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Home   /   Should Southgate follow in Wiegman’s footsteps ahead of the impending Qatar World Cup?

Subedited by Stanley Challenor

While not their typical display last night at the Amex Stadium, the Lionesses put on a great account of attacking football in a far from “bore draw” against the Czech Republic in an international friendly. Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses came close on a number of occasions on a cold night in Brighton as two efforts cannoned off the post and countless of their seventeen shots thwarted by a resolute Czech defence. Lauren James especially looked at her best before she was forced off due to an injury, to be honest I imagine her opposing full-back was relieved to see her go off.

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Frustratingly, the draw ended a 15-match winning streak for the inform Lionesses but did however extend their impressive unbeaten record to 24 games. While not a night to remember for the neutral, the same cannot be said for the likes of Lucy Bronze who made her 100th cap for the Lionesses met with a warm and emphatic home crowd.

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No matter the result, Sarina Wiegmans textbook direct, free flowing, fluid football was on full display throughout the 90 minutes as the current European Champions continue to impress fans both near and far. Cast your mind towards the other side of the pond, Gareth Southgate’s gutless and defensive tactics have drawn countless criticism across the nation and indeed the footballing world and has left them without a win for six matches.

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His insistent need to play a five at the back formation and stubbornness in fielding two defensive-midfielders has sucked the life out of a once thriving team leaving his position as England manager under an unquestionably great threat. With the 2022 Qatar World Cup looming just a month away, rumoured to be the gaffers last major tournament at the helm for England, is it time for Southgate to make a roll of the dice in the way of Wiegmans textbook. While England have not won a major trophy since their famous 1966 campaign, Wiegmans’ Lionesses have won silverware just this calendar year.

You can’t argue that both sides of English football have undeniable attacking talents, however the gap between the brand of football each side plays could not be greater. The Lioness’ boss is keen to allow the talents of Fran Kirby, Beth Mead, Chloe Kelly and Lauren James thrive but in contrast Southgate has shackled the flair of Grealish, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden to the bench of an England squad lacking a major spark.

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Why cant England produce the kind of performances accustomed to the viewers of the women’s game? Why cant Southgate be more like Wiegman?

Take both the men and women’s last five games for example. The men’s team have scored just four goals conceding nine times leaving them winless six games running. The Lionesses on the other hand bettered that feat in just three games scoring sixteen times and conceding just twice, including their game against Germany in the final of the Women’s Euros.

Which leads me onto another interesting comparison. Both the England men and Women made it a major international final in the last year with just one of them nabbing the silverware. The Women faced 2nd ranked (FIFA Womens World Rankings) Germany, 8th ranked Spain and 3rd in the world rankings Sweden. The men however faced 6th ranked (FIFA Men’s World Rankings) Italy, 10th ranked Denmark and 27th ranked Ukraine.

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Both teams had an aggregate of eight to two during the last three games of the tournament (despite the men facing arguably easier opponents), but it was the England Womens excellent game management and Dutch mastermind Serina Wiegman’s dynamic substitutions which lead the Lionesses to victory, something Southgate and his England side really lacked in their final.

So, on the face of it the Lioness play and score more than Southgate’s England. Delve even deeper and the contrast is even more apparent. Wiegman opts to play a 433 formation, a balanced brand of football utilizing direct passing and rapid counter attacks to bombard her opponent. Fran Kirby is allowed the freedom to roam the pitch while attacking fullbacks such as Lauren James are often given the space to thrive forward leaving Beth Mead to poach goals in an overloaded box.

Southgate’s England however play a much more defensive brand of football opting for three-CB’s and two “wing-backs” covered often by the use of two DM’s (defensive midfielder) in the middle of the park. While this does allow the fullbacks to overlap, it leaves room for just three attacking players (often two with Harry Kane being a guaranteed starter). With so many attacking talents resting on the bench, surely Southgate should be utilising them in a more attacking formation? The stats suggest he ought to.

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In the past ten games (in which the Lionesses played in their winning Euro campaign) Southgate’s England and Wiegman’s Lionesses share a 59% possession average, however the ladies boast a 2.56 xG (expected goals) compared to the men’s 1.97 xG, take 4.6 more shots per match converting 2% more of them and have 1.2 more goals scored per match than the men. Often comparisons made between the men and women’s game does not make for pretty reading. It’s become increasingly clear however that it is the men who should look to reach the heights of the star-studded women and perhaps an increasingly under-pressure Southgate should make a call to his compatriots in order to fulfil the countries need for an attacking England side.

Or are we looking at this all wrong? Is Wiegman herself in contention for the potentially vacant England managers job? Could she replicate her admirable success and apply it to a lacklustre England men’s side? Are we even ready for that? What a story it would be.

Whatever the answer, as I’m not sure there is a clear one, both Wiegman and the mighty Lionesses continue to prove that it is indeed #HerGameToo.

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June 2024