playing with 3 centrebacks with 2 right-backs and a defensive double-pivot of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips has led to many grim affairs.
The Verdict On Southgate
Even though England have been much below their expected level, it would be a very short-sighted decision to replace Southgate. National teams work very differently from clubs, and managers are given longer tenures to ensure familiarity is built around the tactics with a given group of players.
Changing the management so close to the World Cup can have disastrous consequences. A recent example is Spain in the 2018 World Cup. Luis Enrique was a much better manager than Julien Lopetugi, but a sudden change in the camp led to confusion, and Spain were knocked out early in the tournament.
Besides, Southgate has earned some time. He has led England to their best performances in the last two tournaments. He has shown that he knows his way around knockout games. His style is pragmatic, but that’s what is needed in a tournament. Furthermore, the Nations League is not taken very seriously by the players, if the words of Kevin De Bruyne are to be believed. It makes sense why so many players are drained after a gruelling Premier League campaign.
The FA will hope that these games are a temporary blip. With the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, and Mason Mount, any team can have a fantastic run in the World Cup. English fans will expect the same.
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