Tuesday’s big stories
Mido goes in on Gareth Southgate
Former Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough sometime goal-getter Mido has absolutely gone for Gareth Southgate.
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Now, the pair have history. Mido was at Boro when Southgate was in charge. It was Southgate's first job, and it is fair to say that the 51-cap Egyptian forward was not enamoured with the current England boss's managerial acumen.
"England need a proper manager. They are wasting their time with Southgate," began Mido.
“It’s true he always says the right things in the media and probably that’s why he kept his job for so long but believe me, he is stuttering every time things go wrong at half-time. Players feel his fear! I remember him at Middlesbrough, he was scared to death when we were fighting relegation. True, it was his first job, but these things never change.
If you are scared of losing a football match, you will always be scared of losing a football match!! And players can always feel it. England [have] got some top talents in their side, but they need a manager with [a] strong character, someone who can get them to enjoy themselves and play with no fear. I’m sorry but Southgate is not the man to do that. My advice to the FA is go and get Mourinho as your head coach and appoint Southgate as the FA chairman. They are both perfect for the job. Get Southgate away from the players as far as you can.
Mido, has, to put it mildly, taken Southgate to task. Now, there is an emerging school of thought that Southgate has taken the national team as far as he can: that his work was done once he had repaired the broken relationship between the England team and its supporters. That he is a limited coach and an exceptional PR man.
This, though, is harsh on Southgate. Granted, some of his selection decisions have seemed wayward lately, but perhaps he is using the Nations League and the friendlies that have come before and after to give England some tactical flexibility. Perhaps he has calculated that a couple of losses here or there are worth it if it prepares England better for the rigours of tournament football.
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All too often the Three Lions have gone haring into a tournament on the back of a near-perfect qualifying and friendly run and been an abject disappointment - usually because they are utterly incapable of adapting to the situation they find themselves in. Tournament football is an unforgiving sphere; much more so than qualification football where getting poleaxed once or twice by a more tactically or technically astute side does not always prove fatal. In tournament football it is fatal. One loss and you're out more often than not.
So being adept at playing three at the back or four at the back or five at the back or whatever is handy. So perhaps Southgate is attempting to engender a tactical evolution and flexibility within his squad. Or perhaps not. The run to the semi-finals of both the World Cup and Nations League in 2018 and 2019 respectively have given Southgate the capital to see how far he can take this England team.
Also, this is fairly tidy:
On the subject of Jose Mourinho and international football...
Mourinho is not a fan of international football
Jose Mourinho's Instagram is a great follow. Genuinely great. Whether it is intentionally so is open to debate. You may - or may not - remember him from such hits as When You Win but You Don't Play Well and Bad Performances Equal Bad Results.
Well, here he is in the sequel: Absolutely Raging With International Football.
Pre-Covid, Mourinho's relationship with international football was at best thawed, now, post-break, it is probably absolutely rotten, particularly after Matt Doherty got Covid. Now Mourinho loves a verbal joust, and sometimes he does it for the sake of it. Not this time - this time he is pointing out the glaringly obvious: an international break was a bad idea.
It seemed illogical to put on a window of international matches during a global pandemic a few weeks into a truncated season. And so it has proved: an inordinate number of players have picked up injuries and an inordinate number of players have tested positive for Covid-19. One player – Croatia’s Domagoj Vida - was advised of his positive test at half-time and duly withdrew from his side’s encounter with Turkey. Sloppy admin, that.
Now, while Mourinho detests the concept of international football in his current role as a club boss, he will almost certainly venture there at some point. Why? It is a haven for defensive-minded coaches, where that footballing philosophy excels and is encouraged. However, now is not the time, as he is beginning to look in his element at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, back where he feels at home, with the underdogs ready and willing to grind their way to League Cup glory.
He has that glint in his eye, so, chin up Mido, looks like England will persist with Southgate for a while yet.
Why it is all worth it
Riyad Mahrez was in a channels when Said Benrahma picked him out with a driven cross-field ball. It was an accurate knock but a big old knock at the same time. A knock that looked like it would be difficult for Mahrez to draw down from the sky, particularly with a defender flailing about him. And yet Mahrez with a waft of his left foot, cajoled the ball in front of him, leaving the defender, still flailing, in his wake. However, the Algeria international was not done there, he came back on himself, twice, with the defender, still flailing, now discombobulated to the point of getting dropped before leathering the ball past the keeper.
That goal gave Algeria a 2-0 lead against Zimbabwe in their AFCON Group H qualifying match. The draw ensured that they joined Cameroon (hosts) and Senegal as having qualified for next year's tournament.
Jose Mourinho would like to see international football canned for – let’s see how we can put this diplomatically, less than altruistic reasons – when really, international and European football should be wound in for the sake of the environment, as John Nicholson writes in Football365.
Football’s innate exceptionalism will resist change. Its case is always different. But this is really serious now. Really serious. That we are demanding so much carbon be pumped into the atmosphere merely so we can watch what will likely be an insignificant, quite possibly boring game of football is, if you stand back and look at it objectively, abso-f*cking-lutely insane. We can do without seeing Chelsea play Krasnodar. In fact, we must do without it. There are two basic routes through this. Clubs either travel to distant parts, be they Rennes or Russia, across land by the greenest, lowest polluting forms of transport, or we do without European football and internationals on anything other than an occasional basis. If flying is the only practical way to get to a game, that game cannot be played. I mean, if we don’t stop this wholly unnecessary, totally superfluous pollution of the atmosphere, what do we stop and when?
More Nations League football (yay!), follow our minute-by-minute updates of Spain v Germany and France v Sweden, with the latest injuries and positive Covid-19 test results as they happen.
Ben Snowball is here on Wednesday morning ready to go out to bat for Gareth Southgate
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