The international break is back, much to the dismay of pretty much every Premier League fan in the world. We swap our Klopps and Guardiolas for Gareth Southgate and his England side, in a set of matches which mean very little to most of the watching supporters.
However, the international break hasn’t always been this feared. Under Southgate, there once was a time when people used to enjoy watching the Three Lions.
After the abject failures of Roy Hodgson, Fabio Capello, and *shudders* Steve McClaren, Southgate took England to a World Cup semi-final, prompting the entire nation to stock up on waistcoats in his honour.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. A series of negative line-ups and underwhelming performances have led to the former Aston Villa man becoming an unpopular figure. Many call for him to go, believing that he’s not the right man for the job.
Nonetheless, as of now, Gareth Southgate is still the England manager. And, while he’s in charge, he still has the opportunity to turn things around. How could he do that? Well, let’s have a look.
Firstly, he could try to be a bit more daring in his approach to games. In previous outings, Southgate opted for a 4-3-3 formation, which appeared to garner some success. In fact, only Belgium scored more goals in Euro 2020 qualifying than England, and they played two more games.
And if hammering the likes of Kosovo and Montenegro doesn’t impress you, then maybe the win against Spain will. The first half showed England’s frontline at their very best, as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling combined to score on three occasions, condemning La Furia Roja to their first home defeat in 15 years.
There is clearly a lot of attacking potential in this England side, and Southgate has shown that he can use this to devastating effect. On the other hand, the defence has constantly come under fire and is generally viewed as a weakness.
To counter this, the 50-year-old changed his set-up to a 3-4-3, with three centre-backs and two defensive midfielders. And, while this has somewhat tightened things up at the back, it’s stifled the potency of the side, scoring just three times in four UEFA Nations League games.
While England supporters are rarely satisfied, surely a more attacking approach will be welcomed by the watching spectators. Instead of setting up to lower the chances of your weaknesses getting exposed, it makes more sense to play to your strengths.
Another thing that could help Southgate win back the support of the fans is by selecting a more sensible line-up.
In recent months, the England boss has put many square pegs in round holes. For example, Kieran Trippier has been utilised as a left-back, and Mason Mount has played as a winger. There are better options in both areas which aren’t being selected.
Jack Grealish, for example, has proven that he could do the job that Mount does. Bukayo Saka can occupy the left-back spot. Why play players out of position when there are other top-class alternatives already there?
The England job has never been an easy one, and whatever happens in the next two weeks, there will still be mass discontent among the supporters. But, if Southgate wants to get a few people back on his side, he’ll need to be bolder.