England look ‘stodgy’ but is that Gareth Southgate, Declan Rice or John Stones?

Editor F365
Declan Rice and John Stones
Declan Rice and John Stones

England were poor once again v Slovakia but who can we blame? Is it Gareth Southgate or is it Declan Rice or John Stones?

Send your mails on England and Euro 2024 to theeditor@football365.com


The Man Utd job has gone, Gareth
Can someone let Southgate know INEOS has decided to keep Ten Hag?


The luckiest of all the generals
Can I just apologise, on behalf of the English nation, to every single Slovakian football fan. Your boys got absolutely robbed of possibly the biggest result in your country’s history by what I must now admit is the single luckiest football manager on the planet.

He’s not playing 4D chess; he doesn’t have a grand master plan; he’s just unbelievable flukey.

And maybe that’ll be enough!

Not sure my heart can take much more of that, though.
Chris Bridgeman, Kingston upon Thames


Would we all be annoyed by England winning it?
Genuinely think we’re at a point of England fandom where we could actually win the whole thing, and some proportion of the support will be pissed off because it means another 4 years of Southgate.

Football has gone a bit weird over the last few years.
Jeremy Aves

👉 16 Conclusions on England limping past Slovakia: Southgate out and at least three players need dropping
👉 Southgate ‘bottled it’ but should drop at least three players – and two ‘should never play for England again’
👉 England boss Southgate sends message to Arsenal star Saka after playing him at left-back


Whatever Southgate is, he is not a bottler…
I’m no Southgate fan, but that doesn’t mean I hate him or want him gone. Clearly there’s a good manager there; (good enough? who knows?); and he’s a very nice bloke who talks well and, I think, probably has the players playing for him. However the criticisms I’m seeing about him are genuinely nuts.

“Southgate bottled it…” – Southgate didn’t bottle a darned thing. Southgate largely stuck to his plan, largely stuck with his players, and largely stuck with his approach, and he won the game. That, by definition, is the absolute opposite of bottling it. Southgate held his nerve whilst everyone else was panicking with their moronic cries for a quadruple substitution at half time.

“Southgate is too cautious/too predictable…” – Let me remind everyone of the England XI at some point during the Slovakia match:


Walker – Stones – Guehi

Saka – Palmer – Rice – Eze


Kane – Toney

(and that 3-4-1-2 is just my best guess at what England were playing – the formation could have been anything!)

I can confidently predict that I could go through every single desired line-up from every single football pundit, football journalist, or football fan who’s rang up a radio show, who’s mailed F365, who’s posted on Reddit, the Athletic, on Facebook, or made at bet down the bookies… no one in the world picked that XI. Southgate did, and that XI equalised and then scored the winner. It was that XI. Admittedly I think at some point Saka was left, Palmer was right and Eze was through the middle, but anyway…

That is the very opposite of being too cautious.

“England won despite Southgate…” – post-match, Harry Kane literally said that England had been working on throw-ins, and you can clearly see that Bellingham’s overhead kick wasn’t a fluke. Guehi was where he should be, Walker threw it to him, Guehi flicked it on, and Ivan Toney blocked the defender who would normally just head that flick away, which afforded Bellingham the time and space to Bellingham the ball in to the back of the net. That wasn’t just Bellingham brilliance, it was also a well-rehearsed set piece.

Look, I’m not saying there wasn’t luck, and I’m not saying England weren’t astonishingly frustrating and poor at times in this game. I’m also clear to me that Southgate has indeed enjoyed some fortune, not least that Bellingham overhead. Let’s also not forget that England have had two goals rightly disallowed for Foden offsides, that Declan Rice has hit the post, that Kane has missed a sitter, and over the course of the tournament Foden, Palmer and Trent have all missed presentable chances, which also suggests chances are being created. Southgate is riding his luck a little bit but he is through to the quarters.

Switzerland are going to be a tough task, but I actually think this is the first time England will be playing someone who will come out to win, and will open up a little bit. England are by definition a counter-attacking side, and Switzerland are a team who like to monopolise possession in the opponent’s half. I’m not saying England will win, but they probably will, and I would imagine they will destroy the Swiss on the counter.

(…and yes, I suspect Anthony Gordon will be a pivotal sub in this game)
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite


But what are the tactics?
Looking at the pass map of the Slovakia game and you can see a horseshoe shape as most of England’s passes are around the back four, on the periphery of the pitch. Safe easy passes. The reason for this is the midfield didn’t show enough for the ball. And when they did, it wasn’t on the half turn so they could move the ball upfield and pass to our attacking players. Mostly the ball got bounced back to the defenders again, so we could repeat the same aimless passing routine at the back.

I lost count of the times when Rice looked like he was marking the Slovakian midfielders rather than moving into space ready to receive the ball. Without this, England mostly went long and lost the ball or went wide and lost the ball.

Rice has been brilliant for Arsenal, but as a willing runner at number 8. Never compare him with Rodri again Arsenal fans, as Rice is not an international quality number 6.

For me the two biggest issues are the midfield and the number of players that aren’t fully match fit/sharp. And the midfield problem ripples across and exacerbates the other issues.

I don’t even know what this England team is. We try to play out from the back and keep possession, but don’t have the players in midfield to do that. We sometimes press and sometimes don’t. We kick it long sometimes. Sometimes we try short passes in the middle, but there isn’t enough off the ball movement so the ball is lost. It’s all a muddle. And the antithesis of what Austria and Switzerland are doing where they have a set way of playing that the players are coached to deliver and look fantastic as a result.

The Swiss team who can press or low block with quick counters will be rubbing their hands at playing England’s aimless ramble.

I used to defend Southgate as International football is more nuanced than ‘taking the handbrake off’ and playing all the most attacking players. This iteration however, is dysfunctional and broken. Every game has started the same so Southgate has only made three changes in four games, all to the same position, to the starting line-up. WTF?!? What is he seeing that we are not? What a waste of all our collective time.
Andy D. Manchester. MCFC


Is Stones the problem?
Although there was some reference in the 16 points to Stones’ performance, I believe he is the main contributor to England’s stodgy performance. He almost always just toes the ball forward until the opposition has organised itself and he then has to pass back. Even when he does pass forwards, he does that silly gesture of pointing to where he is not going to pass the ball. This fools no-one! More than anyone else, Stones is to blame for England’s inability to play a fast attaching game. He should go.
Bill Brough

Gareth Southgate must be surrounded by England nodding dogs
I hope that the chunk of England fans who celebrated overcoming Slovakia kept the box on and watched a proper team play football in the game afterwards.

Night and day wasn’t it – clear structure/pace of play/player movement – Spain remain the most rounded team from what I’ve seen so far.

Although an England fan who has done a few miles in the past and supported them away at a couple of WC’s, I could not bring myself to celebrate Bellingham’s equaliser.

Just ten minutes before I had a conversation with my wife about ‘how much of a f++k I couldn’t give about us progressing’, such was the level of depression I felt about the manner in which England approached and executed their ‘game plan’.

Incidentally Jude, you come across as a great personality in your post-match interviews, particularly for someone so young, but frankly I am starting to get the opposite impression during the 90 minutes on the pitch (“Who else ?” – you arrogant so-and-so … perhaps focus on playing more effectively for your team rather than your ‘I’m the Messiah’ celebrations).

So let’s talk about that game plan – I think a wiser person than I once stated that the definition of stupidity is to continue to do exactly the same thing that has previously failed to succeed and to expect to get different results. That is the very definition of what Southgate and his band of sycophantic coaches are serving up for us. There are so many things that appear to be askew, but the standout ones for me remain the choice of fullbacks, no left flank and Kane blunting our attacking dynamism.

Walker was awful for pretty much the 4th game in a row – defensively exposed on numerous occasions in terms of his positioning and offering next to nothing from an attack perspective. The solution to this is as obvious now as it was before the game kicked off – play Trent with all the attacking upside and accept that there may be one or two defensive blips along the way. Southgate clearly won’t change tack on that front now. Only injury will prevent Walker from delivering another 4 out of 10 performance and getting his name on the team-sheet.

Gomez may as well catch a flight home as it appears that there is no chance of the one fit person in our squad to have played multiple games at LB this season to actually get onto the pitch. Konsa is clearly the favoured one in terms of replacing Trippier (not played LB for Villa this season / awful in pre-tournament friendlies at LB …. What’s not to love).

Anyone notice how Wirtz was dropped to the bench in the Germany game ? Surely they have to play one of their best players in such a game !?! … no, because they wanted to play a certain shape and he didn’t fit into that neatly. It should be obvious why I raise this. Foden – you are a wonderful player, one of England’s most talented, but you should not start again at LW. How Anthony Gordon remains ignored for that position perplexes many.

I don’t think Toney is the necessarily the best solution but it was nice to have a presence up there wasn’t it – he did well.

I’m pleased he got the extra time, insult that it was to be brought on by Gareth with next to nothing on the clock in normal time.

The way that nothing has really changed in terms of the manner in which Southgate has set us up for games, despite the resultant poor football that it has consistently generated, screams of two things to me – as an individual he is too blinkered or stubborn beyond belief … and secondly, he appears to be surrounded by ‘nodding dog’ coaches.

I suppose we must accept that things are not going to change for the remainder of this tournament and we will continue to have post-match interviews that state that “we showed resilience” and “stuck together” until someone has the decency to put us out of our footballing misery ( .. funny how it’s never “ we showed our quality”, or “ we were clearly the better team” in those interviews).

I will clearly watch the remaining games, but more from a morbid curiosity than from an excited jubilant fan perspective. The dye is somewhat cast for me on this one and will remain that way until we can show that we can play some relatively attractive football with a bit of spark and desire.

God help us if we actually ‘do a Greece’ and win the whole thing. There would no doubt be box sets of all the games.

Suggestion – rather than the England games we’ve had so far you could perhaps just have a film of a plate slowly rotating for 7 hours, complete with a big stinking pile of dog-dirt in the middle, set to the warbled bars of ‘I am the Resurrection’…
Sparky, LFC

👉 16 Conclusions on England limping past Slovakia: Southgate out and at least three players need dropping
👉 Southgate ‘bottled it’ but should drop at least three players – and two ‘should never play for England again’
👉 England boss Southgate sends message to Arsenal star Saka after playing him at left-back


Southgate should have picked Eric Dier
I am as frustrated as everybody else watching this England side struggle so badly against teams we should be beating easily, with the lack of balance in midfield being a particular problem.

There is an English defensive midfielder out there plying his trade at one of the biggest clubs in the world, who has international tournament and Champions League experience. His name is Eric Dier. Dier would have brought options to the squad that we simply don’t have now, he would provide an option to sit in front of the defence allowing us to play Rice in a more advanced role, he is an expert at playing in a back three if Gareth wanted to give that a try and he would have provided ideal cover for Guehi’s current ban.

Not picking Dier was negligent and we are now suffering for it. I am surprised more England fans haven’t pointed this out.
Barry Fox


Why the rest of the world hates England
What to make of that performance? What to make of that team? How does one react. Pride? Shame? Both seem equally logical.

Look how the English fans react. They celebrate differently to other fans. It isn’t joy, its an aggressive release, its a veiled threat of physical force to a fellow Englishman. Grabbing their country man in a head lock… dousing him in beer whether he likes it or not…It’s a primal scream mixed with self loathing mixed with some sort of happiness somewhere in there. It’s not normal and unique to the often sunburnt, pissed up white Englishman.

Even the team’s performances smell of colonialism… the billion dollar team of superstars dashing the hopes and dreams of smaller nations. A soulless team in their pure white jersey miserably conquering, leaving a trail of bad vibes while trashing European cafes and bars. Classlessly beating nations whose fans actually like their team, as opposed to despising them. A multi cultural team supported by predominantly gammon faced Reform party voters. What is this mess? It makes no sense.

As for Gareth… what is he? He’s not a football manager. He’s a corporate business man who says all the right things, looks the part but at the end of the day has no clue what he’s doing. No depth, no nothing… an avatar for the modern man. More adept at doing a Ted talk than a team talk. He’s what modern Britain wants to be, but can’t get quite get there.

Nobody likes this England. Not the English, not the rest of the world. We’ve had enough of your shit football, your shit fans, your war chants, your gutter press… it all stinks. Every facet of it.

Rip it up, start again.

Murphy’s Law
Look, when the weaker members of the team make the same mistakes time after time it becomes less their fault and more the fault of the senior members of the team. If you see it happening you just need to nip it in the bud or at least put an arm round their shoulder and have a quiet word. “Danny, I don’t know why you’ve been talking about Granit Xhaka’s guile and experience in drawing that foul for the past five minutes because that wasn’t Granit Xhaka”.

I swear there are parallel universes and Danny Murphy is the next evolutionary step for mankind, able to traverse the unbreakable dimensional barriers with ease because whatever matches he’s watching aren’t the matches I’m watching.

We can’t do without co-comms though, how am I supposed to know that a goal is “better” than not a goal? Who’ll tell me that the centre half skying his shot from 40 yards out wasn’t good? Co-comms is a cursed thing in the wrong hands. That’s better, that’s good, that’s better, that’s bad, that’s better. Better better better. It’s all surface level things you can see with your own eyes, all very Harry Enfield’s he didn’t wanna do that. Get a co-comms centre of excellence set up and put Ally McCoist in charge of it.
SC, Belfast