You know what? England have played pretty well over the last week or so.
With the 4-0 win over Scotland on Friday and a 2-2 draw with Spain tonight, these were the two fixtures which ultimately decided whether interim manager Gareth Southgate would be offered the opportunity to be the permanent manager or not. It now looks as if he is going to be offered the job, with a £2m a year contract being offered to him, according to all of the major national newspapers.
Whether you like him or not, right now, Gareth Southgate seems like he is the right man at the right time to take the job. He has taken on the opportunity with an enthusiasm and optimism which many fans did not anticipate. After the Allardyce shambles, a big ego/character is not something the national team needs; instead, it’s a steady pair of hands, who knows what playing for their country at major Tournaments is like and knows what being around the national setup in general is also like. Look at the England teams in the last 30 or so years who have done well in major tournaments – the two who have gone the furthest are Bobby Robson and Terry Venables – both ex-England Internationals who know what it’s like to play for England. It’s very, very important.
I think England have done well in this International break. They are now playing in a system which suits the players that are available for the national team – they played some great stuff against a footballing giant in Spain – stretching the game with some crisp, quick passing, finding space with some intelligent movement in the midfield and also got at Spain’s defence with some pacey, direct play in the wide areas.
The wing backs Walker and Rose were a particular highlight against Scotland and Spain. Their performances have been absolutely superb, offering genuine width and energy out wide, whilst having the legs to get back defensively when needed. Looking to the future, they will surely be the first names on the team sheet as Southgate looks to mould the national team into his style.
Man City defender John Stones has come under a lot of pressure in the past few weeks for the way he plays – many fans and ex-pro’s seem to think that his laid back style on and off the ball will catch him out more often than not when facing the better teams. I like Stones and I can definitely see the Gerard Pique defending style in him. He has got the best coach in world Football at club level looking after him and will get better with time. I hope people don’t hammer him too much, as he will learn and improve.
Another player who comes under fire a lot, Raheem Sterling, is now playing to his potential and is turning in to one of the best wingers around – he now breezes past players and is much more aware of the players around him and the role he is expected to play within a system. He is a major asset to this England team right now and will be relied heavily on in the future.
This has been said all too often, but I can genuinely see signs of improvement in this England team. Some of the young players which were seen as hot prospects in the European Championships this year will see this as their time to prove their worth in the senior set up; Stones, Sterling, Rashford, Kane and more. The FA need to stick to the plan of developing this long term project to improve the Football in this country at all levels; from Sunday League to Premier League, but there is a feeling the first shoots of new life are starting to appear.
(Just dont mention Iceland or penalty shootouts)
Premier League is back this weekend!