Gareth Southgate has finally ditched his safety-first approach

Gareth from accounts lets the handbrake off at long last: Dominant win against Italy shows Southgate has finally ditched the cautious approach that cost England at Euro 2020

  • England were rampant as they dismantled Italy at Wembley 
  • Gareth Southgate has allowed his players freedom to express themselves 
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

Now this was the Euro 2020 final we all wanted. The whine the last time England played Italy here at Wembley and lost in heartbreaking fashion on a balmy summer evening was that Gareth Southgate had wasted the opportunity of a lifetime by being too cautious.

Dull Gareth from accounts with his negative outlook on life blew the chance to seize the game. Or, as Southgate himself put it, ‘Blimey, we’ve got all these good players and this numpty’s in charge’.

Well, maybe it just helps if you have Jude Bellingham in this form. Or maybe England are just much better two years on. Or perhaps Italy much worse. 

But the upshot is that Southgate has not just loosened his grip on the handbrake but released it altogether.

At times you wondered whether that was such a good thing early on, as Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Stephan El Shaarawy pushed on down the flanks, leaving Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker sprinting back to cover.

Gareth Southgate appears to have finally taken the handbrake off his England team 

England came from behind to beat Italy 3-1 at Wembley in their Euro 2024 qualifier

Your browser does not support iframes.

Or as Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips found themselves overwhelmed.

This was the England we wanted and yet they seemed to be about to learn the first lesson of driving school: the handbrake is there for a reason and needs to be applied at times.

And yet we need not have feared. The reality is that England have enough strength going forward that they need not even worry about going a goal behind.

When you can take off Bellingham and bring on Jack Grealish, it sends a message across Europe. 

When Bukayo Saka is injured and Marcus Rashford steps up and scores a goal in his image — cutting in from the left rather than the right, but with similar ferocity of pace and clinical focus — then the whole world is watching.

England are very good. Far too good for Alessandro Bastoni and Giorgio Scalvini to contrive to mess up with a misplaced header and an amble to recover, because when Harry Kane is in this mood, any loose ball will be eaten up. 

And with a sight of goal, the finish was a formality.

Much is down to Bellingham. His elegant striding away leaves midfielders in his wake and entices defenders like Di Lorenzo into rash challenges.

Jude Bellingham delivered another superb performance at Wembley on Tuesday night

England’s No10 won the penalty for the equaliser and set up his team’s second 

He is an astonishing player and has settled a debate for Southgate. Are England a 4-3-3 team or 4-2-3-1? When you have Bellingham, of course you play with an attacking No 10 and two more defensive players.

Bellingham is the kind of player who bends the game to his will. Few can do it. Obviously Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi did. Kylian Mbappe did it in the World Cup final, dragging France back from nowhere into a game and almost to a famous win.

Bellingham did it against Scotland last month — slightly lower stakes — but this was a different test again, against a weakened Italy team but an A-list nation nonetheless.

Not that there was really any doubt. If you’re bossing the Real Madrid team, then anything is relative.

But it provides Southgate with a tactical fluidity he has never really enjoyed in his career. Remember his run to the World Cup semi-final with a 5-3-2 formation that had Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli in midfield and Ashley Young at wing back?

Harry Kane scored twice as England eased their way to Euro 2024 with a comfortable win

They’ve come a long way since then, a formation which was built around the lack of genuinely good wide players other than Raheem Sterling, and a need to create in other ways. It was pragmatic rather than inspiring but did the job. But it was a means to an end.

After that, Southgate has been veering between back fours, back fives and back threes until Qatar 2022 finally settled him on the back four. Or again, maybe Bellingham did.

The big backward step in the Euro 2020 final was to start with a back three when England had played so well with a back four against Denmark in the semi.

Though wing backs should give you attacking options — and it did for Luke Shaw’s opener from Kieran Trippier’s cross — the reality is that out of possession you can concede space in the centre — as England did when Jorginho took over the game — and end up in a back five on the back foot.

You can’t really imagine that happening with Bellingham and Rice in midfield. No one is going to dominate them. The only problem for Southgate is finding the third musketeer.

Southgate is blessed with attacking options and could afford to replace Bellingham with Jack Grealish late in the game on Tuesday

Kalvin Phillips is the best they have and yet is slipping so far down the pecking order at Manchester City it shows when he starts for England.

Perhaps Trent Alexander-Arnold can solve that problem, though that may be one attacking instinct too many.

Still, it’s a nice conundrum to have. England have so many world-class attacking players that they head off to Euro 2024 as favourites.

And the handbrake? It’s almost like this vintage vehicle doesn’t have one.


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

Your browser does not support iframes.

Source: Read Full Article