Gareth Southgate said that he will shoulder the responsibility for England’s terrible run of form after the manager was booed by his own supporters following his side’s insipid 1-0 defeat to Italy last night.
England’s World Cup preparations suffered another dent after Giacomo Raspadori’s superb winner condemned them to relegation from the top tier of the Nations League. The Euro 2020 finalists, who are certain to finish bottom of Group A3, have gone five games without a competitive win for the first time since 1992 and have not scored from open play for 450 minutes – their worst run in 22 years.
The statistics made it hard to accept Southgate calling the display against Italy “a step in the right direction”. The 52-year-old, who described the jeers from the travelling support at the San Siro as an “understandable emotional reaction”, insisted that England had simply not managed the fine margins well enough against opponents who have failed to qualify for the World Cup.
However Southgate, who was also barracked by supporters after England lost 4-0 to Hungary in June, acknowledged that the situation is far from ideal as Qatar 2022 draws closer. Monday’s Nations League match against Germany at Wembley is England’s final outing before their World Cup opener against Iran and Southgate accepted that he is under increasing scrutiny.
“We are where we are in terms of the timing, so we’ve got to do the best we can in terms of keeping the guys on track,” Southgate said. “The reaction to tonight will be guided by the result, but we weren’t far off in terms of the performance. I’ve got to keep the players believing in what they’re doing.
“We are in a run of bad results. It’s for us to put that right. The only way to do that is to stick with what we believe, stick with what’s got us success in previous tournaments, and in the end the players have got to stay really tight.
“There’s going to be a lot of noise but that will be around me and that’s absolutely fine. It’s my job to take that pressure for them.” England are one of two countries yet to score a non-penalty goal during this Nations League campaign, the other being San Marino, but Southgate maintained that he saw positive signs.
“It’s difficult for me to be too critical of the performance,” he said. “We had more possession, more shots, more shots on target. For large parts we played very well. We didn’t deal with the decisive moment defensively and we had moments to be more decisive in their final third and our quality wasn’t quite right.
“I thought there were a lot of positives tonight. A lot of good individual performances. I personally thought the performance was a step in the right direction but I perfectly understand that because of the result that’s not going to be the reaction.”
Declan Rice said that England will improve in attack. “It’s disappointing,” the midfielder said. “In the Nations League we have slipped our standards. I did not think it was all bad tonight. We controlled the game and passed the ball around well. We just lacked that cutting edge. I see in training that there are goals for fun. Trust me, we are gonna be good.”