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What did England's 2-0 win over Malta tell us about the Gareth Southgate era?

Monday 10th October 2016
Nothing. An unsatisfactory performance against a team of semi-pro footballers was never going to tell us much about Southgate's future with England. But at the end of the day, a win is a win and that's all the FA will care about.
Another day, another average England performance. I'm not too sure why I was so looking forward to this game. Perhaps in my head, I'd built up Southgate as some kind of new-breed tactical innovator due to his successful stint with the U21s, but meh the game panned out like any other home game in the past five years.

The line-up did offer a bit of variety with an international debut given to Jesse Lingard on the left wing. The Three Lions lined up in a very attacking 4-3-3, with a midfield trio of Alli, Rooney & Henderson, the stuff training games are made of.
"New Manager, New era" where have we heard that one before.......

80,000+ were jam packed into Wembley stadium in the hope of seeing a new era. But England started in typical slow fashion, struggling to find any spaces in a lower than low block Maltese defence. Did we see anything different from this England side? I'm not sure, it's hard to tell against a Maltese side that's ranked 176 in the world, their lowest position ever. A Malta team that has only won two competitive games in three years, yes THREE years. Regardless of how bad their opponents were, England struggled.
Teams with less quality often go into ultra-defensive mode away from home but this tactic still requires a certain level of quality, men behind the ball isn't effective it's the way they're organised that makes them effective. The only way to get through them is to quickly zip the ball around to try and draw them out, our players didn't do that. Players like Alli & Lingard were the only ones to provide any kind of penetrative movement, looking to disorganise the rigid shape of the Malta defence, their movements were facilitated by the vision of Henderson. Henderson sped up play with a few long direct balls whipped at pace. His distribution alone justified his man of the match award, he completed more passes in the 90 minutes than the whole Malta team combined.
However, in the midst of a Henderson master class, his midfield partner was struggling to find his feet in the team. Rooney received a record-breaking 116th cap on Saturday and added another average performance to his resume. I've had enough of him and by the sounds of it so had most of the 80,000 at Wembley. His performance did nothing to justify Southgate's persistence with him. There has to come a time where ability overrides status, as there are now players in the squad who would provide more than him. In reality, what does he provide for the national team right now? He doesn't provide incisive passes or quality set pieces or goals, he just slowly recycles possession from side to side like any other player could.
At the end of the day, the three points are all that matters and Southgate provided that, the FA will be happy to know that this temporary appointment wasn't a disaster and provided stability to our qualification endeavours. Positives from a squad point of view can be seen through how we won a game without notable absentees like; Wilshere, Lallana, Kane, Barkley, Sterling & Oxlade-Chamberlain, at least we have squad depth. England do march on, but our footballing identity is still at standstill.
Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with ample amounts of passion for both Cristiano Ronaldo & Real Madrid. I'm one of those bandwagonist hipster fans that will claim to know everything about football, but only watches the El Clasico outside of the Premier League. Forgive me, I'm trying. Oh yeah, #WengerOut. 


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