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England were high scorers at the 2018 World Cup… but now Southgate is suffering a creative block

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england were high scorers at the 2018 world cup but now southgate is suffering a creative block

The question to Gareth Southgate following the defeat by Denmark on Wednesday was blunt: are you a cautious or a risk-taking manager?

His answer was passionate: ‘I think we’ve been pretty bold in many of our decisions over a long period of time.

‘Yes, others might have a view. We’ve been top scorers in the World Cup, we were top scorers in the Euro qualifiers and we’ve been to two semi-finals.

England under captain Harry Kane were free-flowing high scorers at the 2018 World Cup

England under captain Harry Kane were free-flowing high scorers at the 2018 World Cup

England under captain Harry Kane were free-flowing high scorers at the 2018 World Cup

‘We’ve blooded any number of young players. I suppose that I would point to that body of work but it’s for others to have that opinion. I’m not really too concerned.’

Southgate made a compelling argument. But some are no longer convinced.

His faith in young footballers cannot be disputed — Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bukayo Saka, Harvey Barnes and Reece James all made their senior debuts over the past eight days. But Southgate’s defensive tactics are beginning to create agitation.

Since the end of lockdown, England have scored three goals in four competitive matches. Two of those were penalties, one soft at best, tucked away by Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford. The other was a heavily deflected Mason Mount strike that looped over the helpless Simon Mignolet on Sunday as England secured a landmark win over world No 1 side Belgium.

But now Gareth Southgate is suffering a creative block and his tactics are causing agitation

But now Gareth Southgate is suffering a creative block and his tactics are causing agitation

But now Gareth Southgate is suffering a creative block and his tactics are causing agitation

But the victory, which should have been galvanising, was anything but convincing. Belgium were unquestionably the superior team and the win was testament to England’s tenacity more than anything else.

While the Belgians had creative midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Youri Tielemans strutting around Wembley like they owned the place, Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice — players known for their defensive capabilities more than anything else — were stationed in front of what was effectively a five-man defence.

It was a similar story against the Danes, for whom Christian Eriksen ran the show, driving his team forward from central midfield. 

Rice and Kalvin Phillips patrolled industriously in front of England’s defence, showing little attacking intent. That is no slight on Henderson, Rice and Phillips. They are conditioned to play a certain way and are excellent at what they do.

But is there really a need to play with two defensive midfielders against Denmark — a team ranked 12 positions below England in the FIFA rankings?

Mason Mount alongside Jordan Henderson or Declan Rice would give England more dynamism

Mason Mount alongside Jordan Henderson or Declan Rice would give England more dynamism

Mason Mount alongside Jordan Henderson or Declan Rice would give England more dynamism

Southgate’s apparent preference for deploying two holding midfielders in front of three centre backs has not won universal approval among the playing staff, some of whom believe the England manager is playing it too safe.

The national team’s recent impotence in the attacking third suggests those doubting Southgate’s approach may have a point. The England manager’s reluctance to use Jack Grealish provides an intriguing case study. Undoubtedly one of the Premier League’s in-form attacking players, Grealish’s full international debut against Wales last Thursday night was bursting with verve and invention.

But despite that superb showing, Grealish did not play a minute of England’s subsequent Nations League fixtures.

That is baffling. A number of his team-mates certainly thought so. Southgate insists that Harry Maguire’s early red card wrecked any plans he had for Grealish to be introduced as a substitute against Denmark. Nonetheless, the clamour for him to start matches will grow louder — particularly if England continue to falter in the final third.  

Marcus Rashford scored one of the three England goals netted competitively since lockdown

Marcus Rashford scored one of the three England goals netted competitively since lockdown

Marcus Rashford scored one of the three England goals netted competitively since lockdown

Selecting an extended 30-man squad for the recent matches also caused a degree of consternation among the players.

Southgate is only permitted to select 23 players in his match-day squad for competitive games, so seven players were left out of the picture at Wembley against Belgium on Sunday. Three days later, some were told they could head back to their clubs before the match against Denmark after failing to make the cut.

That scenario, rightly or wrongly, has caused irritation, though given England had to play three times in a week, Southgate’s decision to name a larger squad was borne more of necessity than choice.

That said, there is not even a hint of the squad turning against Southgate. That is important to stress.

This group are heavily influenced by their senior players, who have established a seemingly unbreakable bond with the England boss.

34447498 8845377 image a 68 1602796006193

34447498 8845377 image a 68 1602796006193

His man-management of the younger members of the squad is also said to be deeply impressive — for instance, his one-on-one chats with certain players have gone down very well.

The decision to invite Wolves defender Conor Coady into the leadership group alongside Harry Kane, Henderson and Maguire during the recent international matches is an example of that openness. 

Coady, it is understood, can expect to be included in that leadership group on a permanent basis moving forward, a clear sign that he has cemented his place in the England squad — and potentially even the starting XI.

England’s lack of attacking thrust over the past 10 days can largely be put down to the absence of Sterling and Ben Chilwell, who both add obvious impetus to the starting XI.

Nevertheless, the dearth of attacking inspiration against Belgium and Denmark should be a concern for Southgate, particularly with the European Championship just eight months away.

Jack Grealish's absence was baffling considering his performance against Wales added verve

Jack Grealish's absence was baffling considering his performance against Wales added verve

Jack Grealish’s absence was baffling considering his performance against Wales added verve

Members of this squad still remember Southgate’s team selections during the euphoric run to the World Cup semi-finals.

Ball-players Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were selected alongside Henderson in central midfield and England went on to become the tournament’s top scorers. The apparent switch to a sturdier approach and personnel has left many longing for the old Southgate. He certainly has the options to be more expansive.

Mount or Grealish alongside Henderson or Rice would give England far more dynamism in midfield.

Failing that, there is Manchester City’s 20-year-old playmaker Phil Foden. He will come back into consideration for next month’s England games following his exile for inviting two women into the team hotel after last month’s win over Iceland.

All in all, it isn’t panic stations; positive results against Australia, Belgium and Iceland next month and we could be singing to a different tune.

Yet cracks, albeit small, are emerging. Southgate’s lengthy honeymoon period is over.

Manchester City's Phil Foden will come back into consideration for next month's games

Manchester City's Phil Foden will come back into consideration for next month's games

Manchester City’s Phil Foden will come back into consideration for next month’s games

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Arsenal vs Dundalk LIVE: Stream free, TV channel, score – Pepe, Nketiah and Willock put Gunners in charge

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arsenal vs dundalk live stream free tv channel score pepe nketiah and willock put gunners in charge
BLOG Arsenal v Dundalk 3 0

ARSENAL have broken Dundalk’s stubborn resistance with a goal from Eddie Nketiah.

The striker took advantage of an error from 39-year-old goalkeeper Gary Rogers to bundle the ball home from a corner.

And a minute later Joe Willock added the second as he fired into the roof of the net.

Nicolas Pepe then scored a third just after the break.

  • Arsenal vs Dundalk is live on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Ultimate.
  • To stream the game live, head to the BT Sport website or app.
  • While EE customers can get a FREE three-month trial to BT Sport mobile by texting SPORT to 150.
  • Arsenal XI: Runarsson; Cedric, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles; Willock, Elneny, Xhaka; Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson.
  • Dundalk XI: Rogers, Gartland, Boyle, Cleary, Mountney, Murray, Shields, McEleney, Dummigan, Hoban, Duffy.

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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Hoddle admits it is getting difficult for Alli after he was hauled off at half-time at Antwerp

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hoddle admits it is getting difficult for alli after he was hauled off at half time at antwerp

Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle says it is getting difficult for Dele Alli after he was hauled off at half-time of Tottenham’s defeat at Antwerp. 

Dele Alli was among those handed a start in Belgium, but a poor first-half display saw them trail to Lior Refaelov’s 29th-minute strike.

Mourinho did not like what he saw and Alli was one of four men hauled off at the break, the second time in three starts this season he has not made it out for the second half. 

Dele Alli was hauled off at half-time of Tottenham's defeat at Antwerp on Thursday night

Dele Alli was hauled off at half-time of Tottenham's defeat at Antwerp on Thursday night

Dele Alli was hauled off at half-time of Tottenham’s defeat at Antwerp on Thursday night

Hoddle told BT Sport: ‘I think it is (getting difficult for Alli). This was his opportunity and Jose put him and and said ‘put it (a good performance) between my eyes. But it just didn’t happen for him. 

‘In his overall game, he’s giving the ball away too much at times. His options are there and he’s trying his best but it’s not happening for him. Sloppy play is not going to get him back in the team.’

Owen Hargreaves added: ‘He (Alli)’s lacking in confidence and he’s making mistakes. He knows he’s being watched like a hawk by Mourinho, but when your confidence is low you play safe. 

Alli was among those handed a start in Belgium but he was clearly lacking in confidence

Alli was among those handed a start in Belgium but he was clearly lacking in confidence

Alli was among those handed a start in Belgium but he was clearly lacking in confidence

‘He was just stopping the ball deal instead of keeping it moving. He’s not trying to make mistakes. He needs to get that freedom (which we saw) when he was outrageous a few years ago.’  

Jose Mourinho resorted to bringing Harry Kane on, with in-form Son Heung-min one of those already having been sent into action.

Even that duo, who have been in deadly form so far this season, could not spare Tottenham’s blushes as they were beaten for the first time in 10 games.

Antwerp, leaders of the Belgian Pro League, were well worthy of their win, which could have been more handsome, and they remain unbeaten at home in 14 months, taking an early lead in Group J,

Jose Mourinho did not like what he saw and Alli was one of four men hauled off at the break

Jose Mourinho did not like what he saw and Alli was one of four men hauled off at the break

Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle says it is getting difficult for Alli after his latest setback

Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle says it is getting difficult for Alli after his latest setback

Glenn Hoddle says it is getting difficult for Alli after he was hauled off at half-time by Mourinho

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Mauricio Pochettino ‘looking’ at Man Utd job, hints Jan Vertonghen as he discusses ‘impatient’ ex-boss

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mauricio pochettino looking at man utd job hints jan vertonghen as he discusses impatient ex boss scaled

MAURICIO POCHETTINO is ‘looking’ at a Premier League job, with Manchester United firmly in the frame, according to his former Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen.

Belgian ace Vertonghen, 33, reckons his ex-manager is ‘impatient’ after sitting on the sidelines for 12 months since getting the boot from Daniel Levy at Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino is lining up a Prem job according to Jan Vertonghen

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Mauricio Pochettino is lining up a Prem job according to Jan VertonghenCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Poch, 48 has long been linked with the Old Trafford hot seat and the Argentine coach’s name was bandied around again in the aftermath of United’s 6-1 demolition by Spurs with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feeling the heat.

Although Benfica centre-back Vertonghen did not mention the Red Devils by name – out of respect for current bosses – his criteria for a ‘big team’ matches up perfectly with United.

He told CBS Soccer’s Que Golazo podcast: “I can imagine he’s impatient.



“I think the English league suits him very well as he’s a manager that prioritises fitness levels and the physicality of the game.

“I think managing in the Premier League is probably the best thing he can do.

“He will always want to coach a big team I guess, so you have to look at the biggest teams in the league and there are only two or three you can really look at I think at this point.

“I won’t name them out of respect for the other managers, but I think that’s what he’s looking at as well and he wants that big team to confirm him what he’s been doing with Tottenham and what he did very well.

“If I was him I would be impatient because he really loved his job and you want to continue that.”

GL GRAPHIC top 10 manager wages v2

Vertonghen left Spurs at the end of last season when his contract expired and signed for Portuguese side Benfica on a three-year deal.

Pochettino remains the bookies’ favourite to be the next permanent boss at Old Trafford.

He was recently linked with a move to take over at Russian side Zenit St Petersburg but his former charge Vertonghen believes he would prefer a move back to England.

Agbonlahor says Man Utd should sack ‘soft’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and replace him with ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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