Football

Gareth Southgate: A Good Talker That Lacks The Know-How Needed To Win

Gareth Southgate: A Good Talker That Lacks The Know-How Needed To Win

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been bombarded with pieces that have told us how Gareth Southgate has changed the culture around the England team.

Be it the way he speaks to players, his philosophy when it comes to ensuring they all feel involved, or his obsessiveness with the small details, he certainly brings a different perspective as England manager in comparison to most of his predecessors.

In the buildup to last night's Euro 2020 final, English fans viewing the team's performances did so with rose tinted glasses. After all, the result is the only thing that matters in tournament football and up until that point England had managed to get the job done.

The football wasn't great, they lacked imagination, but they were winning. The end justified the means.

It has been outlined how Gareth Southgate looked back at the exploits of Portugal and France in the Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup respectively and came to one conclusion: defensively minded teams win tournaments.

This would be his template for Euro 2020, regardless of the squad at his disposal.

In the end, it may well have cost his team a first tournament win in over half a century.

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Gareth Southgate brings some excellent qualities to the England job.

He understands this generation of player, something that is becoming ever more important as a football manager. He has their respect and treats them as an equal. You can see how much that squad respects him as a result.

He also largely says the right things in the media. There is never a target on his back as a result of some ill-informed quote or because he said something out of turn. He is a PR department's dream, and as we know all too well, having a good standing in the media is half the battle when it comes to coaching England.

He is a leader. The way in which he gathered his players around for a motivational speech after last night's devastating penalty shootout loss spoke volumes.

However, that entire game his made potentially fatal flaws brutally obvious.

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It would not be misleading to suggest that England's draw in the tournament leading up to the final was perhaps the defining aspect of the feel good factor around the team.

A very winnable group, coupled with games against a wilting Germany, a staggeringly poor Ukraine, and a depleted Denmark is about as friendly as you are going to get in a European Championships.

England got the job done against all of them, but it was often far from impressive. That didn't matter to fans at the time, although it should now be clear in retrospect with the emotion drained from the occasion.

In many ways, England advanced this far in spite of Gareth Southgate, not because of him.

It was painfully clear that his tactics were woefully ill equipped to deal with the Italians last night. After being handed a dream start through Luke Shaw's early goal, the team failed to capitalise on it.

They essentially declared their lot with 80 minutes of the game still to go, daring Italy to break them down.

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They struggled to do so in the first half. However, Roberto Mancini's subtle tactical changes at the interval meant his team would dominate the next 45 minutes. A goal was inevitable.

Unlike his managerial counterpart, Gareth Southgate completely failed to respond to what was happening on the pitch.

We have heard so much about how the former Middlesborough is obsessed with the minor details ahead of every game. Everything is planned, analytically driven, and crafted to suit the match ahead.

Where Southgate's failings come into the picture is how he fails to react when the various scenarios he has drawn up in his head fail to play out how he had anticipated.

In short, his in-game management is absolutely abysmal.

This was perhaps best evidenced by the shootout itself. Southgate took full responsibility for the five takers, something he said had been essentially decided before the game. After all, England had gone through great lengths to practice this very scenario.

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We are not privy to the details that resulted in the order of takers. Perhaps it was driven by data.

What we do know is there seemed to be a lack of understanding of the situation. Allowing a 19-year old player who had never taken a penalty in his senior career be in line for the fifth penalty is disastrous.

Southgate's pre-game plans told him one thing, common sense would tell you another. Just as in the previous 120 minutes, he failed to react. He was found out.

In a vacuum, this is far from a poor tournament showing from England. They reached their first major final in 55 years and came within a few kicks of a ball of winning the whole thing.

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However, if you dig beyond the surface it is clear they should have done more.

Armed with a kind draw, home advantage, and arguably the best squad in the tournament, they were crippled by Southgate's lack of imagination.

Instead of crafting a game plan that would make the most of the country's phenomenal attacking talents, he simply followed a blueprint that others had found success from. The result was a stale, defensively minded England team that failed to utilise their most valuable assets.

He wanted England to be like France. He didn't have the know-how to make England be the best version of themselves.

No amount of good PR can change that.

SEE ALSO: Jack Grealish Hits Back At Roy Keane Over Penalty Accusation

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Gary Connaughton

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