Gareth Southgate’s honeymoon period is over… England were shambolic at the back and lacked quality going forward


IT SEEMED a bit harsh that the FA should drag Gareth Southgate to the King Power Stadium — a place where even miracle-working managers are deemed dispensable.

Thursday January 01, 1970

And while no one is suggesting that Southgate will go the way of Claudio Ranieri any time soon, it certainly felt as if his honeymoon period had fallen flat for long passages last night.

Thursday January 01, 1970


Despite winning the Premier League, not even Claudio Ranieri was immune from bring brought back down to earth with a heavy bump[/caption]


Thursday January 01, 1970

The FA took England back on the road, this time to Leicester’s King Power Stadium for the friendly against Switzerland[/caption]

Southgate, of course, has warned that England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals covered up the fact his talent reserves are as deep as a paddling pool.

And the first 45 minutes served as a stark reminder of England’s lack of options as a second string were outclassed by Switzerland.

England were shambolic at the back and while they were brighter going forward, their lack of quality set-piece delivery was glaring in the absence of Kieran Trippier — now one of Southgate’s undoubted key players.

There were only five regular Premier League starters in his line-up and one of those, James Tarkowski, was embarrassingly poor in the centre of the back three.

Getty Images – Getty

Gareth Southgate’s talent reserves are as deep as a paddling pool and the World Cup run masked this[/caption]


James Tarkowski endured a difficult game in the centre of a three-man defence alongside Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire[/caption]

The Burnley man, sadly, is destined to be recalled in years to come in pub discussions about England’s poorest players — along with Michael Ricketts, Ryan Shawcross, Jay Bothroyd and Joey Barton.

When Jack Butland weakly played the ball out to Tarkowski early on and the defender was robbed blind by Xherdan Shaqiri, who only managed to hit a post, the perils of pure passing football with limited players were laid bare.

GIVE US ONE, GAZZA Paul Gascoigne hands out pies to fans as he enjoys England’s clash with Switzerland

It has been a curious international break for Southgate — a 2-1 Nations League defeat by Spain which was not as chastening as many suggested, followed by a face-saving victory which rarely gave cause for encouragement.

England brightened up a little after the break — Marcus Rashford capitalising on some dismal Swiss defending to meet Kyle Walker’s centre with a cushioned volley.

Times Newspapers Ltd

Jay Bothroyd is among the worst players to don the Three Lions shirt, alongside Joey Barton and Michael Ricketts[/caption]


Marcus Rashford spared England’s blushes, volleying in at the back post for his second goal of the international break[/caption]

Then a few of the A-listers — Harry Kane, John Stones, Jesse Lingard and Jordan Henderson — were sent on to steady the ship and avoid a fourth straight defeat which would have been an unwanted national record.

But unless Southgate gambles on unproven teenage talent from the Under-17 World Cup-winning ranks, there are precious few options to fill up his squad. Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle, Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, Michael Keane of Everton or Fulham’s Alfie Mawson might feature at centre-half, while right-back options are plentiful.

Southgate will want Harry Winks playing regularly for Tottenham as he is a midfielder with genuine creative ability.

But in central midfield, up front and in goal, there is remarkably little to sift through.


Southgate turned to Harry Kane, John Stones, Jesse Lingard and Jordan Henderson to ensure the Three Lions avoided a record fourth-straight defeat[/caption]

PA:Press Association

Jamaal Lascelles, Lewis Dunk, Alfie Mawson and Michael Keane could all be in with a chance of a phone call from Southgate next month[/caption]

And that set-piece problem was highlighted when Danny Rose, Rashford and Trent Alexander-Arnold all squandered free-kicks in decent positions in the space of five first-half minutes.

Only 30 per cent of Premier League starters are English and that figure is plunging even as the technical ability of homegrown kids has significantly improved.

After speaking of handing out ‘no easy caps’, Southgate had drafted in two Leicester players — perhaps to help flog the £55 tickets — and handed Ben Chilwell his full international debut as a sub.

Of course it did not help that this was a fixture no one really wanted to play in all that much.


Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell came on to make his senior England debut in front of his own fans[/caption]

Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Danny Rose all wasted free-kick opportunities in the miserable opening 45 minutes
Getty Images – Getty

It was the sort of meaningless friendly which the Nations League was supposed to have done away with and yet there will be an even less appealing one against the USA at Wembley in November.

Players, even those on the fringes for club and country, will have been thinking of impending Premier League fixtures and why anyone would spend £100 to take themselves and a child to this sort of fixture is a remarkable testament to the English sports fans’ ability to watch any old tosh.

Yet still they continuously belted out that Atomic Kitten song — the one about Southgate still turning them on.

Much more of this and they will be reaching for the little blue pills.