Is criticism of England manager Gareth Southgate fair?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 12 October 2020, 11:26

England climbed to the summit of their Nations League group (A2) on Sunday after they came from behind to beat Belgium, the No.1 ranked team on the planet.

While it’s not exactly strange to see criticism directed at an England Manager, the last couple of months have seen ripples of discontent towards Gareth Southgate turn into something more significant; eight months before the European Championships are scheduled to get underway.

Below we question whether criticism of The Three Lions boss is fair, looking at both sides of the argument...

Y E S

When the England line-up was unveiled for Sunday’s clash with Belgium, it sparked a combination of confusion, disbelief and mockery on social media. 

Southgate opted for pragmatism over panache. He employed two defensive midfielders to shield three centre-backs, didn’t start a left-footed player, and man of the moment Jack Grealish was left on the bench.

The result was a performance void of attacking intent and intensity. Ponderous and passive passing was in overload mode, while the nerves were jangling whenever Belgium surged forward.

In the end, Southgate could justify his decisions as England claimed a win over one of the world’s best teams. 

But while The Three Lions won the game, they were fortunate. 

The result stretched England’s unbeaten run to seven matches, six of which have been wins. The anomaly was a sleep-inducing goalless draw last month against Denmark, which had followed a dramatic, yet lucky, 1-0 win in Iceland. 

Fingers have subsequently been pointed in the direction of Southgate, whose conservatism has been criticised. 

While there’s a certain satisfaction to winning big games a performance may not warrant, the abundance of flair and attacking talent at Southgate’s disposal means supporters now expect more adventure and conviction.

There are puzzles that still need solving: Why isn’t Trent Alexander-Arnold performing to his Liverpool levels, why doesn’t Southgate completely trust Grealish, and who should play in defence. These are just a few examples, which need figuring out sharpish.

While the Belgium result is impressive on paper, the performance was more a case of job done, than a statement of real intent which could have sent fear across the rest of Europe.

De35e24d2ae7aae8eda5b42540f1126e

England Manager: Gareth Southgate

N O

How short are some people’s memories?

It was only two years ago when Southgate released the shackles, invigorated a nation, and inspired a first World Cup semi-final in 28 years. He had people dancing in the streets in jubilation, waistcoat sales had soared spectacularly, and a nation was once again proud of its team. His reputation was sky-high.

Southgate has since led England to the inaugural Nations League Finals - they finished third - won another penalty shoot-out, overseen wins over Spain, Croatia and most recently World No.1 side Belgium, who hadn’t lost in two years.

Southgate’s win rate is up to 60%, putting him in the top-five bracket when it comes to England Managers: of the permanent managers to take charge of 10+ matches, only Fabio Capello (66.7%), Sir Alf Ramsey (61.1%) and Glenn Hoddle (60.7%) are above the current incumbent (sorry Big Sam).

England have only conceded one goal in the last year - a penalty - they’ve mixed high-scoring wins over the likes of Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo with a dig-deep yet notable victory over an elite side in Belgium. 

To a certain extent, it could be argued that the manner England won the game will keep expectations at a more reasonable level ahead of next summer’s showpiece spectacle, as history tells us we buckle when the bar is set too high.

Southgate became the first England manager to beat Belgium in the competitive fixture since Sir Bobby Robson claimed a 1-0 win 28 years ago. The victory also means that England have won 20 of their past 21 competitive home games; hammered in 67 goals and conceded only 10. 

England may have ground out the win instead of storming to victory, but the triumph shows England don’t have to be at their very best to beat one of the big guns - which bodes well for the knockout nature of tournament football. 

After all, few national teams ever dazzle their way to trophies. Just look at Portugal four years ago.

LAST WORD

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, as a football manager you’re going to be criticised. You could beat Brazil 9-0 and someone would demand to know why you didn’t hit double figures.

I can understand some of the verbals being thrown in Southgate’s direction. Given the players we have at the moment people want excitement, ambition and attacking flair, which we’ve not seen much of lately. Southgate doesn’t seem to know what his best starting-11 is either.

Yet, with that said he has every right to tinker, test new systems and try out different players. The format of international football means he gets minimal time with his troops, so he’s got to trust himself and decide what the best option is for each individual game. Sometimes his experiments will flourish, other times they’ll be mocked.

Calls for his head seem a touch ludicrous, especially with a tournament rapidly approaching - we hope so anyway. Who knows, this time next year England could have scooped the European Championships and Nations League double...

Betting Odds Tips

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Coughlan
Graham Coughlan
(Mansfield Town)
27th October
VIEW ALL CASUALTIES
x
Bet £10 Get £40 in Free Bets
Exclusive Promo Code
P30
JOIN NOW
New customers using promo code C40 only. 1x per customer. Min £10/€10 bet. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Free bets paid as 2x £15/€15 (expires after 30 days). Max £10 Bonus. 35x wagering requirement. Max redeemable amount £25. Casino bonus expires 72 hours from issue. Eligibility rules, free-bet rules, game, location, payment-method, currency restrictions, stake contributions and terms and conditions apply. 18+ begambleaware.org.
x
Up to £100 in bet credits
Exclusive Promo Code
100BET365
JOIN NOW
Open Account Offer. Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365. Min deposit £5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. The bonus code ‘100BET365’ can be used during registration, but does not change the offer amount in any way. 18+ begambleaware.org.
Next in firing line Hottest Manager Markets

Premier League

Next Manager to Leave

Atletico Madrid

Next Manager

Celtic

Next Manager

Crystal Palace

Next Manager

England

Next Manager

Liverpool

Next Manager

Manchester City

Next Manager

Manchester United

Next Manager

Mansfield Town

Next Manager

Newcastle United

Next Manager

Paris St Germain

Next Manager

Real Madrid

Next Manager

Salford City

Next Manager

Southampton

Next Manager

Valencia

Next Manager
x
£20 Risk Free First Bet Money Back In Cash
New customers only. Place your FIRST bet on any sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is €/£20. T&Cs apply. 18+ begambleaware.org
BET HERE
We use cookies to provide statistics that help give you the best experience of our site. By continuing to use the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn more
Got It