Johnnie’s Judgement: England’s latest International fixtures
England could - and should - be better.
The latest round of International fixtures have come and gone and with that another round of ‘Southgate out’ comments sprung up.
Now I’ll be honest, after the Ukraine game, I was in that camp. But given the Scotland game was a vast improvement, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
England have a world-class squad with some of the best players around, yet too many of them consistently underperform in every occasion.
Yes, they have experienced more success in recent tournaments than that of the Golden Generation. But when you get results like the one last Saturday, I find it hard to believe they weren’t just luck.
England vs Ukraine
Let's get this one out the way. This game was terrible. Given the quality of players we have, to go out there and show no real creativity, relying on the striker to drop back and make something happen, it was pretty pathetic really.
I’m not saying Ukraine is an easy side to come up against. They’ve got some great talents in their side, their goalscorer on the night in particular. But for what England has, they should have been able to handle that game.
It feels like their is no real direction from the sideline, as if the man who is meant to be organising the team just leaves it for the captain to sort out.
The lineup was terrible to start with, and when Bellingham started shifting further out wide, being isolated from the game as he was obviously instructed to go there, I was very much on the ‘Southgate out’ train.
England vs Scotland
This was better. Not a great performance, just good. It was the result that they should’ve been getting and they looked fairly comfortable in getting it (bar the slight scare when the Maguire own goal went in).
The lineup selection this time was much better. I personally think a 4-2-3-1 works better for the team than the 4-3-3. It feels more as though the wide players and the midfielders can play better together.
Maddison was used out wide when he started against Ukraine and that proved to be the wrong decision. Play him in the middle in a 4-2-3-1 and he would excel.
Overall, this was a better performance and showed more of what many of the players can do together when they’re able to play closer to each other.
England in qualifiers & friendlies vs in tournaments
Let’s go back to that luck comment because I know there’ll be some scrunched-up faces after that.
I don’t mean luck as in they didn’t deserve to make the World Cup Semi-finals in 2018 or the Euros final in 2021. It’s just when you look at how they perform outside of these tournaments, it feels like a completely different squad.
Yes, the stakes are nowhere near as high and you’d rather it be this way. And yes the more lacklustre performances in these qualifiers and friendlies will be down to the players’ club teams not wanting them to do too much in these lesser meaningful games.
But you’d imagine they’d want to show some heart. For some of the players it looks like playing for England is a chore, and to me that comes down to the management.
England & Southgate’s selections
Every time Internationals roll around, you can bet your life savings on three players to be selected; Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, and Harry bloody Maguire.
Kane and Bellingham are probably the first names on the sheet as if they are as permanent as the FA watermark on the paper, and there are plenty more that are usually guaranteed.
But how and why players like Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips still get in over the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Jarrod Bowen or Solly March escapes me.
Those guys were great in past tournaments, but in 2023 they have no business being in the England side, especially when there are plenty of other players who are playing regular minutes in the Premier League and are putting in good performances week in week out.
Southgate often seems clueless in his decision-making, and that comes across in the brand of football his team plays.
While I may not be in the ‘Southgate out’ camp right now, I am very much looking forward to his contract being up next summer and for someone else to step in and show everyone what England really can do.