After the initial rounds of this year’s Nations League tournament, England fans will surely be feeling far less confident about their team’s chances in Qatar come the end of the year. Although Gareth Southgate certainly had his critics prior to England’s dismal showing in their four ties this June, they were largely muted by his achievements at major tournaments.
However, losing twice to Hungary by an aggregate score line of 5-0, as well as failing to register a single goal from open play in 360 minutes of football, has the wolves baying at Southgate’s door. So with just two more games before the World Cup kicks off in November, would the FA be best served by severing ties with Southgate now? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of such an approach.
The Case for Sacking Southgate
Perhaps the biggest criticism levelled at Southgate has been his reluctance to play attacking, expansive football. In the first tie against Hungary, who are ranked 35 places below England by FIFA, Southgate picked five defenders and two holding midfielders. Hungary closed out a 1-0 victory and never really looked in danger; they had more shots on target than The Three Lions and could have easily doubled their advantage.
In the return leg, Southgate perhaps attempted to play a more attacking style by reverting to a back four, but his team looked even more out of their depth – despite playing in front of a home crowd. A lack of cut and thrust meant they never really came close to troubling the Hungarian keeper, with only two tame headed shots from centre back John Stones finding the target.
Of course, this is a problem that far pre-dates these qualifiers. Although Southgate did get his team to the semi-final of the World Cup and the final of the Euros, he enjoyed favourable draws both times. Indeed, with such a strong squad at his disposal, there is an argument to be made that England were favourites to win silverware among many Bitcoin betting sites and the failure to do so is actually a poor reflection on Southgate’s abilities.
The Case Against Sacking Southgate
On the other hand, there are certainly those who will point out that favourable draws or not, Southgate did succeed where all but two of his predecessors have failed – he got England to a World Cup semi-final. He almost went the whole way three years later by reaching the last two in the Euros, even if his team were deservedly beaten by eventual winners Italy.
What’s more, the two losses against Hungary are undesirable outcomes for sure – but they both came in games where Southgate was experimenting with new personnel. Debuts were handed to Jarrod Bowen, Conor Gallagher and James Justin, allowing Southgate to tinker with his system in a competition that, although competitive, hardly represents a high priority for England.
Finally, the fact that there are just two games remaining before the World Cup (against Italy and Germany, respectively) means that bringing in a new manager now would leave him with very little time to work with the players and impose his methods. Therefore, even if the FA does not regard Southgate as their preferred candidate in the long term, it makes sense to keep him in situ until next year.
While Southgate will undoubtedly continue to attract criticism from certain sections of the stadium and the media, he does seem to be the best fit for the job in Qatar.