Gareth Southgate must find a midfielder solution for England and manage expectations for Qatar 2022 | Football news

England’s place at the 2022 World Cup is assured. So what must Gareth Southgate do over the next 12 months to ensure his team are able to build on their place as Euro 2020 finalists?

The penalty shoot-out loss to Italy this summer could have easily gone against England and saw a first major silver coin won since 1966, but, next November, Southgate’s side will have to leave. , when the first Winter World Cup kicks off. .

Here we select a few key areas that are likely to be the most important in the manager’s mind in the preparation for the World Cup

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Highlights of the World Cup Group I qualifiers between San Marino and England

Find a midfielder who plays ball to protect possession

Two of the country’s most impressive performers at Euro 2020 were Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice and the duo are likely to play many more matches together on the international stage. But a long-standing problem for this English group has been to retain possession in the middle of the park against the top teams.

It was a problem against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final when, after scoring early, England pulled out, came under increasing pressure, couldn’t keep the ball and ultimately conceded twice. And that posed a problem again in July, when, once again, England scored early against Italy in the Euro final before their opponents took over.

A positive start and a one-goal lead were also wasted against the Netherlands in the 2019 Nations League semi-finals. It’s a recurring problem and Southgate is clearly aware of it.

Since the Euro he has experienced Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phil Foden and Mason Mount in central midfield roles, while Reece James even had a brief home appearance in Andorra in September and again in San Marino. .

PA - Jude Bellingham in action in England
Jude Bellingham appeared at ease on the international stage

However, Jude Bellingham, whose progress with England is carefully managed by Southgate, appears to be the easiest selection in the middle of the park if a ball player is the priority – and his outings against Albania and San Marino were reminders that it is an integral part of Southgate’s plans.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder – the youngest player to represent England at a major tournament – will still be just 19 at the time of the World Cup, but he has already gained a lot of experience in big games and has shown he has the technical skills to help his country use the ball better.

While Rice and Phillips may be a bit underestimated with the ball on their feet and Jordan Henderson recalled what he can bring to the engine room against Albania, it is clear that England have achieved less than 75% of his passes against Italy in July. Potential winners increased 89 percent.

A technical alternative, or addition, to these more experienced central midfielder figures would be a welcome addition on occasion.

Manage the pressure of expectations – but then deliver

In the last two major competitions, England have gone from low expectations and an enjoyable run in Russia to a home tournament where optimism turned to belief as notable wins – and a draw. fate favorable – paved the way for a final at Wembley. With Qatar 2022, England will be expected to be a major contender.

These expectations are not unrealistic either. Next November, this group of talented young players, who have had such valuable experience this summer, will be further ahead in their development and will enter the World Cup with a lot of experience under their belt. Southgate’s side against Albania, for example, had more caps between them than any England XI since 2013.

Add to that the fact that the tournament arrives in the mid-season, before the rigors of the Premier League campaign have taken their toll, and we might even start to get carried away with 12 months yet!

But that’s the kind of feeling Southgate needs to, if not downplay, at least manage.

For a brief moment, Pickford made English fans believe again
England will have high expectations if they seal their place in Qatar

It is understood that he is set to sign a two-year extension that would keep him in charge until 2024, and that will temper at least one major talking point – although events in Qatar may alter those plans.

Certainly, from a World Cup perspective, there is a tale of the moment or never for him, with the allure of club football surely too strong for him to stay beyond Euro 2024. But the same may be true of some of its keys. senior players.

England will still have a relatively young squad – 17 of their 26 at Euro were 25 or younger – but Harry Kane will be 29 at the World Cup, Raheem Sterling will be 28 during the tournament, Jordan Henderson will be 32 , Harry Maguire 29, Kyle Walker 32, Kieran Trippier 32 and John Stones 28.

This could be their best remaining chance to win the World Cup and end all those years of suffering and, with high expectations, Southgate and his group cannot afford to leave the Middle East with regrets.

Get the right mix of experience and new faces

With the World Cup coming just a year and a half after the Euro was delayed, there will likely be fewer changes to Southgate’s squad between the two tournaments than there would have been otherwise. There is also the feeling that Southgate has a clear idea of ​​his favorite XI.

The manager did not make a substitution in the recent 1-1 draw in Poland, with Jordan Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Luke Shaw, Phillips, Rice, Sterling, Mount, Jack Grealish and Kane clearly among the favorites. You can also add Foden and James to this list of names.

Southgate has also regularly relied on team players such as Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings, and Henderson’s experience, while nursing Bukayo Saka and Bellingham’s introductions to the international stage.

But there are also a number of dropouts and young players who will be desperate to show him they deserve a seat on the plane.

Emile Smith Rowe made his England debut against Albania
Emile Smith Rowe made his England debut against Albania

Mason Greenwood remains a striking omission in the composition of the national team. Southgate has suggested this will change in 2022, with his current lack of involvement due to an agreement between the England boss, the player’s family and Manchester United to allow him to focus on his football at Old Trafford for the time being . He will surely – surely – be part of the offensive options taken in Qatar if it maintains its current levels.

Then there is Emile Smith Rowe, who seized his chance during the international break in November following his first appearance, against Albania, with his first goal and assist in his first start against San Marino. Conor Gallagher was also promoted from the U21s for this last game, while Curtis Jones is another young player who will feel in it with a scream.

Joe Gomez, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all had a taste of international football and are hoping for a return home.

Finding the right balance between proven and exciting new options will be a key task for Southgate as it assesses who to take to the World Cup.

The mix against Albania suggests he is striving to achieve that goal, with Smith Rowe’s debut completing a starting XI that had 451 caps between them. The manager has now made 50 debuts during his tenure – and he knows this team can’t afford to stand still.

Penalty shootout plan

Despite all the talk that England’s penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia in the 2018 World Cup has receded the nation’s pain in the past, that old injury has been reopened by the loss to England. Italy.

We don’t need another in-depth discussion of how well England should master their psychology, choose their place and stick to it, and the importance – or not – of the practice.

But maybe Southgate will brush aside the idea of ​​sending substitutes into the dying minutes of the game as specialist kick takers. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and even Mark Noble in the Premier League have shown that this is probably not the way to go …

When and where is the 2022 World Cup taking place?

The 2022 World Cup is held in Qatar during the winter months rather than the usual summer months, due to the heat.

The tournament kicks off on Monday, November 21 at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor with a match that will feature the host country.

The final will be played at Lusail Stadium in Doha one week before Christmas, on Sunday December 18th.

What happens to the Premier League in 2022/23?

The Premier League has confirmed key dates for the 2022/23 campaign, with the season being adjusted to host a World Cup that takes place in the middle of the domestic calendar.

The season will start a week earlier than normal on August 6, 2022, with 16 match days running through the weekend of November 12/13, before the tournament kicks off on November 21.

The Premier League will resume the day after the World Cup final, which takes place on December 18.

The last round of the 2022/23 season will be played on May 28, 2023.

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