Why was Gareth Southgate so conservative against Croatia?

After earning a new contract, Southgate is being too cautious.

He knows Premier League managers don’t play young English talent in their first teams. But he doesn’t play them either!

New boy Ben Stillwell of Leicester was excelent at left back. Given a chance to show what he can do, Stillwell looked classy and solid.

Clearly, Jadon Sancho can’t learn anything by playing with footballers his own age. He’s been like that since he was six. The head of his primary school could see it.  Towards the end of the summer term she allowed the younger kids to play in the big playground with the older boys and Jadon slalomed round them one by one and the head had a feeling he would go all the way as a pro. 

She said, “I just knew.”

Sancho only got about 17+4 minutes in Rejika but looked more constructive than Theo Walcott ever did and more confident than Sterling.

We need dribblers.

Football is a game of passing but we also need dribblers who can pass, as well as tacklers who can pass and runners who can pass.

Look at Euro 96 : Venables was radical because used three dribblers to make the play, guys who could carry the ball and re-shape a game from moment to moment: Gascoigne, Anderton and McManaman.

That style is the way forward for England. And Southgate, having played for England in that tournament, should realise that better than than anyone.

Yes, Gareth deserved his new four-year contract.

But he’s got to stop thinking about 2022 and 2021 because this Nations League competition has gone down the toilet already.

It’s not about training and assessment any more. It’s about game time for the kids, it’s about experiment, opportunities, and new combinations.

Gareth Southgate, like any coach at any level, has to grapple with the eternal conundrum: How do I make one part of my team stronger without making another part weaker?

I wondered what Lee Dixon  made of that performance, so I watched the ITV Highlights before going to bed. Lee talked about our midfield three sometimes getting pulled over to the same side of the pitch and said that Dier does lack mobility.

Asked about Ross Barkley, Ian Wright said, “He looks really fit. I just want to see the best of what’s coming out of his head down to his feet.”

Don’t we all, Ian. Don’t we all.

Tonight is a big opportunity for Southgate’s England in Croatia