Southgate to ring changes as England face Switzerland in friendly
The England boss wants to give game time to as many players as possible.
Gareth Southgate will ring the changes for England’s friendly against Switzerland, insisting his job is to promote the long-term health of the national side rather than protect his own record.
The Three Lions’ 2-1 defeat to Spain at Wembley, in what was both their inaugural Nations League fixture and a celebration of their charge to the World Cup semi-finals, means Southgate’s squad are in danger of becoming the first England team to lose four senior internationals in succession.
Those looking for mitigation do not have to search far. The defeats to Croatia and Belgium were in the last four of a tournament, territory that many of the current side’s predecessors failed to tread, while Saturday’s setback came in a brand new competition.
Nevertheless, Southgate would be forgiven for sending out his strongest XI in a bid to end the break on a high at Leicester’s King Power Stadium.
Instead he is ready to make serious alterations in a bid to offer much-needed game time to those who need it and preserve others who have been denied a post-Russia break.
“Statistics can be whatever you want them to be. I’ll have to live with whatever people want to say about my record, relegation (in the Nations League), whatever. I’m comfortable in my own skin,” he said.
“That focus will come on me and I’m not concerned about it. Otherwise I’d make decisions just to boost my win record. In the build-up to last summer we played Germany, France, Spain…if it was about my win record I probably wouldn’t make those decisions. Decisions are made to develop the team.
“We’ve got players who are an important part of our squad, there’s a lot of competition for places and close calls for who the first-choice players will be.
“A lot of the guys coming into the team (against Switzerland) have had zero minutes for their clubs. Ultimately the right thing is to give them game time, give them international matches, that’s the reason we do it. It’s important they all feel involved.”
The idea that the England manager is doling out appearances in a bid to compensate for lack of action at domestic level is, undeniably, a concerning one.
It is, though, good news for the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph, Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck, all of whom should come into a new-look team alongside stand-in goalkeeper Jack Butland.
“Some of these guys, as a result of being with us in the summer, missed pre-season,” said Southgate.
“They’ve missed being first choice in the first couple of weeks and understandably they (the clubs) have kept starting XIs.
“We’re in a position now where it will help them at their clubs to get minutes with us. We’re trying to help them develop.
“There are other guys who’ve had to go back into matches quickly and have European football coming up, so we’ve got to balance those things off – progress for individual players and how to get them to the best possible level.”
Many who saw England turned over at home by Spain have highlighted the lack of ball-playing creative midfielders in the Three Lions set-up but it is an argument Southgate has little time for.
“I think we’ve got to appreciate the players we have,” he said.
“The players did a exceptional job in the summer, the most important thing is that I help them develop and we invest time in them, create the environment that allows them to flourish and work to the best possible level with the players we’ve got.
“We can’t think about what we haven’t got. If we had different kinds of players we might play in a different kind of way.
“But we need to maximise our strengths, which I think we did in the summer, and keep doing that the next couple of years.”