By Chima Azu

England national team has qualified for the round of sixteen at the Euros 2024, but it has not been a smooth sailing ride in the competition. The Three Lions had five points which was enough to qualify them after three games played (two draws and one win). In those games they scored just two goals and conceded one.

Also, the last five games prior to the Euros, they lost two, won one and drew two while conceding five goals. Although Southgate is the longest serving coach and has brought them close to winning a trophy which has eluded them for decades by getting to the World Cup semifinal (2018) and the final of the Euros (2022); he currently seems out of sorts tactically and it is affecting the team’s performance and results.

Furthermore, for a country that is blessed with so much talent, it is shocking seeing the team play such abysmally in the past few months and also in the ongoing Euros. He has been the coach of the national team for eight years but there is still no clear cut pattern of play that you can identify the team with. When England play against a top team, Southgate always sets up the team to be more conservative and on many occasion it backfires.

One of the many criticisms against him is that he plays certain players out of position and keeps those that could impactful on the bench. A very good example is in the first two games against Serbia and Denmark where he played Arnold a right back in the midfield, Trippier a right back in the left back position. Also, Foden who was the EPL player of the season for 2023/2024 is playing on the right wing for Manchester City and he scored 19 goals with 8 assists, the coach playing him on the left. While he leaves players like Eze, Gordon who can natural thrive in the left wing position on the bench. Additionally, Cole Palmer who had over 22 goals, and 11 assist for Chelsea is being left on the bench in a team that lacks creativity and is struggling for goals.

Southgate’s style of play also calls for concern, the modern game has evolved and teams now start their play from the goalkeeper. Only Toni Kroos (a midfielder) has played more long balls than Pickford and that doesn’t help the team to keep possession of the ball because he is not good with passing out from the back. Why not start a goalkeeper that can help build play and keep possession, but rather he prefers using Pickford.

Conclusively, the earlier Southgate tweaks his formation, makes necessary changes by fielding players in their preferred position before they face a top team, the better their chances of winning the much eluded trophy.

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