Regardless of England’s performance at Euro 2020, Gareth Southgate looks set to remain as in charge as manager.
He signed a four-year deal back in 2018, which will expire after the 2022 World Cup if not renewed.
This may seem premature, but stability can often be a great thing in football. It allows players and managers alike to focus on what they’re doing with no distractions.
For too long, England’s national team has been marred by controversies and inner turmoil. It’s held them back many times. Who could forget the disasters of 2008 and 2016?
One thing Southgate must be commended for is keeping England grounded. He doesn’t bow to egos, nor does he let them upset the dressing room. Under him, England look like a cohesive unit.
The FA clearly have confidence in their man, but can he repay it? So far, opinions have been mixed.
The Future of England Under Gareth Southgate
England’s Past Problems
Since the turn of the millennium, England have suffered from many different factors. Egos have run wild, management staff have been generally ineffective and England’s tactical approaches have often been totally turgid.
The ‘golden generation’ of the 2000s never lived up to the hype. Despite the quantity of talent available, England’s best performance in the noughties came in 2002, where they were beaten by a clearly superior Brazil team.
2004 and 2006 ended in disappointment and the less said about 2008, the better. Even as the FA gravitated towards an English head coach in Roy Hodgson, things didn’t improve.
Euro 2012 wasn’t too egregious, but many felt there was room for improvement. England were drawn in a tough group in 2014. They faced Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, finishing bottom of the group with just a single point.
Their opposition was strong, but 2014 remained a failure for England. Things had to improve in 2016 – Hodgson was hanging by a thread. They did not.
After a tepid group stage where England finished second, behind Wales, they drew Iceland in the last 16. An early goal via a Wayne Rooney penalty seemed to put England in the driver’s seat, but Iceland soon rallied. They equalised and subsequently took the lead after some laughably slack goalkeeping from Joe Hart.
England couldn’t find an answer and were humiliated by a nation of fewer than 400,000 people. There was one point of comfort – surely it couldn’t get any worse.
After Sam Allardyce’s single-game stint in charge, the FA appointed Southgate. People were unenthusiastic, but all he had to do was more than the absolute bare minimum to be an improvement.
Stability for England Under Southgate
As previously mentioned, England look much more comfortable playing as a team under Southgate. As a contrast, the teams under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello looked anything but.
Now, even in games where England are outmatched on paper, they show a level of desire that hasn’t been present for some time. Compare this to the 4-1 pasting they received from Germany in 2010, it really is chalk and cheese.
Some have criticised Southgate’s lack of tactical intricacies. His setups do tend to be somewhat simplistic, but then also he should be commended for not over-complicating things.
His team selection against Croatia raised a few eyebrows, but after the game, he was vindicated. England dominated Croatia, suffocating them in possession and pulling them apart regularly.
However, the performance against Scotland was below par. England never increased their tempo and were outfought by a stout-hearted Scotland team. They didn’t concede, but Scotland were the better team on the day. Southgate’s substitutions were especially poor and highlighted his negative attitude towards posing an attacking threat.
Others point out that Southgate can be too defensive. England have an abundance of attacking talent that he sometimes overlooks. Jadon Sancho has been underused at the Euros so far, for example.
But this also provides Southgate with a difficult situation. How do you fit all that attacking talent into one team? Ultimately, you will have to leave somebody out.
Southgate needs to make the best use of England’s talents while establishing a base for them to build upon. Given England’s inconsistent performances in the group stage so far, the jury is still out as to whether he’s achieved this.