England’s Young Lions: Is Southgate Doing The Right Thing?
It’s been a while since England last lost a European Championship qualifier. In fact, it’s been a decade.
However, a drab and dull performance in Prague has reset that timer, and it has to be said, the warning signs were there.
Against Kosovo they weren’t sharp, conceding howlers and only just doing the job. Against the Czech Republic, it was more of the same.
It’s starting to beg the question, are England’s young starlets being drafted into the squad far too soon?
James Maddison perhaps proved his naivety this week when pulling out of the squad, only to be found in a casino while the game was in play.
And it’s perhaps worth using a casino analogy to describe the way in which England could go next summer.
The side are currently jam-packed with rookies, and go for a major pot on poker or the best online slots UK wide, then losses are inevitable. Find a balance of experience and exciting raw talent, and the prize pot is more achievable.
The World Cup side is perhaps a good example of this. When it came to playing the experienced players, the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic conquered.
Since then Southgate has rung the changes further and aside from Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson, the side has relatively little experience.
With the likes of Kyle Walker, Eric Dier and Dele Alli replaced and Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice and potentially Maddison entering the starting eleven, there’s a lot of players finding their feet on the international stage at once.
Southgate has rightfully been praised for giving opportunities, and during the qualification stages they’re naturally going to win more than they lose given the opposition they face. But are they going to be streetwise enough to take on the bigger boys? Or will they suffer the same fate as four years ago, when they were bullied by Iceland.
The loss against the Czech Republic says there is plenty of work to be done and you get the feeling with the likes of the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Germany back in-form, they could find themselves dropping back down the pecking order.
The next few months, in both international football and Premier League are going to be key for the side. It’s a gamble and Southgate hasn’t yet successfully crafted his young lions in a side to be feared, and time is running out for them to be ready to really contend at Euro 2020.