International management is no longer the lure of years ago. The greatest coaches in world football wish to remain on the training ground day to day, not sat in the stands watching football.
As Gareth Southgate leads his teams final preparations before heading to Wembley on Sunday, he deserves massive praise for his management. In a strange period of time, and indeed football, this competition has lived up to expectations, and some. We have seen fallen giants, remarkable goals & sadly, utter devastation.
The management of any national team must be a trying one, especially for Southgate, who is still a relative novice. I can imagine certain players at certain clubs show absolute faith with their full time boss, and Southgate has found a means to handle these short periods, he spends with his players. With millions of arm chair managers throughout the fan base, Southgate has remained very steadfast in his decisions. His honesty and likability is a rare commodity, with many international managers either jaded from long careers, or simply unliked. Pundits and the fan base alike have little to grumble about this summer, with Southgate’s learning curve showing real signs of ultimate success. With a tendency to both switch up players and systems, it has surely kept all the players on their toes this last month. There will always be bias for certain players, but even the most obvious of debates will always be dispelled with England’s tournament success.
With Roberto Mancini having a fine Euro’s, Southgate cannot be far behind in his own achievements this summer. The use of the squad, matching up Germany and the joy of Ukraine’s hiding, all showed varying facets of in-game management. The remarks of Roy Keane were ignored, as Jordan Henderson used varying amounts of minutes to improve his chronic load. With the end game in sight, the benefits of having a serial winner ready to start (if required), warrants the faith he was shown. Equally so with Harry Maguire, Southgate took the expanded squad size as an opportunity to bring valuable players (who had injuries), that has clearly paid off.
The raised eyebrows on four right backs is well forgotten, with the unlucky Trent Alexander Arnold missing out through injury. The replacement (Ben White), has not been seen, thus the ‘wild card’ picks have most certainly been justified. The squad picked could never satisfy everyone, but Southgate is doing wonderful things with his young lions, with possibly the best yet to come.
Euro 2020 saw number of usable substitutes raised to five (as the Champions League), and it is something that can either make or break the fluidity of a team. To introduce too soon, or especially too late, can lead to spilt tea up and down the country. Against the valiant Danes, it seemed obvious that changes were needed as we approached and passed the 80th minute. Yet Southgate was clearly intent on letting Denmark show their full hand, before he made his more significant changes. Grealish coming on earlier in the game was a more like for like, that would not have impacted detrimentally.
Jordan Henderson entered the fray for Kalvin Phillips just after Denmark’s final changes. The switch brought into the match a man who has encountered many a tense situation. The Liverpool mentality monsters have played The very best and won, countless time. This added experience to guide some of the team through uncharted waters, seemed to calm the final stages. Phil Foden entering the game for Mason Mount showed a willingness to attack the Danes in extra time, and both substitutes worked perfectly.
Where it’s always controversial to remove a substitute, the Trippier introduction needs to be looked upon with care. Leaving a dangerous Raheem Sterling on, allowed him to continually drive at the tiring Danes. His education under Pep Guardiola added that big game experience, that Grealish simply lacks. His own introduction was to disrupt and add genius to a stagnating game, and once the lead was assured, the players that have ‘been there and done it’ were needed to close out the game. It would have been easy to remove Sterling, however Southgate backed his choice. To justify his decision, Sterling was a tormentor and clock killer until the end.
Sunday will represent a potential moment for glory, and Southgate will need to consider his initial selection carefully. However he sets up will need to allow for the later later changes off the bench. The on field duel will not be standalone, as Southgate will be vying with Mancini to make sure his in game alterations are sound. The substitute increase should remain in my opinion, as it allows many more twists and turns throughout the entirety of games.
A closer look at Southgate and his enviable squad, point to a possible period of success for England. That glory run could well start Sunday, if Southgate once again excels.