Sunday 20 October 2019

Southgate slams Premier League over early start

David De Gea is all smiles at training ahead of Spain’s friendly against England. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
David De Gea is all smiles at training ahead of Spain’s friendly against England. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Gareth Southgate believes that the Premier League managers have been put in an "impossible situation" by this season starting so close to the end of the World Cup, and said that the early start may have been because the organisers expected his team to be eliminated early and back in England before the end of June.

The Premier League started just four weeks after the World Cup final, leaving many Premier League players struggling at the start of this season.

Speaking in Seville last night, Southgate said that there was a problem with "psychological freshness", that teams were performing below their best and that there had been "a lot of injuries" in the Premier League.

But Southgate did not blame the club managers who had been put in an "impossible situation", getting many of their players back just two weeks before the Premier League started on August 10.

Instead, Southgate said he didn't "really understand" why the Premier League started as early as it did, one week before La Liga and Serie A, and two whole weeks before Bundesliga.

Southgate said that the organisers may not have planned on England reaching the semi-finals and playing a third-placed play-off on July 14. Had England been eliminated as early as usual, this early start would never have been a problem.

"I hadn't looked into when the season started until when we got back from the tournament," Southgate said.

"Maybe they were expecting us to be back by the end of June. I assumed the rest of the world were going to be there until the middle of July."

Southgate said that this was another area where the organisers of the Premier League calendar could do more to help English clubs and players, just like other major European leagues are willing to help.

"It's always easy to make a comment like that and not know the complex scenario the decision makers had to go to, because that happens to me quite a lot. It's a bit like our clubs in the Champions League, some of the rest of the leagues in Europe help them and adjust the fixture list. I'm sure our clubs would appreciate that. They're representing English football and we want them all to do well."

Meanwhile, Southgate said that he has moved back to a 4-3-3 to take advantage of England's next generation of wingers. Southgate ended his year-long experiment with 3-5-2 on Friday night, moving to a 4-3-3 that he will stick with for tonight's game with Spain in Seville.

Explaining why he made the move, Southgate said it was to help England on the pitch, but also because he has "half an eye" on England's junior teams and the talented wide players he has coming through. Southgate started with Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling out wide on Friday, with Jadon Sancho replacing Sterling for the last 12 minutes.

Sancho has starred for England at youth level but so have Ryan Sessegnon, Reiss Nelson and Ademola Lookman, a new generation of dangerous wingers who have played in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 for England, and would not have an obvious place in the side in a 3-5-2 system. Moving to a 4-3-3 will give England a chance in the long term to fit them in.

Southgate explained that as he seeks to evolve the England team, he knows that a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 would better suit the "very promising" wingers and No 8s he has coming through.

"We looked at players that might come into the teams, younger ones, and part of my thinking was always what is the mid to long-term as much as the next few games. There are obvious issues we have to resolve immediately, in terms of how we defend and how we press.

"But also with half an eye in my mind on other players who can come in and play that way, who we've seen in the junior teams in a similar system." (© Independent News Service)

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