The Three Lions delivered a disappointing performance against Scotland in their second group stage game.
Gareth Southgate has come under stark criticism for being overly cautious in his approach. A large section of the fans have not agreed to the tactician’s team selection. The lineup against Scotland in their second UEFA Euro 2020 Group D fixture smacked of lacking any ambition. The decision eventually cost England three points as the game ended in a goalless draw.
England could have ensured a place in the knockout stages of the tournament with a win. However, the draw leaves the group wide open as both Czech Republic and England now have four points. On the other hand, Croatia and Scotland have 1 point each after two games.
The top two teams in the group will clash to decide the group winner, who will have relatively easier opponents in the Round of 16.
The pressing issue, however, remains in regards to Southgate’s team selection. A team of England’s quality that has some of the best attackers in the world should be scoring more goals. Only one goal in two games in the Euros is heavily underwhelming and shouts of dissent against Southgate have grown louder.
A Passive Approach
The game was a tough watch for the fans and the neutrals alike. There were hardly any major scoring opportunities and the closest England came to scoring was through John Stones’ first-half header, which hit the post. Scotland had more total shots (11) and shots on target (2) than England (9 and 1) even though Southgate’s men had 60% possession.
The strategy of employing two holding midfielders, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, worked against Croatia. However, a change in mindset was necessary against Scotland as England came into the fixture as the favorites.
Ideally, one of the defensive-midfielders along with two attack-minded players like Mason Mount and Jack Grealish would have been a more ambitious move.
Underperforming players as starters
The decision to start Raheem Sterling, instead of figures like Marcus Rashford or Jadon Sancho raised a lot of eyebrows in the first game. Although Sterling scored the winner against Croatia, he looked far from threatening against Scotland.
Southgate stuck by Sterling and chose an out-of-form player instead of Grealish or Sancho – who had much better campaigns with their respective clubs.
Harry Kane should also sit out even though he seems untouchable in the lineup. The skipper looked fatigued as the match went on against Scotland. He had no shots on target and left the pitch at the stroke of the 74th minute. Lack of service rendered him wasteful too. Dominic Calvert-Lewin deserves a start against the Czech Republic and his aerial prowess could add an extra element to the lineup.
Phil Foden, despite having a positive season with Manchester City, has looked out of ideas on the right-wing. Perhaps it is high time for Gareth Southgate to take a call and place someone like Jadon Sancho in the starting lineup.
Poor match management
Gareth Southgate received further criticism in regards to his timid decision-making against Scotland. He made only two substitutions in the game, which desperately needed a burst of fresh legs and minds. Raheem Sterling was left on the pitch even after delivering a poor performance.
Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford were brought on too late to make a difference. Leaving players like Sancho and Calvert-Lewin on the bench hurt England.
Clearly, the manager’s stubbornness in being cautious with his team selection is hurting England’s chances. The team is full of breathtaking attacking players, who are yet to receive the nod. The tactician must take risks in order to reach the latter stages of the tournament.
A win against underperforming Croatia masked underlying issues, which were later exposed against Scotland.
If Gareth Southgate intends to continue his role as the head coach beyond this tournament, he must guide this incredibly talented group of players to lift the championship or play entertaining football.