We are all Better Managers than Southgate!

Posted on November 26, 2022

After England lost 0-0 the USA last night, it became apparent to me that we are all better football managers than Gareth Southgate. All of us armchair fans would have started with Phil Foden and Jack Grealish and England would have won 5-0. It’s that simple.

It’s Not that Simple

Of course, it’s not that simple as not many of us are qualified coaches. Add to that the fact we are not seeing the players train and it makes our assumptions a bit amateurish. Still, we are living in the era of expertise being discounted, so we should all be allowed an opinion. Here is mine.

Firstly, I don’t think Southgate wants to lose football matches. So, lets assume there is some method behind his apparent madness. It appears to me that Southgate believes that the best chance of success comes via the elimination of risk. Hopefully, you all agree at this point.

The Consistency Risk

I am assuming he believes that having a team of 6/10 players is more reliable than carrying a couple of flamboyant superstars who he feels, come with risk. Players who could be 9/10 or 2/10 are not part of the plan and can only be utilised when the 6/10 players are wobbling.

This is not an alien plan. It has been utilised by teams like Athletico Madrid and to an extent, Liverpool (think Milner and Henderson). Juergen Klopp and his coaches may use the sporting equivalent of ‘The O Ring Theory’ but there is little doubt he would love Foden in his team, if not Grealish. That’s why his omission from the England team seems so bizarre. Perhaps he being held back or is not training well?

The USA are Quite Good

The other thing worth mentioning is that we assume that if our players are all in the Premiership and not all our opponents players are, we should thrash them. It is obviously not as easy as that and the USA were a strong and athletic team. With a top class striker, they would probably have won the game.

England have to earn the right to be better than the opposition. On this occasion Southgate was apparently more concerned with ensuring England didn’t lose. Rightly or wrongly, he decided the risk of losing was higher if England went for a flamboyant eye pleasing victory. In fairness, he knew a draw kept England in control of the group whilst defeat would have left the final game laced with jeopardy.

The Defence

The problem, I think, is by going with this low risk strategy, you need a fearsome defence. England hardly have a defence to compare with the old Italian sides of yesteryear. Both John Stones and Harry Maguire have potential errors in them in big games, so suddenly, the minimal risk strategy looks flawed. Personally, I think with what England have a their disposal, attack is the best form of defence. However, I’m just another bloke in the pub with a simplified viewpoint.

All the homework and calculations that Southgate’s team do, must point to pragmatism outweighing flamboyance as a route to success. So, I guess we have to see how it pans out in the knock-out stages. If we take the emotion out of it all, with one game to go in the group stage, England have to get pumped 4-0 by Wales to be eliminated.

Favourites, Argentina, would love to be in that position.

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