It’s hard to lay a finger on Gareth Southgate. After a fine summer he’s resurrected the England national team, not to mention the M&S waistcoat, leading the Three Lions to their best World Cup finish in 28 years.
As the dust settles, we head into a UEFA Nations League which hasn’t quite gone to plan. In fact, lose against Croatia and Spain in the next seven days and they could in fact be facing relegation from Group 4.
The Three Lions are priced at 9/5 with Paddy Power to come out on top in this one, whilst Zlatko Dalic’s men are available at 6/4, and you can get odds of 11/5 with the same bookie on them cancelling each other out once again here.
Southgate’s men are second favourites for both games this week, with the Croatia fixture being a recommended Paddy Power free bet, with punters getting their money back if Kane scores.
Kane of course will be England’s focal point, as always, but in the current squad there are some serious questions about the selections of the manager, particularly as he’s gone against what he originally stood for.
It’s fair to say Southgate has shown a lot of truth in youth, with the 48-year-old naming seven uncapped players in his squad. That’s in addition to a handful of players on only a couple of caps.
The major question lies within Southgate’s supposed rule to only select players that have been playing regular football.
Of course, injuries haven’t been helpful to the England cause, particularly in the midfield, but calling a player up with just four minutes of playing time in the Premier League is certain to raise eyebrows.
That’s exactly what has happened in the case of Nathan Chalobah. It’s a huge U-turn, although also contradictory from the boss, with Phil Foden of Manchester City ignored due to lack of first team opportunity.
It’s a similar story with Harry Winks. He’s made just one Premier League start this season and has just 124 minutes to his name.
Even Spurs fans have been baffled, with the likes of Will Hughes and Tom Davies snubbed ahead of the 22-year-old.
It’s a brave move for Southgate, particularly given the significance of the fixtures. Relegation would see them move into the second tier of the Nation’s League and ultimately play lesser opposition. While these fixtures are glorified friendlies, the lack of action against top teams will certainly hamper progress.
A lot of players will have to step up to the plate and it’s a risky strategy. He’ll be reliant on the likes of James Madison and Ross Barkley to take their good club form into the fixture, as well as avoiding disturbing the superb team spirit of the summer with so many changes.
The last international break was certainly a bump back down to Earth last month and if Southgate’s inexperienced selection doesn’t pay off, it could steadily head back to business as usual for England.