Gareth Southgate will be a relieved man today. After seeing Three Lions qualify as winners of their group, many back home are firmly believing in its coming home. However, not everyone is best pleased despite the progression. There have been certain…puzzling calls by Southgate over the three games and that has been a bone of contention.
Job done! ✅
— England (@England) June 22, 2021
The main issue has of course been the continued absence of Borussia Dortmund attacker Jadon Sancho. He finally got to make his first appearance at the Euros last night, coming on with five minutes remaining. Other than that, there is also the perception that Southgate has a Premier League bias in selecting/playing players. But what is the actual case?
Southgate has long been accused or praised, take your pick, of having favourites in the squad. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong in gelling with some players more than the others. It all depends on how said players are performing and their value to the overall quality of the team. When that goes down, there is always a clamour of them being dropped but Southgate has rarely heeded the calls.
Rio Ferdinand questions Gareth Southgate's 'small team mentality' after snubbing Jadon Sancho for England's first two Euro 2020 games https://t.co/jGvY84hYQa
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) June 22, 2021
The prime example of this is Spurs defender Eric Dier. The 27-year-old has been a constant in the Three Lions setup despite some woeful performances at club level. Spurs were shambolic in defence for much of the last two seasons and it is only for the Euros that Southgate dropped him.
My other problem with this is why was Ben White not in the England squad months ago when Southgate was persevering with Eric Dier who was clearly out of form? Southgate only dropped Dier when Mourinho did. So much of his selection process feels reactionary and muddled. https://t.co/2ctfBPM0z0
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) June 7, 2021
This raises another question- does the manager have an “elite English club” bias? In the same period that Dier was a regular, there was a strong clamour for the inclusion of better fits in defence. Burnley’s James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, Brighton’s Lewis Dunk were just some of the other options who would feel hard done by in the recent past. The same thing had happened a few years ago when Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha was on the verge of a call-up but it never arrived.
👀 Since his PL debut in August 2017, no central defender has scored more PL goals than Lewis Dunk.
🏟️ 135 Games
⚽ 10 Goals
💪 174 Tackles
🤔 If you were Southgate, would you take him to the Euros? pic.twitter.com/rU1oHru7XX
— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) March 14, 2021
Southgate was slated by the local media and that kind of talk has recently picked up steam with the perceived ignorance of midfielder Jack Grealish. The playmaker from Aston Villa is considered the most skilful member of the team and has long been someone who is adept at carrying the ball forward while beating defenders.
However, he still has found himself sidelined so far, only playing a grand total of 90 minutes in three matches. Two-thirds of it came last night, where he notched up the assist for the game’s only goal.
— England (@England) June 23, 2021
England have been getting the job done so far at the tournament, picking up seven points. However, they have only scored two goals in those games while talisman Harry Kane has been supremely ineffective. Grealish, who started along with 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, were solid sparks in a dull if effective result.
There has been a question of whether England should play more “beautiful football” and in an “attractive manner.” That is where the Jadon Sancho question comes in.
WHERE IS SANCHO?
The 21-year-old’s absence has been the subject of intense speculation. With England lacking the normal creativity which has been a constant of yesteryears, Kane struggling to score and the other attacking midfielders not yet living up to the billing- the speculation seems justified.
Jadon Sancho had 36 goal contributions in 38 games for Dortmund this season.
He's yet to play a single second for England at the EUROs 🤔 pic.twitter.com/e0A9ITPGv5
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 19, 2021
Phil Foden, Mason Mount, and Marcus Rashford have been effective in patches and there is a case for Sancho to start sooner rather than later. On that front, Southgate has given an interesting answer.
The manager talked about how he is keeping expectations “real” from some of the younger members of the squad who are making their competition bow. Now, to be clear, he is talking about one of Bundesliga’s top players who eats defenders up with his trickery week in and week out.
Jadon Sancho has 114 goals/assists in 137 games for Borussia Dortmund. 💛
He hasn't played a minute so far at #EURO2020
— 90min (@90min_Football) June 18, 2021
The weight of pressure will of course be immense at such a global stage, but there is nothing to suggest he is not up for it. That has led to his club being singled out as a strong reason for his non-selection. Sancho is the only member in the squad who plays outside of England, in a league considered to be far less competitive than the Premier League.
Could this be a plausible reason? The absence of toughness in facing opponents can be considered a weakness for a young player at a major tournament.
There seems to be no one answer as to why Southgate is playing or not playing certain players. Fans and pundits are having mixed reactions to the performances so far. While one camp is happy at not conceding as well as an undefeated run, others feel that this kind of performance will not hold up against far superior opposition that they are about to face. No matter how the team performs over the next few days, it is clear that there is some bias in the manager, though what is it at is much less clear.