He clearly is not happy with the way Eng­land have played both for him and in the past

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

taken their chances. It may well be that when Eng­land go to Rus­sia, they will again fail to get out of their group, are gripped by fear or lose once more on penal­ties.

But some­thing is hap­pen­ing. Some­thing has cer­tainly hap­pened with South­gate. Or, rather, he has been wait­ing for the time to make that some­thing hap­pen be­cause he has clearly not been happy with the way Eng­land have played un­der him and in the past, and with who has been play­ing for them. For ex­am­ple, af­ter the Ger­many game, South­gate was dis­parag­ing about the 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion that has been Eng­land’s de­fault line-up un­til this point.

If South­gate was re­garded as the “safe” op­tion for the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion then he is not go­ing to play it safe. Safe is the sta­tus quo; safe is go­ing on as we have been. Safe is not hav­ing the courage to say that there have been play­ers in the squad who did not de­serve to be there; that Chris Smalling is not good enough on the ball; that the clam­our to re­call Jack Wilshere is re­sistible – or that it is fair to say be­cause that sounds like the tac­tic of a man buy­ing time.

“It’s easy to be swayed by need­ing ex­pe­ri­ence but you can have 100 ex­pe­ri­ences of the same thing or 10 dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences that make you a more rounded per­son,” South­gate said, and if that made him sound more like a teacher than a man­ager, then so what? As long as he sticks to his prin­ci­ple; as long as he goes with youth.

South­gate has set­tled on a sys­tem – Eng­land will play in a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 – and, hal­lelu­jah, he will se­lect the play­ers to fit that sys­tem rather than bow to the de­mands to pick the big­gest names, or play­ers who have been in pre­vi­ous squads, and then try to shoe-horn a way of play­ing around that. Square pegs in square holes at last, it seems, which is why play­ers such as John Stones, Lof­tus-cheek and Chalobah – one of the few spe­cial­ist hold­ing mid­field­ers avail­able to Eng­land – are im­por­tant.

It is time Eng­land made the most of their tal­ented play­ers – but only for the team; for the iden­tity of that team. This is a hon­ey­moon pe­riod for South­gate, who cel­e­brates in two weeks the an­niver­sary of his per­ma­nent ap­point­ment as Eng­land man­ager. The pres­sure is off with World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion se­cured. But he ap­pears to be us­ing his time care­fully. Hope­fully, hav­ing laid out his vi­sion, he will not lose sight of it when the heat is on next sum­mer.

Stick­ing to his vi­sion: Gareth South­gate is pre­pared to give young play­ers a chance, even if it means some short-term pain as a re­sult

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