As a World Cup semi-finalist, England could confidently enter the duel in Spain. Instead, once again there is a discussion about the supposedly missing director. Coach Southgate has already found him.
The lack of a winter break was long regarded on the island as one of the main reasons for the national team’s constant failures at major tournaments. After England’s fourth place in Russia, nobody mentioned the evil W word any more, but national coach Gareth Southgate‘s annoyance now goes to another peculiarity of the British game calendar: the summer break was too short for him.
The Premier League started for no apparent reason on 10 August, 27 days after England’s defeat to Belgium in the game for third place. “Maybe everyone had thought we’d be back by the end of June,” Southgate said dryly, “so it was very difficult for all the clubs”.
For him, too, of course. In the Nations-League away match against Spain on Monday evening, the 48-year-old will have to do without the injured Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli, Fabian Delph, Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck. The coach complained that regular players like Harry Kane lacked “psychological freshness” due to the high stress.
Fabian Delph Honours
- Football League Cup runner-up: 2009–10
- FA Cup runner-up: 2014–15
- Premier League: 2017–18
- FIFA World Cup fourth place: 2018
As if Kane of Brexite melancholy were stuck in his socks
Kane, the only world-class man in Southgate’s squad of half stars and juniors, has indeed been waiting for a goal for six international matches and has recently seemed so desperately sluggish, as if the Brexite melancholy of the entire kingdom were in his pocket.
According to his superior, the 25-year-old will not only score in Seville in the evening, but will also be able to get the Spanish rhythm maker Sergio Busquets off his knees with brash pressing. Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, who made an appealing debut at the 0-0 in Croatia for thirteen minutes, will not support him from the start – “we should suppress the hype,” Southgate said – but he will come into play later. The coach gave him a replacement guarantee.
Southgate changed to a 4-3-3 basic order after the world championship, in order to exert more active and earlier pressure on the opponent. But without the figurehead Kane in top mental and physical form, England will be facing 90 extremely difficult minutes at the Estadio Benito Villamarín. Luis Enrique‘s side had already withheld the ball from the Three Lions at headquarters at times when they won 2-1 away at Wembley a month ago.
A similar fate threatens in the evening – and with it also a new reference to the basic problem of the English selection that has existed since time immemorial: They can’t beat technically mature top teams to push through their game, which lives on massive individual moments. This was not even possible on Friday evening in the goalless ghost game in Rijeka against Croatia; the revenge for the World Cup outing in the semi-finals was cancelled.
Spain, in particular, regularly reveal England’s problems in controlling and directing games with provocative ease. Since the middle of the last decade, when the Iberians devoted themselves entirely to combination football, they have beaten the British five times in seven games since 2004 and lost only one match: a friendly match in 2011, a highly unfortunate 0-1 draw.
The debate about the missing type of director and ball distributor, which is repeated after every defeat in England, is started before the kick-off in the general expectation of an unproductive trip to Andalusia. There is a tremendous longing for a creative genius from Paul Gascoignes.
Southgate: “Winks sees the big picture”
Southgate, however, have no Gazza at their disposal, he is hoping for Harry Winks of Tottenham Hotspur, who in the Champions League matches against Real Madrid and Barcelona at least hinted that he could bring playing culture to the pitch. “He’s very good at connecting the parts of the team, he sees the big picture,” said England’s coach. Read here to know the bonuses and promotions of 21Prive!
In the discussion about the design deficit, it is often overlooked that passing is a collective quality. Mauricio Pochettinos Tottenham has the ball running because the rooms are well occupied. In the national team, Southgate has not yet been able to build up any comparative structures. His team can’t really decide at the moment, based on the unequally distributed abilities of their players, whether they should run over the opponents with a daredevil élan or rather counter from a secure defensive.
Between these two poles, in the modern age of football, every English national coach has rubbed his feet faster or slower. Even if the break in summer was a little longer.