or the drivel from the commentary box.
Clueless Southgate produced another clueless managerial performance, getting lucky, again, as a bunch of third division Welsh players lost 3-0 in the forced friendly, that was as dull as Southgate and Giggs put together, unbeknownst to the commentators who were just talking amongst themselves.
Gareth is sticking the the not working formula. Gareth is sitting watching the formula not work and sticking with. Gareth is getting away with it, with his mates in the TV studios and the rest of the media.
Gareth, it’s Wales. A bunch of third division journeykids. And Gareth neuters England in a meaningless friendly. Southgate praises players but you figure it’s through gritted teeth. They keep saying that it’s “a good headache to have” for a manager when a player comes in and puts his hand up with a decent performance. But it’s not what Southgate wants, his hand was forced with regards to selection after players ruled themselves out through stupidity and the fact there’s two actual real games coming up. He didn’t want to pick ’em and he didn’t really want ’em to succeed, he has his favourites he doesn’t want to have to make a choice.
So you have a 3-4-3 formation, where the centre-backs are so often all in their own penalty area, the wing-backs are fullbacks, so it’s a back five, while the midfield pair are not getting anywhere near the centre circle, never mind getting into the opposition half. While the front three are completely isolated with no service whatsoever.
Grealish is a number 10, so said Southgate, he does want to play him there because if he performs there’ll be even more clamour for the Villa man to play and who would he have to drop? Sterling? So play Grealish wide left where he won’t be able to influence the game, especially with having to track back to cover his fullback.
He had to go find the game and when he did England clicked. Though in the end the game plan seemed to be play for a foul on Grealish. But even then most of the time set pieces in the Welsh half quickly found the ball in the England half.
England only produced two moments of actual football in the first half. The first when Ings played Calvert-Lewin through, into the box. But with nobody else about, Winks and Phillips still on the edge of their own box, the Everton man could do very little but tamely pass it to the keeper. The second brought the opening goal. Grealish, going right to actually touch the ball, shake and baked the man who would spend most game kicking him and put the perfect cross onto the head of Calvert-Lewin, who couldn’t have been more alone if he was Ryan Giggs at his brother’s birthday party and couldn’t miss.
Southgate saw this all not working and sent the same lot out for the second half. Saw this not working for the second game running after doing the same against Denmark. Winks isn’t an upgrade on Rice. It’s a like for like. Though nobody does sideways quite like Winks. The only time he passed it forward he unswervingly picked out the England player with a man on.
Never in the field of human football has so many inconsequential passes been played by so few.
Well that was until Reece James – shouldn’t he be playing for Wales? – came on, just knocking on the hour. He played the rest of the game facing backwards and passing backwards. He’d replaced captain for the night Keiran Trippier. Trippier had a nothing first half but put in the perfect free-kick for England’s second and the second first time scorer on the night. Coady. Coady had spurned an earlier chance but he took this one well, as Trippier arced the ball across the face of the goal, just far enough away from the keeper to have him hesitating, while defence did their Red Sea impersonation again. Two decent deliveries and two good goals.
The third was again a first England goal. Ings who had worked tirelessly without any service was on hand, again with no defenders around him, to overhead kick Mings knock-back from a corner.
I’m surprised the ITV commentators noticed any of the goals. They decided that three were required for balance. So a third rate ex-Welsh player was added to Lee Dixon and the new man to replace Clive “that night in Barcelona” Tyldesley. They spent most of the night chatting about anything but the game. Days of yore and Grealish’s calves.
But then it was a damn dull game made so by a damn dull manager.