Guillem Balague insists England must stick with Gareth Southgate even if they fail at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Southgate’s England earned a 1-0 friendly win against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Friday night, playing Kyle Walker as one of three centre-backs in what seemed like an unorthodox tactical approach.
The manager explained he picked Walker next to John Stones due to their Manchester City connection, but Southgate has shown a bold approach to tactical flexibility in his short stint in charge.
Speaking on Sunday Supplement, Spanish football expert Balague says Southgate is in fact in a no-win situation, because the process of cultivating a winning international side takes time, which he may not receive.
It’s a step in the direction Southgate wants to take the team, Balague said. I just think that Gareth Southgate is a in a no-win situation, on a kamikaze mission.
We can see what he is trying to do; play three at the back, have a goalkeeper who can play as well, the positional game is important, meaning that when somebody has the ball, he has two or three passes available.
These are a lot of things which require a long time to coach, and he won’t have that. He doesn’t have the midfield for what he wants to do, and the three up front are the type of guys who could create something out of nothing, but could equally go missing for 90 minutes, too. They are too individualistic and do not work for the midfield.
If he is considered a failure at the World Cup, if England do get to the quarter-finals, or whatever, are you all going to put him under pressure to change the system, to start over?
Or will you allow him to wait, which would be his preferred decision? The FA should be strong enough to say: ‘Let’s continue with this, you are actually onto something.’
That gives him the possibility in two, three, four years’ time to get the midfield that can work this way, get the forwards who understand they must move around, and then you will have more opportunities to win.
Southgate, who took over from Sam Allardyce after he was sacked in October 2016, has won eight of his 15 matches in charge, losing twice, with Panama, Belgium and Tunisia to come in the World Cup group stage.
Balague believes Southgate’s approach can be successful in years to come, and though he doubts England can show their full potential at this World Cup, he is adamant that patience is key.
There is too much focus [from the media] on the positioning of the players; if you have been properly coached, you can move around, and of course, Kyle Walker has been properly coached for a while.
The national team manager can control the style. If they go with Southgate, they continue with one way of playing, one way of understanding the game, one way of entertaining the fans, Balague added.
To throw that away after a World Cup would be, in my eyes, wrong. You have to be patient.
Today, I’m seeing words like creativity, progress in the newspapers, but I saw a disjointed performance [against Netherlands] at points. Yes, it was built comfortably from the back, but the midfield didn’t know so much what to do.
There’s a long, long way to go, and he won’t get there at this World Cup. So I hope that everybody is patient enough to know that this requires a long time. Process is not very sexy, but this is what you need to dominate the international stage.