Southgate is driving England’s Ferrari in the slow lane…

Date published: Thursday 24th June 2021 8:54 - Editor F365

We now know the draw for the last 16. Get your views in to…


Moaning cycle
I know I’m feeding the moaning cycle, but what else is there to do before the games kick off this evening. I totally get the mailbox defending England’s performance, as I said, 7 points and top of the group is a great achievement. But there are question marks, and the general approach to the Scotland game, particularly the in game management, was disappointing.

John Nicholson’s article was pretty patronising. Yes, Jon, we know football isn’t always end to end. That’s not what we are asking for. We asking to maybe appear in a list like this in 10 years time. We haven’t got close to a list like this since 2004 and Rooney’s emergence.

Maybe it’s because I’m an Evertonian whose watched Liverpool play bright, attacking football. Or Leeds get promoted with an old, foreign manager and play a great, up tempo style of football. Or Italy, who have an equally patchy recent tournament record to ours but seem to have gone all balls out Maneskin in this tournament and fair play to them for that.

I know this might come across as entitled, but it’s really not trying to be. My views are based on past England squads since the days of Sven who would get out of the group (normally winning it) without playing amazingly and then lose to the first decent team they played. Sound familiar?

I get that you can’t play Sancho, Grealish, Saka, Mount, Foden, Sterling, Keane and Rashford in the same team. It’s not FIFA. But equally would Klopp, Biesla, Mancini or even Potter not keep tweaking and trying out combinations until they were a firing on all cylinders up front, or using impact players with plenty of time to make an impact?

Southgate is a great bloke and a better human, who has done a lot to improve the English national teams image and provide an atmosphere where the players can express themselves. He took a limited squad to the semis 3 years ago, but with more options now (theres no Fabian Delph or Danny Welbeck in this squad) there has to be a higher expectation. It was nearly there in that first Nations League. They feel like Southgate’s signature wins but I bet most can’t remember the scores against Spain and Croatia given it didn’t come in a summer tournament which help capture those moments in supporters minds.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s just being a miserable Evertonian. I hope the people who say winning is all that matters are right, and that we build on the 7 points and go win the tournament. Maybe against better teams their defences will be more open and we will win some highly entertaining 3-2s on the way to the final. I hope we don’t go out in the 2nd round or quarters fairly meekly and people wistfully wishing that if only we’d gone at it a bit more with the players we have and leave some fun memories in a tournament we’ve waited an extra 12 months for.

Matt, EFC, Belgrade


Lack of jeopardy 
There was something about the article on football never being exciting/not needing to be exciting/england being kind of exciting that didnt sit properly with me but i couldnt work out what it was. After tonight I know.

JN was completely wrong. The fans who are bored of england are not tired of football, they are tired of football that is rigged for the best teams to be in it till the end.

What he seems to have forgotten in an over indulged, covid induced, football binge (or maybe he has made a fortune on bitcoin and is no longer the working mans hero?), is that world or European cups ARE meant to be exciting, they are meant to keep us on the edge of our seat. This latest article however sounds like he has been drinking from the UEFA cool aid – blame the fans, not the format.

The problem is not, as he suggests, the fans, it is not the fact gareth southgate is a boring manager (which i think he is). Instead it is the format that ha been forced upon is. This last week we have had, out of five groups, only one evening where anyone cared or was interested. Because of the third place qualification. There is no jeopardy!!

Just imagine the difference last night if an england defeat would have meant they left the competition, instead people were talking about who they prefer to play, should they loose so they face an easier team.

That is why tonight, watching the bbc live text was more interesting than watching a live england match. That is why everyone is sodding bored of england.
Tom, tractor boy in switzerland


Euro 2020 round of 16 draw: England get kindest route


Ferraris and Pandas
People will harp on about it until they are out or champions but it is absolutely fine to be not content with England’s current viewings. If they win or go far, who cares how it’s done?

I think the people who are upset realize that Southgate is basically driving a Ferrari, on the Autobahn… at 40 mph. He isn’t up there with the Lamborghini’s or Tesla’s. He’s hanging back with the Ford focus’s and Fiat pandas.

Sure he could go fast and make use of its engine and drive a Ferrari like a Ferrari but that’s probably going to be bad gas mileage and who wants to show off right?

I think some people realise that talent isn’t permanent and you should strike while your team is hot.
Calvino (If you are confident that Southgate is doing it right, are you equally confident of winning on penalties in the knockout rounds?)


England from a German perspective
Closely following English football for many years, I am a German who is baffled by the negative reactions of many fans, influencers and pundits with regard to England’s performances. What I am missing here is an understanding of the actual status of the England team, who are still in a phase of development. But what strikes me even more is the fundamental lack of knowledge on the demands of tournament football after a long strenuous season.

Firstly, let me get one thing straight: I am neither a fanboy of Gareth Southgate, nor am I delighted with most of the performances in the group stage, but when you want to judge how a coach and his team are doing, you’ve got to get the background right:

England have not been a top international side in the same category as e.g. France, Italy, Germany, Spain for as long as I can remember. Although I have a good feeling that this might change soon with all the young talents England have, currently they are on a par with Sweden, Denmark, Croatia: These are all “B” teams that had the occasional good run to the latter stages of a tournament, but are not as consistently challenging for the major honours like the “A” teams. So please bear in mind where England come from.

“Yes”, I hear you say, “but we have now many great talents at our disposal, which we hadn’t for a long time”. Agreed, but for a functioning team you need more than talent. You also need experience and familiarity on the pitch, in particular in defence and midfield which build the platform on which the young forwards can shine. It is not just important what players can do if their team is in possession of the ball, it is equally important (and in case you meet the likes of France, it is even more important) what players can do if their team is not (!) in possession of the ball. Without stability, tactical cleverness and ball-winning capabilities you won’t get the best out of Mount, Grealish, Foden, Sancho, Saka etc. You won’t play attractive football just by cramming a lot of these players in the same side. The current 4-3-3 with two holding midfielders, one sitting and the other a bit further up, is standard for many successful sides and hardly negative.

Now look at the midfield in England’s games which featured Rice, Phillips and Mount or Grealish gathering around 40-50 caps and compare that to the usual midfield three’s of France, Germany, Portugal, Croatia etc. with up to 150-250 caps. Why are England in that state of inexperience? Well, Englands midfield HAD to change since the world cup. In the last three years, England’s midfielders were mainly chosen from Henderson, who got injured in February, plus two chosen from Alli, Barkley, Dier, Winks. All the latter have disappeared from the England radar due to loss of form and/or injuries and thus due to a lack of playing time for their clubs.

It is not Southgate’s fault that he cannot count on Dele Alli and the others now entering their best footballing age as mainstays in the England side. In fact he had to re-design England’s midfield in the last year and in the hour of need he was brave and went for young talent, largely unproven at the international stage.

Furthermore, there is no other international manager who had a similarly disrupted and hampered preparation leading up to this tournament. The domestic season cramming the usual number of games into a shorter amount of time due to the late league starts is affecting everyone. But having 3 teams in European finals is a very unique situation and meant that 11 players were not available to Southgate at the start of the preparation phase.

Please note that you cannot compare the preparation for a tournament in June/July with anything in club football. At first, players need a bit of rest. Then it is all about regeneration with light training, stretching routines and massages to get the fatigue out of the system and have small micro-injuries healed before you can pick up the pace in training. That is the main reason why Southgate did not use his CL final players in the warm-up games because their regeneration plan did not allow it. Avoiding further injuries (remember the freak injury to TAA in a routine clearance?) and fatigue had the top priority, even if it comes at a cost of showing less coherence on the pitch in the first games. Southgate tried to learn the lessons from tournaments of the past here.

That is why it was clear to me weeks ago that England could never be close to 100% during the group stage and that this team would have to grow and gel during the tournament. Southgate had to gamble here in my view: He had to balance out the necessities for getting the job of qualifying from group D done with getting the squad to peak at the most important time of the tournament. In fact, England handled the preparation challenges and the absence of two important experienced regular starters (Maguire and Henderson) pretty well.

The England camp knows that the real thing starts in the KO phase and the draw made it very likely that England will have to face one of the top sides in group F in the first round. The football that needs to be played against a side like France is completely different to any of the group stage challenges. It would have been nice but completely irrelevant for the further fortunes of the England team had they been able to waltz over Croatia, Scotland and the Czechs and won the group in more style. A team like France would not fear England whatever the previous performances.

I fear, that next Tuesday’s game may be a hurdle too high for England, given the circumstances, although I would not bet against them. But even if England fail, then it is not all down to Southgate’s cluelessness. So get behind the England camp, they are doing all they can.

PS: England won against Croatia only because they are an ageing side and Modric is a has-been? Last night’s game against Scotland shed a different light on this kind of nonsense…


The statistics that point to England starting XI


England v Germany optimism
I’m Italian, so I won’t have a dog in this upcoming fight, but I can’t see anything other than an England win against Germany.

Depressingly, I also can’t see anything other than jingoistic, flag-waving nonsense from certain media outlets in the build up to the match.
Dario, Italy (I just hope both teams have fun)


…I’d hate to play Portugal, a team we haven’t beaten since 1966. At least we’ve beaten Germany more recently at a finals, in 2000.

If we get past them (big if), then the draw opens out with only Holland offering any fear on our side.

All we’ve got to do is use pace up front to get behind Hummels and pin back their wingbacks. Sit Kane out for this one and go with Grealish and Saka either side of a false 9 Sterling. Mount, if available, feeding them.
Foden and Kane to come on for the final 30.

Job done.


…Allow me to tempt fate J I am enthusiastic about England playing Germany – this Germany, with a slightly flaky defence, a tactical approach that looks outdated and a bit naive, and an attack that can lack inspiration against a well-organised defence seems perfectly suited for Gareth Southgate’s counter-attacking and high-pressing England. As long as we play this match, and not the whole history of England-Germany (which isn’t as bad as it’s sometimes made out either), I expect us to win.
Tim Colyer, England fan, Singapore (delighted the draw also means a 5pm kick-off)


Relax and enjoy the England ride
As an Englishman, I have to agree with Mike from the afternoon mailbox, why can’t everyone just enjoy the ride?! I mean reading Pierre’s mail you’d think we’d played appallingly and scraped through. We won the group without letting in a goal! Yes, it’s been a bit stodgy at times but even in the Scotland game we didn’t really look like conceding. Personally, I feel like Southgate’s been coaching them in playing a system that we’ll use against bigger teams. Yes, he could probably have played one less defensive midfielder against Scotland or the Czechs but then these players haven’t got much experience playing together so why not get them playing in the more secure style that they’ll need against the bigger teams. Players aren’t robots that can just switch it on and off, a bit of time on the pitch together playing that way will probably prove invaluable next week.

I wrote in after the Croatia game and one of my positives from that was that we didn’t have a period of time in the game where we retreated to the edge of our box and hoofed it clear. That was the case again last night. This team look different from previous England teams, they have control and a calmness about them that we usually moan loudly about us not having after the latest tournament exit. I really think Southgate’s making a conscious effort to get them used to that for bigger tests ahead.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying we don’t look like we can score more than one goal. That could be right and I imagine we’ll find out but it also seems like we’re confident and calm in defending a one goal lead so happy to conserve energy and see the game out. Is that not a positive? There’ll likely be a game where we’ll find out whether we can come from behind or react to letting a goal in and maybe we will be found wanting but at least wait for it to happen before you crucify the manager for it.

Of course we’ll have our own opinions but remember that Southgate’s an experienced international manager now and he’s doing what he thinks is best to win a tournament. France won the World Cup with people constantly saying the players need to be let off the leash but luckily for them, Deschamps didn’t change his plans. As has been said before, it’s just not realistic to go on the pitch and blow teams away playing with six attacking players, it’s not how you go far in a tournament. It also depends on your opposition and were Croatia, Scotland or the Czechs ever going to play an open game against England? I doubt it and when the opposition keep the game tight, it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s difficult to open it up.

International tournaments are my absolute favourite thing, far better than the domestic football, I’m not going to spend my time worrying about whether we should be playing a double-pivot, I’ll just enjoy an England side winning games and playing with quiet confidence. If you can’t do that then honestly I feel sorry for you.
Sam, London


F365 Says: Group F-***ing ridiculous as England peek into the carnage


England aspirations
I think the problem people have with England is that we just don’t understand why certain choices are being made, and whilst Southgate seems like a good guy and he’s obviously doing a decent job as manager, he’s not really very engaging when he speaks and so we’re left wondering what’s going on.

So when young lads not having experience and needing time is talked about, how is he applying that to Sancho who has been performing at the top level of club football for over 3 years now, with over 100 appearances? There might be a very good reason why he’s not been involved; but we haven’t heard it.

I worry that it’s a bias towards those playing football in England, so Saka got the nod on the right (and did very well) over the more experienced Sancho. The real worry is that, as Sancho seemed to have started something of a trend for young players moving abroad for more first team chances, young English players start to suspect that doing so will prejudice their national team opportunities and not go. This would be a real shame, as more players playing more football in more leagues has to be positive for the national team.

The argument that we’re entitled is a bit odd, I think – no-one expects that we’re going to win it, but we look at the players we have and can’t quite work out why we look so negative and we don’t really get a clear explanation from the manager.

I also don’t really understand Jonny Nic’s argument that ‘of course it’s boring but that’s the way it is so just shut up’. Why should it be boring? You can be under pressure, off the pace, suffering at the hands of your opponent, but it can still be exciting, tense, interesting. With the extreme safety first option we’re employing now, it’s just not really any of that. Mourinho was roundly slated by pretty much everyone for playing so negatively when he had some great talent at this disposal – how is this any different? For people of my age, we’ve seen talented England teams and players before that have had the creativity knocked out of them by various managers and systems. This bunch might be the best creative force I’ve ever seen in an England squad, but we’re just doing what we always do. Again – we can’t understand why because the manager doesn’t / can’t communicate the reasons.

Anyway, we’ve not got out of many groups in my lifetime with 7 points and no goals conceded, and I don’t really buy into the whole ‘we’re fucked now we’re in the knockout stages’ argument, so I’m looking forward to Tuesday when we hopefully play with a bit more positivity and put in a decent performance. Onwards and upwards!



…Tired of England being gutless. England meaning the press, a lot of the commentators and a lot of the fans. Wanting a weaker opponent in the round of 16 is cowardly. No wonder we’ve won nothing for years. To win a championship you have to play difficult games against difficult opponents. That’s what sports is. Would have loved to see England in the group of death.

Let’s support the team, whatever you think about Southgate and the players, and stop being scared.


Boring, boring England
Don’t try and convince yourselves that England aren’t boring or that all football’s like that or that this is how it should be played. Don’t try and convince yourselves that only half an hour of last night’s game was eye gougingly dull. Don’t try and convince yourselves that you don’t have the players to play a more attacking game.

The entirety of that game was “Gareth’s” risk-free demands, Kyle Walker Cruyff turned a Czech player to change a forward pass into a pass back to John Stones for crying out loud. This is how England specifically play – under instructions to not pass the ball forward because passing forward leads to losing possession. Tactics based on over analysis, XG and risk management. I don’t think there’s ever been a team that passes across the defence as much as England. Endless sideways passing then passing to a midfielder who’s come deep only to pass the ball back to the defender again. It needs to be done for a purpose – move the opposition and create space or overloads – but if that’s all you do then it’s easy for the opposition to completely nullify England’s attack. Just sit back and let them play with themselves.

You might go on and win the tournament playing this style of football but you’re playing like the 2004 Greece side that everyone’s always so negative about. Besides Saka (who should start every game from now on) there’s nobody in the squad who’s looking up the pitch.
SC, Belfast


Saka’s character
I watched the England match last night, dual screening because I wanted to see people’s reaction to Saka. I really wanted the young lad to play well, because he is an Arsenal youth product, but also because he is weighted with the huge responsibility of carrying Arsenal, and I felt he’d probably thrive in the England set up. And didn’t he just thrive!

As I watched, I saw what I knew would happen, fans of other clubs who were in shock at Saka’s inclusion slowly came round to a fact that Arsenal fans have known for a while, and that is he is one of the, if not THE most exciting prospect we have, and he does it all in the most pedestrian, unshowy way.

He isn’t a flash Harry, you won’t see him trying needless step overs to confound defenders, instead you’ll see his strength to hold on to the ball and to make the right decision 8 times out of 10. England are lucky, at all the big clubs there are exciting young youth players coming through, and personally I think it is ridiculous to try and say one is better than the other. It all depends on the day. However I will tell you, when Arsenal were in the doldrums, when we were at our lowest ebb. When we had just been beaten again Saka posted on his social, ‘you deserve better’ to the Arsenal fans. He then went on a 10 match run where he was basically the best player on the pitch, dragging us through poor form etc. At 19 years old. That is who he is as a player and a man, who else would you want representing your country?

He is young, so still makes mistakes, but he is a phenomenal player, with a football intelligence beyond his years. If he can stay fit, and uninjured, England and Arsenal have a real superstar. I know we probably won’t be able to keep him for more than a couple of seasons as he deserves to play for a title winning team and at the highest stage. For now, just enjoy him, as there are not many like him.
John Matrix AFC


Portugal France F365


Four conclusions after four drinks
1. Pogba for France is the full package – what a player, what a conundrum for United
2. Thomas Muller seems like he’d be such a grouchy next door neighbour but still a great guy
3. The number 9 for Hungary looks straight outta Italia 90 / an old skool computer game – such a great throwback
4. Imagine Harry McGuire and Ronaldo shoulder barging into each other in a foot race….I have no idea who would win that


Can’t abide Ronaldo
Crisitano Ronaldo gets so much praise and rightly, he is regarded by all as one of the best players of the modern game, and he is so so good, but..

Last night, Kingsley Coman dispossessed him in the 85th minute (thereabouts) on the edge of the French goal area, and Ronaldo lashed out with a hell of a kick at him which missed, but it was more than petulance, it would’ve been nasty.

France players highlighted this to the ref who did not see it, but no commentary mentioned it at all which I find incredible. More so, why did no one looked at it as violent conduct retrospectively? if it was a swing and a miss with his fist, he’d be off so what’s the difference? It’s not just Ronaldo, you can be racist and/or bitey, but if you do enough good things with a ball it’s forgotten, redemption by talent – it’s a load of crap.

It’s this sh!thousery which I’ve seen time and time again, the diving, and his ridiculous ego(I know the arguments about top sportsmen needing this but I disagree, you can know you’re good and not be a twat) that means I’ll never rate him as the best player, I think it really matters. I’m sure he’s so distressed by my opinion and I’m sure most will disagree, but does anyone else rate decency, discipline, and a respectful attitude enough to factor it in even slightly?

I can’t stand the man which will come as no surprise, I don’t think anyone should behave he does. I bring this up now because it was completely missed last night, and obviously he has just equalled another astonishing football world record, which is what everyone will be talking about.

Ach, I’m clearly too annoyed by him, but he is definitely a tw*t.
David (not jealous, well, of course I am)


Remembering Dalian Atkinson
Bittersweet feelings as the jury hands down their verdict today in the Dalian Atkinson case. Relieved for his friends and family that it’s over and they’ve been handed some semblance of justice, sad because it brings his last moments back into the cold light of day (and the click-hungry spotlight of the tabloids).

At a time when everything feels like a potential jumping off point for The Culture Wars™, now might be a nice moment to come together and remember his best days on the pitch – when he and Dean Saunders used to give defences nightmares. Rest in power.


Elton John heading to Anfield
Liverpool’s transfer strategy is a f*cking mess.
Luke, Red in Sussex.

More Related Articles