English football fans have seen their national team go through a rollercoaster of emotions in the last few years.
The 2018 World Cup saw England reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1990. The team’s performance sparked renewed hope that a trophy could finally be won. However, England lost a hard-fought semi-final to Croatia, and the dream of winning the World Cup was once again cruelly dashed.
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The 2020 European Championship (played in 2021) offered the Three Lions another chance for glory. They faced a tough group with World Cup finalists Croatia and arch-rivals Scotland in their group, along with the Czech Republic.
England topped their group after winning against Croatia and the Czech Republic and drawing against Scotland.
Southgate’s men reached the final following victories over Germany, Ukraine, and Denmark. The final match against Italy was close, resulting in a 1-1 draw, and the winner was eventually decided through penalties. Unfortunately, England lost the shoot-out, and Southgate missed the opportunity to bring football home at Wembley.
Following two fairly successful international campaigns, England headed to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with renewed optimism.
England sailed through the group stages, winning against Iran and Wales while drawing with the United States. This set up a clash against Senegal which England won 3-0. The next match pitted England against France in the quarter-finals. After a hard-fought battle, France emerged victorious and advanced to the semi-finals.
The defeat left England fans wondering if Southgate was the man to bring football home. It seemed like the team had run out of steam and couldn’t get over the hump against a top-level side.
The upcoming Euro 2024 tournament will likely be Southgate’s last chance to end England’s long wait for a major trophy.
Apart from France, the other top sides in Europe are all transitioning, so it will be an open tournament. England has a good mix of experience and youth, with established players like Harry Kane, John Stones, and Jack Grealish leading the way for exciting youngsters such as Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, and Bukayo Saka.
The manager will be hoping to build on the progress made in the previous tournaments and take England all the way.
Assuming England qualifies, and it looks likely, Southgate will have one last chance to bring football home.
To win the UEFA Euro 2024, England must execute a tactical plan that plays to their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. Southgate’s strategy should focus on a more attacking style to put the opposition on the back foot.
Despite the overall positive trajectory of the England national team under Gareth Southgate’s management, there have been a few bumps in the road. Let’s dive into some of the major criticisms he has faced.
One issue that has ruffled some feathers is Southgate’s apparent overreliance on certain players. Critics have claimed that his unwavering loyalty to Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling has limited opportunities for other talented players and, in turn, affected the squad’s potential.
Another point of contention lies in Southgate’s tactical approach. A number of fans and pundits have accused him of adopting conservative tactics, especially during high-stakes knockout matches. The argument goes that this stifles the team’s creativity and prevents England from unleashing their full attacking capabilities.
Squad selection controversies have also followed Southgate throughout his tenure. His decisions to leave out certain in-form players have raised eyebrows and fueled debates about whether he’s made the right calls. Fans have questioned his decision-making, suggesting that he has overlooked players who are in better form or possess superior skill sets.
Southgate’s in-game Management Problems
Moreover, Southgate’s in-game management has been questioned, with critics specifically pointing to his timing and choices regarding substitutions. Some have argued that he has been too slow to react during crucial moments when changes could have turned the tide of a match.
Finally, Southgate’s choices during penalty shootouts haven’t escaped scrutiny. This was particularly evident during the UEFA Euro 2020 final against Italy when he opted to bring on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho just moments before the shootout and chose the young and relatively inexperienced Bukayo Saka to take the high-pressure final penalty.
Despite these criticisms, it’s important to remember that Southgate has guided England to impressive performances in recent tournaments. Many fans and pundits remain supportive of his overall approach to managing the national team, acknowledging the progress made under his leadership.
The Next England Manager?
This will likely be Southgate’s last tournament in charge of the England national team, so the search for his replacement is underway.
The top contenders for the England job are Eddie Howe, Wayne Rooney, Graham Potter, Thomas Tuchel, and Mauricio Pochettino.
Eddie Howe, former Bournemouth manager and current Newcastle coach, has a strong understanding of English football and how to develop young players. Wayne Rooney, on the other hand, has also made a name for himself through his solid reputation in the game and his previous leadership skills as a captain of the English team.
Howe’s lack of experience in big tournaments and Rooney’s inexperience as a coach could pose challenges. Either of these two would popular amongst the English public and could bring a refreshing enthusiasm to the team.
Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino are outsiders for the role, with their impressive track records in European football. However, both managers have started new projects at major clubs and are unlikely to move for a less successful national team job.
Graham Potter is another manager strongly linked with the England job. His impressive managerial stint at Brighton has been undone with poor results at Chelsea. Nevertheless, Potter’s attacking style of play and his ability to develop young talent make him an appealing option.
Whoever succeeds Southgate will need to find the right balance between defensive solidity and attacking flair to maximize the team’s potential on the international stage. This means that whoever takes over must understand how to get the best out of their players.
It’s an exciting time for English football fandom, and the future looks bright no matter who the next manager is.