Ah, the joys of England at a major football tournament – how I have missed it.
Hot off the heels of suddenly being tournament favourites in the eyes of the foolish – based off a half-decent opening 15 minutes against a nowhere-near-as-good-as-they-were-in-2018 Croatia – England are now a one-paced, dull, defensive side incapable of beating little old Scotland at Wembley.
Of course, neither are actually true – but don’t let that stop the 50m majority who now think Gareth Southgate is utterly clueless. After all, he would have told the team to play sideways pass after sideways pass, slow the game down and give Scotland a chance to actually get out of a group for once, wouldn’t he?
Hindsight is a lovely thing in football, as we know, and given how Kalvin Phillips was now the greatest midfielder in Europe after running around gleefully against Luka Modric is it massively fair to question Southgate for picking the same front six that England fans were salivating over just days earlier?
A little perspective is needed, maybe – Scotland had zero pressure on them and are a whole load better than people seem to think they are. Through in the crowd and the tiny matter of history and that is never a nailed-on three points for the Three Lions. Had England been playing any other side of similar ability – I don’t know, let’s say Sweden for example, Southgate’s side would have won by two or three. But it was Scotland.
Yes, if you are of the English persuasion you’d love us to be looking like the best side in the world right now and if you are a traditionalist you’d probably expect the starting eleven to be clear – but football isn’t like that anymore, especially not in tournaments. He who hits the ground running first rarely lifts the trophy (watch Italy come back and bite me on the backside now).
In 1990, we were awful in the group stages and found ourselves being heroic losers in the semi-final. In 1996 we were tripe for 50% of the group stages (Jamie Redknapp being brought on against Scotland changing the direction) and terrible in the quarter-finals yet still found ourselves being heroic losers in the semi-final. 1998 we were brilliant, terrible and brilliant throughout the tournament and still didn’t get anywhere.
Each game is different, it’s the result that matters and that point was enough to mean that England will get out of the group and might even still manage to finish second – which is what we’d really like Gareth, incidentally.
If I was to criticise Southgate for one thing, it would be taking a bit too long to suss that we didn’t really need both Rice and Phillips for the entire game. Jack Grealish should have been on earlier, Foden could have been told he wasn’t playing for City and to do all the things Pep stops him doing and it would have been great to see Jadon Sancho (someone who would have replaced Raheem Sterling at City had he stayed) come on and replace Sterling. But hey, Southgate’s got them this far.
All the outrage at the selection and performance seems to have missed quite a significant point, as well – Scotland were great value for their point and have every reason to feel gutted that they didn’t nick all three. Billy Gilmour, once he realised that the game had started and got some air in his lungs, was the best player on the pitch and Che Adams put in the kind of shift a certain England captain could well learn from.
Harry Kane has picked up a fair bit of flak in the last week – he’s apparently unfit, focusing on his transfer away from Spurs, over-rated, lazy, starved of service all in the same moment. Personally, I reckon he’s looked at the car crash at Tottenham right now and dreading the fact he’s probably not going anywhere now. In fairness though, his form has disappeared as quickly as Roy Keane’s beard and picked a similar amount of social media coverage.
On the subject of Spurs, wow. There was a time in life where as much as you disliked him, you felt that Daniel Levy did have everything under control. Not so much now, eh?
Last week started with Poch possibly coming home, moving into Conte being lined up and then saying no once he realised he wasn’t getting any money to spend. Then there was the slight (OK, big) downgrade to Paulo Fonseca who was suddenly bombed off for Gattuso after he walked out on Fiorentina after 20 or so days because the club wouldn’t sign his agents’ players. In a brief moment of clarity, Levy realised he was sold a bit of a prat by his new director of football and pulled out of that deal too.
What’s next for Spurs? Jurgen’s somewhat publicly thrown his hat in the ring. No no, not Klopp – Klinsmann. My personal odds on Ryan Mason being in the dugout for the first match of the season are still being reduced.
Back in the Euros, Wales’ win over Turkey bought them a ticket to the second round but never has 90 minutes summed up the enigma that is Gareth Bale more than this game. Bale was the main man for big spells, terrible for others and then blazed a penno into orbit, which (not short of self-praise is Balo) he showed great ‘character’ to come back from and help them get the important clincher.
Losing to Italy was no great surprise but the Welsh hung on to just the 1-0 defeat meaning they’ve got through in second place – Bale continued his desire the smash the ball over the bar from various positions in the penalty area and Ethan Ampadu didn’t see that thrilled to break a Euros record. The Welshman is now the youngest player ever to get a red card in tournament history.
Somebody woke Germany up, Low’s team bouncing back from the defeat to France to beat Ronaldo’s Portugal 4-2 – not that Ronnie will care that much as he scored and spent most of the week in the headlines for knowing fizzy drinks are bad for you.
France slipped up against Hungary but that will only worry England fans if the team are stupid enough to win the group.
In the Premier League, the transfer rumour mill chunters away making even less sense than Graeme Souness in his half time analysis.
Arsenal want to sign Aaron Ramsdale from relegated Sheffield United (who he joined from relegated Bournemouth). Given his Jonah levels, Ramsdale could be the main reason Arteta gets sacked in November.
Thomas Partey will not be leaving the Gooners – in fact, he expects to play better next year now that he is being given his preferred number five shirt. Kieran Tierney stepped off the Wembley turf and put pen to paper on a new deal and the club hope that Emile Smith Rowe will follow, much to Aston Villa’s disappointment.
Not content with nicking Buendia off them, Dean Smith whacked in a £30m bid for ESR – which was turned down. Worth a try though, the state Arsenal are in.
Arteta would love to bring in Ben White and saw a £40m bid rejected – £40m for a current England international showing Arsenal’s current reading of the market.
Man City fans got a little excited by the pictures of Erling Haaland partying with Riyad Mahrez. I dread to think what Premier League squads would actually look like if transfers were based on who is partying with each other.
City are more likely to move Bernardo Silva to Barcelona, that poor broke team in Spain remember, for a mere £50m. He’ll team up with ex-United Dutchman Memphis Depay, picked up on a free transfer – thrifty Barca, until you learn how much they are paying him.
United are not being quiet, believe it or not. They’re flogging Pogba back to Juventus, Donny to Inter (hang on, I thought they were broke as well?!) and Daniel James to anyone who wants him. To balance things out, they won’t pay £80m for Sancho, £20m for Kieran Trippier or give £500k a week to Sergio Ramos.
Chelsea have let Tomori stay in Milan and told him to pop over the club border to Inter and say nice things to Hakimi who they want to bring to London – to sweeten it for Inter, they’ll offer them Marcos Alonso and a sack full of cash (which they’ll have to spend on Alonso’s wages).
Someone else leaving the city of Milan is Ashley Young who turned down Watford and Burnley to return to Villa Park, a decade after leaving them for United. Surely the point of heading to the retirement home that is Serie A is that you actually retire there?