England’s two games at Wembley were a pair of standard Southgate boreathons, that saw them bore Australia and Italy to wins, the latter to seal qualifications for Euro ’24.
Euro ’24 qualifier, packed Wembley against the team that beat England in the last final and for the vast majority of the game it could have taken place in a library with the strictest librarian in history. Hell, it made the Woolwich library sound raucous.
The previous friendly against Australia was tedious, as Southgate put out his non-favourites to scrape a one nil victory over the shackle draggers. People getting overexcited about Grealish laying on the goal for Watkins when the former was one of the main problems on the night, as he repeatedly slowed everything down, allowing Australia to get back and defend him cutting inside yet again.
Then Gareth was back to his favourites for the meaningful game. Ah yes, I’m only going to pick fit, in form players who are playing for their club. As Southgate crowbars in his favourites, who aren’t fit, aren’t playing for their club, or who play for their club in their actual position not where Gareth picks them.
So we have Stones, Maguire and Phillips starting, while probably the best right back England have at the moment is playing at left back. A position that he’s shown time and time again when Southgate picks him, doesn’t work. But maybe it works for Southgate because Trippier always ends up so positioned that his only option is a pass back, and Southgate loves his team doing that.
In qualifying only one third of Trippier’s passes have gone forward.But then when you figure that Southgate picks Walker at right back and it’s only about 25% of his passes that go forward maybe Trippier is too adventurous for Southgate.
You knew Stones and Maguire would start, what else would Southgate do. Phillips was probably more of a surprise. The City player could quite have easily seen red very early on and was lucky not to see two yellows, on a number of occasions, before Southgate saw fit to sub him before the inevitable. And the fault there lies squarely with Southgate. Phillips was trying too hard to justify his position, after so many questioned it, Southgate setting him up to fail with so little game time these last couple of seasons.
So we had England passing the ball back in front of a quiet Wembley before Italy opened the scoring 15 minutes in. A good move down England’s left, good running, excellent pass through the channel and then cross saw the striker all on his lonesome in the middle of the box to knock in the opener. With Stones standing arms open looking for someone to blame.
Italy saw in that goal exactly how to beat England. It wasn’t a difficult thing to figure out, it nearly paid dividends a little later. But then they stopped. And no crosses from the byline came again.
They paid for their stupidity in not repeating a winning formula. First off with a stupid foul on Bellingham, for Kane to score his customary penalty. Then later St Bellingham on the break played the ball to Rashford, a poor ball that made Rashford have to stop but as soon as St. Marcus picked the ball up you knew he had nothing in his mind but a shot – the main problem with Southgate’s favourites, there’s no creative link between back and front, while most of the front players are looking out for personal glory and want to take shots themselves rather than play someone else in, such as Kane wide open at the back stick.
Phillips made way for Henderson with 20 minutes to go. Channel 4 were quick to point it that Henderson came on to cheers. Cheers from where? Channel 4’s sound department or the Wembley sound dept.
When you take out his sub and the goals there was very little other sound emanating from the crowd. It’s not like Donanrumma had much to do on the night.
There was one more goal. I bet Kane wouldn’t have got so much praise for this one – as well as the pen – if he was still a Spurs player. It was a cracker. I mean look at the media reaction when Kane went down after having his face/eyes gouged against Everton. Talk of diving and milking it. Yet, when St Bellingham gets push by an Italian player and goes down screaming holding his face and rolling about, they just laugh it off.
That would be the same media that talked this rubbish up and are now telling us England can win the Euros. Well, when you look at the state of European national teams right now they probably could. It’s dire.
Thankfully it shouldn’t be on Channel 4, though no doubt the BBC will get chief Southgate cheerleader Dion Dublin in from C4. How many times through all these games has Dublin told us England need to up the pace, while watching England not up the pace but still tell us how great England were?
Southgate has the players, just he won’t pick ’em and if he does he plays em out of position.