Gareth Southgate’s plan to go all out attack fell at the first hurdle with two dropped points at home in the World Cup qualifier against Hungary.
Before this latest round of World Cup qualifiers I was reading that England needed to move from two defensive midfielders that Southgate has preferred, because it didn’t work against Italy in the Euro final. He needed to field a number 8 and that mason mount was the player to be that number 8.
After the first game of this international break, against the might of Andorra, we were then told that Phil Foden was the player for that role. These two we were told would have been the answer to Italy’s midfield dominance in that final.
So Southgate chose the game against Hungary to test this and it failed, failed miserably, but Southgate couldn’t admit where it failed and chose to replace other players. It failed against Hungary, who were excellently organised and far more up for it than in the previous game between the pair. As their formation stifled any real creativity from England. If Foden can’t get the time and space to play those diagonals into the box against Hungary how will he manage against better teams? And those diagonals didn’t work so much against Hungary, so again against better teams. Without the ball Hungary pressed England well. Their formation was well chosen.
The problem for Hungary, who could quite have easily won for the first time against England in nearly 60 years, was with the ball they played a bit like England try. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. They kept playing themselves into danger by fannying about at the back from goal-kicks. Sideways balls. At times though they brought on England enough, to create that space behind the press, to get through, unlike England. They moved the ball through the midfield with ease but once it got to the forward three it fell apart somewhat. Like England a lot of slowing down, dithering, indecision and no end product, when they could be through on goal.
Their opener came from a good attack, a cross in was blocked by Shaw but he couldn’t control the ball and with it up in the air he went to boot it, while the Hungarian went with the head. Boot hits head and it’s dangerous play. There’s no question. The Hungarian put the pen away perfectly. Shaw was booked and lucky to stay on the park, when he should have received a second yellow for a cynical pull back and foul of the Hungarian wing-back.
England got back level shortly after, when Grealish was fouled and Stones scored from Foden’s set piece. The only good thing about that was it stopped Sterling scoring, though it would have been interesting to see what match day scores he would have got if he had. Because along with Foden and Mount he did next to nothing. Butchered a couple of chances early on and then dawdled on a great through ball from Kane, which let the keeper take it off him with ease. Most of the night the Hungarians took the ball off him with ease.
He looked to be in a strop because he was out on the right again, Grealish having taken his England spot as well as his club spot. Stayed out there and did very little. it was a surprise though that even with how useless he was he was taken off by Southgate after 76 minutes. Southgate also took Kane off at this point. I wonder which country Kane wants to transfer to. He looked about as interested in this game as he does for Spurs in the league, these days.
Grealish has found that thing he had to do more for Southgate is sign that Man City contract but it still didn’t stop him being the first brought off and just an hour. Grealish didn’t look happy as he went off and sat in the stands, while Southgate didn’t seem to acknowledge him as he went off.
He was the only creative outlet for England and it was ridiculous that for the next half an hour Mount and Foden stayed on and he wasn’t there, just as the Hungarians had finally dropped off pressing him so much. Mount in particular was useless. Ran around, did nothing. All the talk about his recycling the ball reminds me of another waste of space, Winks.
But Southgate was sticking with his new number 8s and neither will have the likes of Italy shaking in their boots.
In the end England were lucky to get away with a draw as they missed a glorious chance very late on. England doing that fannying about at the back, Walker playing out the equally useless Henderson playing it straight back to him, he plays it to Saka who just tries to block off the man on him but only succeeds in losing the ball, from there the Hungarian sub should have done better with his attempt, which flew over the bar.
So where does Southgate go from here? Two holding midfielders doesn’t really work. His number 8s don’t work. His strikers don’t work…