10 Risky Decisions that Gareth Southgate got right (including using Saka)

What Gareth Southgate has done in the last month is show us the difference between an international and club manager.

Would I have him at Arsenal?  No way.

Nor could I see him at any of the top sides.

When it comes to coaching his country though, the 50year old has shown he understands what is required.

He uses his intelligence to be friendly with the media, create a positive vibe within his squad and instead of fighting pressure from fans, accepting it’s part of the job.

As a former player, he’s witnessed the likes of Terry Venables, Kevin Keegan, Glen Hoddle and Sven Goran Eriksen be peer pressured by outside opinions.

It led to selections being based on reputations not form, talent picked even if not fit and star names forced into a formation instead of what formation was best for the overall team.

Southgate admitted a couple of weeks ago he has so many options he will upset someone with his choices.

By accepting that’s unavoidable in the days of social media, he’s killed the issue dead in his tracks.

While some want to debate every aspect of every decision, the boss simply won’t engage.

So when it’s pondered who’s surprised us the most this tournament, it’s got to be Southgate.

For decades, the over analysing has put me off the Euros and World Cups. Southgate has made that a thing of the past.

He has his ideas and is willing to live and die by them.

It’s unusual though that a manager can keep going against the grain and get every call spot on ………


Here are 10 Times Southgate Got Decisions Spot On


10 – 4 Right Backs

It started when our squad was announced. Choosing 4 right backs became a meme but there were some fans who took the decision very serious.

Some (and the press) saw this as a sign of weakness.

That by taking so many full backs he was simply avoiding the hard task of dropping two very good players, saving himself from any scrutiny.

In reality Southgate always insisted he viewed each as good footballers who all had their own strengths.

It’s also worth recalling that Southgate was vocally against UEFA’s late decision to increase how many players each nation could register.

So now with extra spots not planned for, why not take two more defenders?

Three weeks on, he’s backed up his words.

Trippier, Walker and James have all played and only injury cost Arnold.

In the case of Walker and Tripper they have featured in more than one position.


9- Trippier left back

Again some used this as a meme, others got way too angry.

Southgate was accused of starting the tournament with Trippier at left back purely to prove his point that his right backs were versatile.

The argument here was surely a right back wasn’t as good as a Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell?

Southgate ‘s reasoning was he trusted Trippier more defensively (to help Mings) feeling that Croatia wasn’t the ideal fixture for attacking full backs.

We kept a clean sheet, so it worked.


8- Maguire and Henderson

Many felt Southgate was a Hypocrite by picking two players not 100 percent fit.

It contradicted earlier statements he had made in his reign.

Again though, with UEFA allowing increased squads, Southgate took a gamble he may not have made if he could only have picked the original 23.

He gambled by essentially allowing both to recover during the group stages hoping they would be ready for the knockout rounds.

Many questioned how Maguire could be trusted to come out from the cold and suddenly play against top level opposition like Germany.

The defender has played his part in 3 consecutive clean sheets, eventually conceding a goal against Denmark


7- Sterling

Don’t be fooled even if we end 55 years of hurt this weekend. Not all England fans deserve to see that honour.

Many didn’t want Sterling in the starting line-up against Croatia. I know some who went as far as not having him in their squad period.

That’s fine, it’s an opinion.

Some though have been vile and nasty towards Sterling and have been for years.

After our draw with Scotland, the winger was subjected to racial abuse online, something that has happened far too often.

Having not had his best season with Man City, previous managers would have bowed to public pressure, especially with our other options. Southgate has kept faith though and been rewarded with 3 goals and 2 assists.


6- Foden/Grealish

Many wanted Southgate to build his team around these two but feared it wasn’t in his conservative nature.

The two youngsters had great seasons, but their development meant breaking up the system that had been used in qualifying, essentially two wingers with pace running beyond Kane.

I heard some say it would be a sackable offence to be leaving that kind of talent on the bench.

As things stand though, Grealish has started once while Foden has started just twice.

The increase of 5 subs (and 1 more in extra time) means the manager sees them just as valuable as impact players.


5- Kane

To highlight how much some fans overreact, some wanted Kane to be dropped after two games gone.

Yet to score, some felt our captain was tired, others questioned his mentality.

His future at Spurs was even questioned as a reason for a loss of form.

Like Terry Venables once famously did with an Alan Shearer, Southgate made it clear that Kane was his first-choice striker and was in zero danger of that changing.

His skipper has responded with 4 goals.


4- Sancho

It wasn’t just English fans stunned that a player Man United paid 72 million for wasn’t even making our bench.

The German media were even more amazed given the winger’s form for Dortmund.

By the time he started against Ukraine. 5 other wingers had already played.

Southgate had always insisted though that certain fixtures suited certain style of players.

He said he picked Sancho in the quarter finals due to wanting a right footed player.


3- Saka

After the stalemate with Scotland, there was pressure for Southgate to freshen up his attack.

Many were shocked to see Saka picked ahead of a Rashford, Foden or Sancho to start against the Czech Republic.

Saka was arguably the best player that night, but it was assumed Foden would come back in for the clash with Germany.

Proving he rewards form not reputation, the teenager was trusted to start in the knockout stages and was fearless.

Saka could now start in the Final.


2-. Late subs

An increasing theme (and could be vital Sunday) is a team’s ability to make 5 subs (and 1 extra in extra time).

Changing half of your outfield can be beneficial when you have the options England have on their bench.

Proving he had researched his opposition, there was a ruthlessness about our tactics in midweek.

Denmark had earnt a reputation for being a side who tired in the second half.

After 90 Minutes, they had used 5 subs to England’s 1.

Meaning with half an hour left, Southgate had the fresh legs of a Foden, Sancho, Rashford, etc to bring on against tired legs.


1- Subbing the sub

Grealish got a huge ovation when he was brought on Wednesday.

Having gone 2-1 up, would any England boss previously been brave enough to take off the fan favourite?

Knowing the headlines had the Danes equalised after he made a defensive switch, Southgate stuck by his principle no matter how unpopular.

He views Grealish’s weakness being his desire to track back and help.

He didn’t need his strengths anymore because his team had the lead.


The fear is that law of averages Southgate is due a big decision to go wrong.

You know he will have a specific plan for Italy and again might have specific players in mind to suit his tactics.

The danger is he over complicates things.

Whatever happens though, Southgate will not be influenced by anyone else’s point of view.


Be Kind In The Comments



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  1. So so proud of EMI Martinez, the boy had a clear vision, he keeps saying he wants to be Argentina number 1 and wants to win trophy with his national team and he did. Congratulations to him.

    1. The boy Is top notch
      I am sure without him auba alone wouldn’t have won us the fa cup.
      But are you allowed to talk about an Aston villa player at this platform
      Comment soon to be terminated

      1. Pepe he is fast becoming a world class goalkeeper. He said he will one day win a trophy with us he did that he said he will win with Argentina he has done that. EMI BREATHTAKING MARTINEZ is what some Aston villa fans calls him now.

          1. Yeah Dan they should go and support Aston villa if they love Martinez so much.. he certainly won’t be winning anything with Villa so they might as well enjoy his glory with Argentina.

  2. The only risky decision was , following the conclusion of today’s final with Italy, will have played six of their seven matches at Wembley, whereas Wales, for example, played three of their four of their Euro 2020 matches at three different venues, travelling to Azerbaijan, Amsterdam and Rome.

    1. Italy is not a match for the 1.5 Billion England Squad

      their defence is slow and ageing

      England will hammer Italy for sure

  3. Good article Dan – highlighted many of the decisions taken by Southgate that most of us disagreed with, yet worked. Southgate is obviously a cautious manager, which seems to fly in the face of logic with the attacking talent we have available.
    Another unpopular decision you didn’t mention is his preference for two DMs in Phillips and Rice.
    I truly think he has learned throughout the tournament, and his tactical nous has evolved and improved.
    He is pragmatic, which is maybe what this young team needed to learn. Purely flair teams entertain – winning friends but rarely tournaments – teams that are willing to do what it takes to win do that.

    It may well all blow up in our faces tonight as in my opinion Italy are a slightly more advanced and dare I say pragmatic (aka cynical) team, who, while similarly blessed skills-wise are further along the road to are full cohesion than England. But even if we fall one short, its been wonderful to get a first real glimpse of our “golden generation” maturing.

  4. For the neutral fan, this tournament was boring to watch. England simply didn’t do enough to warrant the win. They went in hiding after they went up early. That’s so negative. Italy dominated the game after England scored and deserved to win but penalties are a horrible way to end the tournament.

  5. England got results but not really great performances. Well done on getting to first final in a lifetime. Hindsight is easy but I’d love too see more interplay and passing in midfield. The two DMs were gldoing great but you need all players to be mobile and if the centre forward can’t see stretch the defence by running away and behind, we are hindered. There was no creative midfielder to make the forward passes. Kanes’ goals hid his deficiency in running in behind making it much harder for the team. I really think Watkins should have made the squad and been given game time. Kane was a spent force and we were prepared to lose with him rather than win the tournament. I do seem to remember Cristiano Ronaldo being injured and on the sidelines when they eventually won 5 years ago. Would England be able to stomach that without Kane on the pitch?
    The other issue in the final was Mount. He was anonymous but allowed to stay on for ages, why? The needed Bellingham but we got Henderson!
    Try and win in normal time, we were at home.

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