Well, you know what happens when you buck a trend. Gareth Southgate led England out for the first time without a waistcoat and look what happens. England get beaten by a much better team. No waistcoat equals no party, clearly.
Wembley was full of people and full of hope and optimism and all that other fluff that happens after England put in a couple of good summer performances. It was almost as if they hadn’t noticed that when England played proper football teams in Russia they actually lost. And on Saturday night they played a proper football team in Spain. And lost.
Gareth Southgate had said several times that England “must stick to their principles” after the World Cup 4th place finish and I think we can all agree that England very much stuck to the principle of being a little dodgy at the back, not that good in possession and pretty toothless in attack against a Spanish side just relieved to not have Fernando Hierro in the dugout.
Yes, yes England should have had a very-deep-into-injury-time equaliser when David de Gea pole-vaulted over the top of Danny Welbeck and dropped the ball, allowing the Arsenal man to tap the ball home. Welbeck was, obviously, penalised for standing still as another player jumped into him – but that’s what happens if you are a goalkeeper, isn’t it?
Harry Kane accused the referee of ‘bottling it’ which is kind of ironic to those of us that still remember how many shots Harry got on target when it really mattered in the knockout stages.
Anyway, isn’t David de Gea meant to be rubbish nowadays? I am pretty sure that’s what I’ve been reading (and probably writing) since before the World Cup. He looked alright to me when he tipped Rashford’s header away. Mind you, had Welbeck’s goal stood there would have been a few fingers pointing his way again.
Randomly, it was a player who flopped at Bolton Wanderers who scored the winning goal. Rodrigo managed to completely flummox both Harry Kane and John Stones by not standing still in the penalty area as the free-kick came across. John Stones has England form of letting a man run off him and, yet again, it could be argued that Harry Maguire could have been doing a better job sweeping up round the back. But hey, we are not here to actually fix problems, are we Gareth?
At some point, the rose-tinted glasses do need to come off about Gareth Southgate. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great guy in the media and I love how he communicates. I like how he is trying to get England to play football a bit better than we have done for a generation. But, let’s be honest here – against the bigger, better nations we are getting found out. Southgate hasn’t beaten any of the ‘bigger nations’ in competitive or friendly football and that does need to change at some point. I am not saying he needs to go or anything, I am just saying that we need to not fall into the trap of thinking he is an English Peppy G and completely gloss over the fact that he needs to improve as a coach in certain match situations. Like, when we are playing a team that is clearly better on the ball than we are. And Gareth, don’t fall into that age-old trap of believing the captain isn’t droppable if he is playing rubbish like Harry is right now.
Only the stone-hearted (Jose, for example) would not be feeling a little bit sorry for Luke Shaw right now. He was looking like a world-beater when he broke his leg against PSV a couple of seasons ago and has only now just started to find some reliable form. His pass to Rashford for the opening goal was the kind of pass left feet were made for. Yet, his evening ended laying pole-axed on the floor, out cold, after a challenge from Dani Carvajal. Hopefully, Shaw won’t be out for too long otherwise it might just give Mourinho another excuse not to pick him.
One man Jose Mourinho would love to be picking is Harry Maguire, but it looks like Harry has been taking lessons of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin. No, not on how to become a miserly centre-back, sadly. Maguire watched Godin use Manchester United to wangle himself a better deal in Madrid and decided he could probably do the same. Not in Madrid, though. Leicester. Yes, Harry has a signed a new five-year-contract with the Foxes that will tie him to the club until at least next summer when his price will, no doubt, be nearer £100m because of inflation and that new contract.
There was even crazy talk of Mourinho being interested in taking free-agent John Terry to Old Trafford. I mean, that’s crazy, right? There’s more chance of JT ending up somewhere like Spartak Moscow than United. What? Wait a minute. Are you kidding me? Yes, John Terry has signed a two-year-contract with Russian Premier League club Spartak Moscow. It’s one of those moments where I don’t even need to try and deliver you a punchline.
Zinedine Zidane won’t be that fussed that JT isn’t available when he takes over from Jose at Old Trafford because he already has a list of players he wants to join him in Manchester. Ex-Real Madrid manager Zidane would love Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Thiago Alcantara and Edinson Cavani to hot-foot it to the nearest airport as soon as his arrival has been announced. Beautifully, this list is almost the exact list of players David Moyes gave to Ed Woodward four years ago. You see, Fergie was right. Moyes was the one.
Even more bizarre than the fact that Moyes might have been on the right track at United is the news that he was in the States the other day watching the USA lose to Brazil. Moyseh on holiday, you might think? No, no and thrice no. David is being lined up as the next Head Coach of America. And they wonder why soccer is going backwards Stateside.
Arsenal fans are getting quite excited by the bromance developing between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. They are hoping that having two strikers who actually like each other might increase the chance of the team scoring goals. It’s a valid hope, of course, but it still doesn’t solve the fact that the backline is bobbins and Petr Cech looks like a clown when the ball is at his feet.
Finally today, and boy haven’t we done well to mask the fact it is an international break and there is nothing going on, Anthony Rudiger is preferring Maurizio Sarri’s style to that of Antonio Conte. And that, we are sure, has nothing to do with the fact that Ruds is actually getting a game under Sarri.