Southgate as Solskjaer, England as 16th best team in the world and more

Date published: Wednesday 15th June 2022 6:18 - Editor F365

England manager Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate dominates the Mailbox after England lost to Hungary in quite humiliating fashion. What next?

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Predicting the World Cup finishes
Riffing off the England Ladder by F365, I have decided to try and figure out which team will finish where after these round of matches, and this is what I have come up with:

1. Portugal – Insanely talented team led by a veteran looking for one last shot at glory before retirement. The script writes itself. Excellent all-round play + a cup winning manager and a squad full of great players who get along well.

2. Netherlands – Again a team full of talented flair players and a good core. Putting them here based on nothing but the fact that it’s time for the Netherlands to shine after a few years away in the wilderness. Depay to outperform.

3. Brazil – More in hope than in practice, as most of their matches (Just like most SA teams) are against opposition of lower quality. But they have a team that should be able to challenge for the top four, along with a climate that should suit them more than others.

4. Denmark – The darkest of the dark horses, I fully expect them to get knocked out in the first stage, but think that maybe they can pull through as the surprise semi finalists.

5. Argentina – Looked good in the finalisima and have a great talented team led by another player looking at one last shot at the WC.

6. Spain – An average looking squad with a mix of inexperience and players that are old. Gavi carrying the team shows you all you need to know.

7. Germany – Not looking as great, but will reach the top 8 because they are Germany.

8. Uruguay – Expect them to round off the top 8, with a good squad, hot climate helping them sneak in.

16th: England. Will make the knockout due to the easy group, knocked out at the first stage possible.

To be able to guess any of this is madness, and I am sure the above may not even be close to the reality. But it’s the international break, so doing international break things till the new seasons start.
PS: Winner of Sportswashing campaign: A good fight between the OG’s Qatar & Saudi Arabia. Old school players like Iran, Ghana, Serbia et al will be forgotten and fail.


Southgate is Solskjaer
Look, people are getting the boot into Southgate at the moment. Probably deservedly. And there will be your typical, split, football fan camps, each shouting #OutTheGate or #InTheGate or whatever twitter decides is the best balance of fun and ease. They’re going to argue systems, and personnel and continuity. And and and… it all feels very familiar.

I mean, of course it feels very familiar. This happens whenever a manager of a high profile team hits the skids. And the lower profile teams, of course, but they don’t have as many numpties (myself included) writing to the mailbox, so we don’t get to see the repeated arguments for and against Lee Bowyer. But do we see it for everyone else. Which gives everything this sense of familiarity.

In Southgate’s case, he most resembles a manager who was recently fired. One who given temporary charge, rode their new-manager-bounce (does this affect international management?) as far as they could, had some very promising finishes that might have been down to localised weaknesses in the competition, or maybe, just maybe, genius. Oh, and who spent their entire reign never quite convincing people they were any good.

I’m talking about Solskjaer. I hope obviously, though I realise now that the whole paragraph could reference at least one of his contemporaries. Southgate reminds me of the former Manchester United manager’s reign. How, even as he succeeded, everyone who wasn’t desperately optimistic, could see how precariously fortunate everything had been to get there.

They both lost their finals, ones they were favourite in, as tactics (or lack thereof) failed them. And both survived those loses, with progress and done-well-to-get-there being the mood of the day. But neither have really felt like this was a step on the way to the top. Both have looked, so far, like that was their chance–their one chance–and they missed it. And they know they missed it.

Ole was a dead man walking until he was finally #OleOuted. And I suspect Southgate is the same, saved only by the proximity of the World Cup. Of course, similarly, Ole’s departure has shown quite how rotten the team and structure is. I suspect the same won’t be as apparent if Southgate is replaced, but who knows… the parallel has worked so far.
Andrew M, Melting, London


Gareth out, Harry in?
Remember when Southgate said he wouldn’t outstay his welcome?

Well now he’ll prove that not only did he not have the bollocks as a player, and doesn’t have the bollocks to take risks and attack as a manager, he doesn’t have the bollocks to stand by his word and walk away when he’s shamed. And this result was that. As were many before it, including the Final.

We haven’t looked like scoring a single time in four games. Two of which at home. It wasn’t as though he was forced to pick a weak side, this one should have been able to compete. The players are not the issue.

His tactical set-ups are weak, he cannot organise attack, his substitutions are terrible and he picks his favourites to the exclusion of better players. Being nice isn’t a useful facet, only to the FA. If they think he’s protecting them now, they’re wrong.

So if he did go, who comes in, with such a short amount of time?

I’m sure this will get abused but… give Harry Redknapp the World Cup. He can go back to retirement after and they can bring in Potter to rebuild, but Harry would bring the right style of play, right attitude and some immediate positivity. God knows, we need that, now more than ever.


Our favourite national hobby is being depressed about England
The only thing we love more than football in this country is slagging off football. When its club level you have a wealth of other teams to criticise but at international level the only thing the press and certain supporters love most is tearing the national team down.

It was a crap result. All the reasons for that have already been trotted out, both sensible, objective and observable explanations and subjective, shooting from the hip click-bait/trolling. Sometimes teams lose, Hungary took their chances really well, and defended well. Will beating them 4-0 next time we meet be treated with the same hyperbole? Nope, as we’re a nation of spoiled whiners, ironically a result of results being so good and consistent for such a long period of time, under a manager who is now considered clueless.

But it’s the scale of the denial/revisionism that really gets me. How many years, no decades, of mediocrity did we have with England before the last two tournaments? But now I hear people going on about how Robson or Venables would have done better with this lot, or Hoddle. They talk like its been sunshine and roses for 60 years, not utter dreck which it has been most of the time. The only sunshine period we have had in international football has been under Gareth Southgate. He’s not perfect, he won’t be manager forever, but I imagine in 20-30 years time people will be re-writing his time with England in the same way they are re-writing the 90s and 2000s now, in order to slag off whoever the manager is in the future.

People have already re-written the history of the last tournament; we had the easiest run ever against Sunday league quality teams. We beat Germany but only because they let us. That Italian side was basically San Marino and we should have thrashed them to pieces. When you remind them that England drew with a poor Switzerland team in the opener at Euro 96 and struggled against Scotland before Gazza’s wonder goal, and that England played the mighty Egypt and Cameroon in 1990, they act like you’ve uttered blasphemy.

News flash; international football is Dull with a massive capital D. Its a mix of meaningless friendlies, ‘competitive’ games against minnows and mid-rank teams in qualifying, and maybe a maximum of 3/4 meaningful fixtures every two years (for top European teams at least). The best you can say of it is that its tense. Margins at the top are wafer thin, hence why so many games go to extra time and penalties, or are decided by just a single goal. England have narrowly been on the wrong side of those margins, but in a way we haven’t been before. Now we go in to games knowing that, yes it will be tight, but we stand a chance of coming out on top. Going balls out, gung ho, 4-2-4 sounds great, but we’d be destroyed by Spain, Germany even Italy if we did that. We wouldn’t get close to having a chance.

I’d much rather have a collective meltdown now in a meaningless game against Hungary, allowing some reflection on certain players and how they fit the system we want to play, which has already proved can carry us in to the latter stages of a tournament. If the WC goes badly Southgate will pay with his job, rest assured, and we’ll choose someone else to build up and then tear down.

And quite frankly if you tune in to international football expecting unsurpassed levels of excitement you will always be disappointed, so stick with the club game.
James, Leeds


England should be on the front foot
Haven’t written in for a while (Everton’s season wasn’t much to crow about), but watching England beat New Zealand and then lose to Hungary it did strike me how leadership and setting up a team are so important at the elite level where talent is often very similar across the board.

Firstly, these games have been quite meaningless. After a long season, which was the first ‘normal’ one after two Covid disrupted ones, is any team going to take too much away from this? Equally, how often have we seen teams with bad results going into a tournament use it to change things around and head into the big tournament with a clearer focus and vision. As Gareth Bale said after Wales’ loss, “better now than at the World Cup”.

But England do have to change. Again, Southgate isn’t going anywhere so close to the World Cup, with a whole lot of credit in the bank and based off bad results in glorified friendlies. Equally, that’s not something I would clamour for; he’s an exceptional person and has been the perfect person to lead England at this time.

However, I was part of the tedious back and forth last summer that revolved around whether you can or cannot criticize Southgate because England are winning, rather than enjoying England actually winning. That debate stopped when they lost, which was arguably because Southgate was up against a more adventurous manager who made early decisive substitutions, equally you could argue it was because of the lottery of penalties and bad luck. I still go for the former.

And so what prompts me to write in, is that both the England cricket and football team have a plethora of quality, attacking players. For years, the cricket team excelled in the white ball arena but couldn’t find their way in test cricket and it festered and got worse and worse until the nadir of the last 18 months. A change in leadership hasn’t just introduced a more positive, matey atmosphere. It’s not just because Brendan McCullum is a good bloke. Bairstow’s assault was based on an intelligent, attacking mindset of targeting the shortest boundary and knowing he could consistently clear the boundary.

Only the most naive England fans are asking for a Garth Crooks style starting XI with Foden, Grealish, Sterling, Mount, Kane, Saka, Smith-Rowe all playing, but there needs to be a more progressive and attacking mindset to the team. There’s no right answer; you can go with Guardiola’s precision, Klopp’s intensity and incessance, Ancelotti’s trust and leaving it to the players, or find his own way. But, this England team needs to have a more progressive, aggressive, attacking approach to playing football, not reverting to a beefed up defence because we conceded 4 to Hungary. I think that is what will succeed.
Matt, EFC London


What happens when Gareth listens
It was great to see Southgate listening to the fans at last and giving two of our young, attacking midfielders a chance last night, rather than playing his usual two holding midfielders. It was good to see Harry Maguire finally left out too and Ramsdale preferred over that clown Pickford.

Thought it went pretty well…
DF, Essex


Southgate out? No, no, no
After an international round of four matches which has been met with the equivalent of tumbleweed from the mailbox; please can I ask that all of the people who now write in with ‘Southgate Out’ mails check the jerks in their knees.

If they can’t find a jerk in their knees then I suggest they look in the mirror.

As has been discussed on F365 before the Nations League represented progress for International football, that many people denigrate in favour of domestic football, unfortunately the value of this has now been impacted by the timing of these matches as a result of the Winter World Cup.

If we bomb in the World Cup then we can talk. Poor performances in four glorified friendlies (to quote Kevin De Bruyne) does not weigh heavier than two consecutive major tournament semi finals when taking a balanced view of Southgate’s reign.
Brian (England fan) BRFC
(I was working away today so actually sat through the full 90 minutes of that on delay having avoided social media)


…One week you’re keeping a clean sheet against the European champions and the next you’re letting in four against Hungary at home.

Why is there such a disparity between England’s performances?

To me, that squad looks completely burned out. Liverpool’s players have competed in every match they possibly could, City are not that far off and Arsenal have perhaps been guilty of overplaying young players and then you have the United lads who are coming off a terrible season by their standards.

Harry Kane during England defeat to Hungary

Add to this the fact that we’re coming off a season which was affected by the pandemic, no break last summer due to the Euros or the summer before in which Arsenal won the FA Cup in August, the fact the English game tends to be based on teams pressing each other to make a mistake so you have to be on your game for 90 minutes and these Nations League games ahead of a season which will break for a World Cup in November.

The players aren’t machines but we often expect to act as if they are. England’s players haven’t suddenly become rubbish – they’re knackered and everyone should get off their backs and cut them a little slack.

Calling for Southgate’s head?! Wind your necks in.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Boos culture
I felt compelled to write in as a Wolves fan in attendance at the game who’s just read the player ratings. The crowd wasn’t booing at Saka, or Maguire, we were just disappointed Coady wasn’t brought on I think. I love Southgate, but given the level of performance and the scoreline, it was a crazy decision to leave Coady, our captain, on the bench to bring on a different centre back. It would have been such an easy way to lift the crowd.
Jay (worst performance since Iceland?)


What’s wrong with a winter World Cup?
I was reading the Jack Grealish article and the line caught my eye ‘…fundamentally stupid decision to host a World Cup finals in one of the hottest and most arid places on earth, which resulted in FIFA having to contort the entire global football calendar still further to accommodate it during the middle of the winter.’

I’ve heard many make similar remarks about the world cup being held in Qatar but I think it might be worth taking a minute to actually consider what that means. Because it seems people just thoughtlessly jump on bandwagons to look trendy.

Why is Qatar or any other country a ‘fundamentally stupid’ choice for an international event on the basis of geography. They are a FIFA member like everyone else. No one should be ineligible to host tournaments by default unless they are located in space, in which case I suspect they wouldn’t be a FIFA member in the first place.

Now there are several credible reasons to criticize the decision to award the tournament to Qatar. What’s with the shambolic human rights record and the corruption which shrouded the award process, but being too hot in the summer? Nah.

So what if the tournament had to be played in the winter? So what? Is there a law against this? Just because it’s always been played in the summer doesn’t mean it always has to be.

But I suspect the actual reason for the grumblings is the fact it conflicts with the European club football calendar. Well guess what? The summer tournaments, too, take place right in the middle of many football league seasons all over the world including the US, Japan, Norway, Ireland etc. Why is that okay and this is not? Because it affects The Premier League, right?

Again, FIFA giving Qatar a helping hand in their sportswashing project is despicable and should be strongly opposed but stop the weirdness about winter tournaments. It’s not particularly to my liking too, but you can’t just disqualify countries capable of hosting the world cup because it would disturb the Premier League’s traditional busy Christmas schedule. There’s a reason we have the winter Olympics. Everyone deserves a chance – to be seen, to play, to host – if they earn it.


How has my season been?
Great question from Dan in today’s mailbox, and a welcome distraction from the Southgate hand-wringing and net-spend bickering.

I chose this year to make a playing comeback despite being perilously close to turning 50, sporting a Razor Ruddock-eque physique and not kicking a ball in anger for around 25 years. I signed up with my local ManVFat league (an excellent idea by the way, if you’re carrying a few extra pounds and want to try and shift some if it playing football I’d highly recommend finding one in your area) and the pre-season friendlies went really well, my fitness levels were a bit better than I expected and, after the first couple of games I even started to remember a bit about how to play football.

Fast forward to the first round of competitive fixtures. Not two minutes in, while making a heroic block to prevent a certain goal I turned my ankle, went down in a heap and have been on the sidelines rehabbing ever since. Still, it seemed like a good idea at the time…
Bill Handley, Gloucester

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