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England Defeat Highlights Deficiencies In The Squad
Monday, 12th Jul 2021 12:08

When the England squad was announced I felt that Gareth Southgate had made a grave error of judgement in the balance of the squad and had gone for the flavour's of the month rather than those who could offer experience of just something different, sadly I have been proved right.

England's defeat against Italy was predictable in many ways, not least in the lack of a plan B at crucial times.

Gareth Southgate worked wonders in welding together a side that could keep the ball and ensure that sides did not break us down, the problem being that in protecting the vulnerable areas of his team, he lacked the ability to change things when needed.

Southgate took too many players who were never ever going to get a game in this tournament unless there was a freak run of injuries and thus six players went to this tournament with England and never kicked a ball in anger, three of those players were goalkeepers for God's sake.

The warning sides were there against Scotland when we struggled to break down a side that were worth a fraction of the England team facing them, Southgate's strategy was simple, keep the ball pass it around and try to catch sides on the break using speed merchants, the problem was there was no cunning or guile about the play, opponents found it easy to read and even the Scots could counter it.

The one player who could offer something different was Jack Grealish who made just one starting XI appearance and 4 off the bench, playing just 174 minutes of football.

It was frustrating to see England fail to capitalise on set pieces, time and time again they could not beat the first man from corner kicks for instance.

Of course i'm biased but as I said back in May, James Ward Prowse would not be a starting XI player but he would be a good option off the bench when you are chasing a game and the game against Italy was one we needed to chase, how many goalkeepers or central defenders do you need on the bench.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment against Italy was our lack of a response to their tactical changes just after half time, his double substitution after 54 minutes changed the game, England lost control of the game and you could see the equaliser coming for a good 5 minutes before it went in.

Our reaction was to brink on Saka, nothing against the Arsenal man, but he was not the right player to replace Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson was the right change for Declan Rice in that we had a man in to do a mans job and it steadied the ship.

But ultimately we managed to stem the Italian's domination, but we were just doing the same things going forward, the fact that Jack Grealish did not make an appearance to the 99th minute with just 11 minutes of the second half of injury time left was not only baffling but showed a total lack of appetite to try and win the game.

Grealish should have been on in normal time.

But perhaps the most baffling thing was the line up for penalties, taking off Henderson and Grealish in the final minute was again strange, they are senior professionals, indeed why were Sancho and Saka tasked with the job and indeed Marcus Rashford who like Sancho had come on in the final minute, both had barely touched the ball and were expected to despatch spot kicks.

It was no coincidence that the two scored were from players who had done the full 120 minutes.

Kane and Maguire stepped us, surely some of our other senior players should have done so and not left the three penalties to two novices at International level and a player who had just come on.

Gareth Southgate more than anybody should know what it is like to miss a spot kick for England and know that it is more pressure than for a spot kick in normal play.

So overall it is great to see that we got to a final, but it is a disappointment as it is a real missed opportunity, we relied too much on players who were not ready at the highest level, Southgate did well in organising a side who could avoid getting beaten, but then again so did Claude Puel at St Mary's and look were that got him.

Some of these players will be back stronger than ever for the World Cup next year, but some of them won't be and i think our weaknesses tactically were exposed too many times in this tournament for comfort, not least the insistence on taking defenders and goalkeepers to the tournament who never played a single minute of the game.

Certainly Jack Grealish can feel aggrieved and so too can James Ward Prowse

Photo: Action Images

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saintmark1976 added 12:25 - Jul 12
The most skilled and tactically aware team in the tournament won.

However Southgate attempts to sugar coat it, yesterday he got his tactics, substitutions and penalty takers wrong. Will he learn for the future is now the important question.

1teeminants added 12:43 - Jul 12
Nothing to do with players not stepping up for penalties. Southgate had his chosen ones and he wasn’t going to change it. Grealish has said he wanted to take one but wasn’t allowed .I’m baffled as to why Grealish wasn’t given more game time as he looked good every time he featured. Dissapointing.

WestSussexSaint added 12:59 - Jul 12
Really Nick? It’s a bit ungracious to start banging the “I told you so” drum so quick.

Fact is that England reached a major final for the first time in 55 years, and along the way they brought excitement and pleasure to countless millions of fans who have had precious little to cheer about recently.

Everyone has and is entitled to a view on who should be picked and when and how they should play. I certainly haven’t agreed with everything that Southgate has done. But in my view he has got much more right than wrong as proven by the progress the team made in the tournament.

As for the comment about Henderson coming on for Rice being the right decision in that “we had a man in to do a mans job”! Rice had an outstanding tournament and indeed was playing well in the final. I don’t know if it was tactical or an injury that led to him going off but I doubt it was because he was not manly enough!

DorsetIan added 13:10 - Jul 12
Difficult to fault the decision to take Rice and Phillips. But when Henderson came on he didn't have the steadying impact that I thought he would and on a couple of occassions he made poor passes to nobody.

I wasn't sure whether JWP was attacking enough from open play to be in the team, but if we are going to carry on with this 'safety first' style then maybe he does have a role to play. He's 4 years younger than Henderson for a start. Maybe it's time for JWP to replace him.

But got to assume that he is thinking that if he moves to a bigger club he can expect to be playing in Qatar next year.

DellBoyWally added 14:05 - Jul 12
I thought, and said at the time, that Southgate had the wrong squad. Phillips looked totally out of place; the games seemed to pass him by. His stats show he committed more fouls than played meaningful passes! Also, in one warm-up game JWP played more meaningful passes than Phillips did in the whole tournament! When the best player is a DM in Declan Rice I think the lack of any forward penetration shows up.
And the forwards?1?! What forwards? The attacking midfielders and forwards were a combined mess. Only Kane (fractionally) has a better goals-per-minute than Danny Ings. The rest aren't even close. Southgate's plan (???) to take "exciting young players" is all very well if you have such players with ability to play at tournament level. Clearly we don't. The ones he took (from "big clubs!?) aren't even that good in the PL!
My apologies to Jordon Pickford. Proved me wrong. Laughs at Jose Morinho, Shaw proved him wrong!!
I'd have had JWP in for Phillips and Ings in for......well, anybody up front!! Hope they both enjoy life at wherever they end up!! (I see West Ham are considered favourites to sign Ings!!!)

IanRC added 14:55 - Jul 12
Spot on Nick. England were too defensive minded throughout, apart from one game Phillips was awful. JWP would have been gold dust last night. Makes you wonder if this was Southgate's revenge for not giving him a contract when a kid. Certainly did his part to try to unsettle our players.

Can't think Ings would consider West Ham a big enough step up surely..... Very disappointed about Jankewitz sale, suggests a lack of ambition (again).

underweststand added 16:34 - Jul 17
Where do you start?. Southgate must have thought that his young squad was good enough to win a penalty shoot-out against ITALY . Someone should write a book on the English penalty failures over the last 30 years - there's enough material available, and Gareth Southgate of all people should have known better. The reason for England's defeat was HIS alone and not that of young starlets, some of whom had never taken a penalty in anger, let alone against a world-class keeper like Donnarumma..

Southgate seemingly forgot the age-old football warning ..you never win anything with kids. (Only one manager has defied that true-ism in the last 40 years - Alex Ferguson).

Beforehand I thought we'd do well to make the semis, but the win over Germany was more for Auld Lang Syne, than it was for showing up as the better side in that game. Throughout the tournament the standard of corners and free-kicks was lamentable, yet we still managed to scrape through each game.

Whilst the Prem. may be called "the best in the World" - it is so because it employs the "world's best " and barely 35% of those are English, and few of those play in teams that have a British manager. Almost anyone would look good in a good team, but taken out of their element, some of them just looked like lost sheep.

So now Southgate will concentrate on next year's World Cup, but don't lets think England will get any "Christmas presents" in Dubai, when they will be (mis) matched against the rest of the World..... and definitely not get through yet another penalty shoot out.

underweststand added 16:37 - Jul 17
OK all right..the World Cup it will be in Qatar, and don't complain about the weather.

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