to the promised land.
Isn’t that how it was supposed to go in the Nations League finals… breeze past the Dutch then walk off with gold in the final, not scrape by with a bronze medal for third place after a penalty shoot-out.
But then we were told that Southgate wouldn’t pick favourites but players who are playing regularly, are fit and in form. Step forward Fabian Delph and John Stones.
Stones started three games in City’s last 20, Pep has given up on him, he hasn’t improved since moving to the club, regressed really, and this is a manager who still thinks Walker is a defender – but then so does Southgate. Delph featured in a whole 20 games for the club in all competitions for a total number of minutes that added up to about 13.5 games in full.
People seemed surprised at what happened during the semi-final, against the Dutch. Somehow shocked that a back five that contained four accidents waiting to happen gifted the Dutch goals. Hell the fifth member Chilwell could have gifted one away with what should have been a penalty. It’s almost as if they’ve never seen defensive howlers from Stones, Walker, Maguire and Pickford before.
Stones is a busted flush. Compare and contrast him and De Ligt. The young Ajax defender, who did feature a bit for the Dutch champions, made a howler in losing the ball and then lunging in on Rashford to give away the penalty. He then picked himself up and scored the equaliser, while having an excellent game. Stones on the other hand was useless in defending that Dutch equaliser, not helped by Walker, he dithered in giving away the ball for the go ahead goal, in extra time. And that was him done. He wasn’t going to then pick himself up and lead from the front. No, he looks like he’s on the verge of tears at the best of times and here he just moped about.
Barkley gets the blame for giving the ball away for the Dutch third but why was Walker passing it to him, when Walker could quite easily see he had a man on him? Why… because Walker hasn’t got the brains god gave a pigeon. Yes it was crap by Barkley but everything bad for England started at the back.
It’s not that playing out from the back is bad… it can be highly annoying… but it’s the fact that England defenders are so bad at it because they’re so slow at it. It’s no coincidence that the best bit of play from England – Lingard’s goal that was deemed offside by VAR – came from quick, forward passing.
The rest of the time it’s slow, slow… slow, slow, slow. To me. To you. Forwards and then back between them. Just inviting trouble, which they duly got. What they had in the midfield didn’t help, I mean who wants to pass to Delph? And it just comes back. People thinking that Winks is the solution haven’t obviously watched him pass the ball sideways nine times out of ten.
It did come as a surprise that Southgate dropped Stones for the loser’s final, against Switzerland. Though what chance when City spend big to replace Kompany and Stones is sat on the bench for another season Southgate will still call him up. Will he still be picking Walker ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold?
In the Swiss game the young Liverpool fullback was turning the lace away and putting chances on a plate. Unfortunately Dele’s seeming lack of confidence in front of goal wasn’t helping. He should have had a couple. They were bad misses by anyone’s standard. Or bog standard misses by Sterling’s standard. People criticising Dele for his number of goals and assists for England are the same ones who backed Sterling while he wasn’t scoring or assisting.
Sterling was back to his usual self during these two games. All about him. Ooo he was close with a shot in the first game. Yes, from a chance where he’d had been better off passing to someone in a better position. Ooo he hit the post from free-kick against the Swiss. Yes, when Alexander-Arnold was available to take it. You know the player that’s scored some decent ones. But no “Me Me” Sterling is the chosen one. Did he pass the ball at all to Kane in either game?
And just when you thought Pickford might have calmed down a bit, not been so full of himself – that’s seen him make right howlers for his club this season – he scores a penalty then saves one to win the match. Yeah, that’ll keep him grounded.
Yet again, England got there despite Southgate not because of him and yet again Southgate was found wanting at the crunch moment… no, a final or a trophy isn’t any closer…