Sigh. We have seen this before. A lot of times. But this feels like deja vu even more than usual. It feels like this happened last summer too. Oh wait, it did. 1-0 up in a major competition to completely capitulate and give up the chance of winning a trophy. England were ABYSMAL yesterday. This was really bad, from start to finish. The Dutch deserved this, but it was the manner of how England gave this away that was simply unforgivable.
Let's address every single issue one by one. Southgate has united the nation and bought a sense of joy to the national team, and therefore, I have constantly looked to not criticise him. But for the first time, he needs to take a large portion of the blame. Not all of it, but we will get to that. This may not be a hugely prestigious tournament just yet, but it might be. Nonetheless, it is a major trophy. If it's the equivalent of the League Cup, which is seen as a major trophy, then we need to treat it like one. Hence why I'm so angry after yesterday.
COCK UP NUMBER 1) First and foremost, why isn't Henderson playing? Why isn't Alexander-Arnold playing? Why aren't the Liverpool and Spurs players playing? Kane, fine, fitness concerns and whatever. But why can't the others? If you asked the Liverpool players to run through lava, I reckon they probably would right now. And they'd probably do it twice over. Look at Van Dijk and Wijnaldum. They played. There is NO excuse for them not being in the starting eleven.
COCK UP NUMBER 2) Again, Gareth Southgate. Why oh why oh why, IS FABIAN DELPH AND
ROSS BARKLEY PLAYING???!!?!?!?! I need an explanation. Why are these two very ordinary footballers who don't even play for their clubs playing? I do really need an explanation. But you know what, there is none. Everyone knows England have a midfield problem. They need ball carriers and creative players, which was a huge problem yesterday. Watch Frenkie De Jong. What a phenomenal player. This is what England need. I'd like to point out though, that for the first time in a long time, England are not lacking these types of players. They have them, but Southgate isn't picking them. Winks HAS to play for England. A classy little midfielder, he passes the ball and dribbles forward. Something Henderson, Delph and Rice don't do enough. He has been consistently good for England, but isn't in the squad, why? Fitness? Don't make me laugh. If he wasn't in the squad because of fitness, Kane shouldn't be either. Simple as that. And in fact, Winks was probably Spurs' best player in the Champions League final. No excuses. Maddison has to be the playmaker in this team. Maybe the excuse of him needing to be in the u21 squad may be valid, but this is a trophy too. Pick your best players. If you don't call up Maddison, you need another good number 10 playing week in week out. Why not Jack Grealish?? Even Foden! But for God's sake, anyone but Delph and Barkley.
COCK UP NUMBER 3) I'm being critical of Southgate, but the players deserve a huge portion of the blame. As mentioned already, the midfield isn't good enough and the 3 front men were simply starved of service. The defence though, was a calamity. Particularly that man John Stones. Enough is enough now. He has been this talented, ball playing centre back for years. He's 25 and played at the highest level. Yet on the ball he tries too much and makes pivotal mistakes. I get the out from the back philosophy, but sometimes, you need to give the ball a hoof. And John Stones never does that. Ever. He will never learn now. Simple. But also, the guy isn't good enough defensively anyway. Remember the mistake he made defensively in the semi-final last year to let Mandzukic score? Stones out, Gomez in. Walker is poor defensively too. He always has been, but gets away with it in a system at City where they have the ball all the time. Walker out, Trent in.
COCK UP NUMBER 4) Back to Southgate now. His in game management is terrible. Just like Walker, it always has been, but he's got away with it due to the fact he has done well in getting England to two semis, which does deserve credit. Sancho was our best player, but then proceeded to taking him off... Also, in need of a goal, so leave the natural goalscorer, Callum Wilson on the bench. Ridiculous decision making. He put Sterling up front with Kane for a lot of the game. How? Why? What tells us he can play up front in this system? Why not bring on Wilson and put him there?
This is probably my longest blog post to date, which shows how angry I am and how seriously I took this competition. Look, I'm not saying anything dramatic like, 'Southgate out'. But it's time to take the next step. This was a chance to show: yep, knockout stage match against a big team, we can do it. But we failed miserably. England have a great array of players now, but Southgate needs to play them and stop favouritism with people like Delph, Barkley and Stones. In my opinion, this is England's best team: Pickford, Trent, Gomez, Maguire, Chilwell, Henderson, Winks, Maddison/Grealish/Foden, Sancho, Kane, Sterling. We have the foundations for something really good. Pick them, play them, lets take the next step.