Loyalty to Cost Southgate His Job?

Arsenal and England Star Bukayo Saka against Germany

England and Germany played out a 3-3 draw on Monday night at Wembley Stadium in a Group 3 UEFA Nations League game. The Three Lions went into the fixture having already been relegated after their loss to Italy on the weekend. England manager Gareth Southgate made a few changes to the side that took to the field on Friday night, but his loyalty to certain players remained, something which is bound to cost him his job sooner or later.

Despite England scoring two goals from open-play last night, their first in this season’s Nations League, the result didn’t restore enough pride given that England ended the campaign rock bottom of Group 3, only picking up 3 points from 6 games. The Three Lions didn’t even win a single game, albeit against tough opposition in Italy, Germany and Hungary.

After the 1-0 loss to Italy on Friday night, Southgate decided that Manchester United captain Harry Maguire would retain his spot in the starting XI. This decision almost came back to haunt the former Middlesbrough boss as Maguire was at fault for Germany’s first two goals.

Maguire gave the ball away to Jamal Musiala just outside England’s 18-yard area. The former Leicester player then gave away a penalty on Musiala after bringing the German down, whilst trying to atone for his error. Manchester City star Ilkay Gündogan stepped up and converted the spot-kick.

Maguire also gave the ball away for Germany’s second goal, albeit higher up the pitch. The defender took too long on the ball assessing his passing options before being robbed of possession leading to a quick German counterattack, which was finished off beautifully by Kai Havertz.

Southgate received major criticism for his inclusion of Maguire in the 26-man squad for the current international break. Many believe his selection was driven by Southgate’s loyalty towards the player, given his impressive performances in the Euros last year. However, even those that understood Maguire’s inclusion did not think he’d be a starter.

But for Southgate, it seems Maguire is one of the first names on the team sheet. Although that decision was bound to get him sacked had the team not come from behind to grab a draw last night, Southgate continues to defend Maguire, stating he’s done good things in the last two matches.

England Manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Manchester United Captain Harry Maguire (right)
England Manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Manchester United Captain Harry Maguire (right)

“I know everyone will focus on Harry, but there were some very important moments Harry delivered during the two matches,” said Southgate during his post-match interview.

“That’s always going to raise debate (picking a player that’s not playing enough for their club), but I think in these moments we’ve got to back our best and our most experienced players, unless we’re in a situation where it’s almost untenable and impossible to pick them.”

The game changed when Southgate made a double substitution, bringing on Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka. Within minutes of their arrival, the game spun on its head.

However, England’s attacking flair could’ve been released from the get-go. Many questioned why Southgate started Saka at left-wingback in their loss to Italy when the Arsenal star has proven to be one of the best right-wingers in the Premier League.

Saka’s cameo last night showed exactly why he is currently England’s best right-winger, playing a major hand in all three of the goals. However, his performance last night left England fans more bewildered at Southgate’s decision to play him as part of the backline against Italy. Many suggest that the result would have been different if Saka started in his preferred position.

Gareth Southgate’s defensive style and setup is bound to cost him his job, especially if he continues to populate his system with players he has a particular loyalty towards.