As we approach what should be the start of the World Cup, football fans were instead treated to a Nation’s League quadruple header. Qatar’s warm climate means football’s biggest tournament has been put on hold until November, coming at a great time for some teams, and more difficult ones for others. The domestic season will likely take a backseat in its opening months, but in the case of the England national team, it’s a chance for players to earn their stripes after some poor results.
Indeed, since losing the final of Euro 2020 in heart-breaking fashion to Italy, Gareth Southgate’s side have been on the decline. Disjointed and lacking identity, the recent 4-0 loss to Hungary at Molineux was the final nail in the coffin for some fans, who after booing their side off in the West Midlands are calling for change ahead of the trip to Qatar. Two consecutive losses as well as the penalty shootout defeat to the Italians have overshadowed a solid tenure for Southgate, who despite not winning a trophy has come closest since the World Cup in 1966 and built a winning culture with harmony amongst its best players.
Regardless, Southgate is skating on thin ice, and it will be difficult to replicate the form they showed in Russia 2018, where an extra-time goal meant they lost 2-1 to Croatia in the semi-finals. Since then, England have struggled to find a system that has suited them, with the spine of that team ageing and new faces coming in. They may have cruised through qualifying for Qatar but have struggled in the Nations League, failing to live up to their status as one of the favourites on the Betdaq betting exchange.
Southgate has insisted he won’t overstay his welcome and with such short notice before the tournament it’s unlikely a replacement will come in. However, many have touted Graham Potter for the job, with the Brighton manager the number one candidate if Southgate walks — something he hinted at before.
“I’ve got to manage in the way I see fit. I won’t outstay my welcome but I think I can do a good job for the team, and I think we’ve done a good job for the team.” He added: “I think we’ll continue to improve the team, which we have done over a consistent period of time, and we’re also developing young players that will leave England in a good place for a long period to come.”
Potter has demonstrated how tactically astute he can be by guiding Brighton to safety with relative ease on more than one occasion. The Seagulls play an attractive brand of football and Potter’s man-management appears to be second to none, with the Englishman a popular figure on the south coast with former internationals like Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck.
While Potter is often praised for his recruitment at Brighton, especially working on a tighter budget than most others in the league, he will have a pool of much more talented players to choose from at St. George’s Park, with a plethora of attacking talent as versatile as they are exuberant.
Indeed, the challenge will be finding a system that suits the likes of Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho, while integrating them with more experienced internationals like Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson. Then there is finding a way to plug the holes in defence, with John Stones and Harry Maguire’s partnership proving harder to justify with each high-profile error, especially when you consider Joe Gomez and Fikayo Tomori are waiting in the ranks.
Southgate’s days appears to be numbered, and it will be interesting to see if Potter is the man to take the Three Lions forward, especially given his reluctance to commit to a future at Brighton so far. We may have to wait until the end of the year to see if either of them can really make football come home.