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Gareth Southgate’s risk averse stance is affecting England’s performance

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By Mitch Wilks

After scoring six goals against a side destined to be stubborn defensively on matchday one and seeing the outbursts of excitement on social media ahead of a giant clash with those across the pond, England played out a draw against United States was inevitable .

Worryingly inevitable, in fact. And not in the pessimistic sense of “oh well, that was coming” but more of a “yeah, we know what you’re like” kind of way.

England’s 0-0 draw with the United States is not That bad, in the grand scheme of things. That’s four points after two games and he leaves them in pole position to top Group B at the World Cup, advancing to the last 16 just as expected.

Things That negative, however, is the fact that the thousands of fans on Twitter showed more courage and creativity in generating pre-match memes than Gareth Southgate and his team who dared to perform on the pitch for 90 minutes. That might sound harsh, but it’s true – it’s damn true, as American hero Kurt Angle would say. We hope you enjoyed the point, Kurt. Good for you.

From the moment England started to horseshoe possession around the well-trained press of the United States in the first half hour, things didn’t look right. But, as Southgate does, we have to trust that the talent of this team will find a way.

They haven’t found a way. And that was clear from the half-time whistle, as Gregg Berhalter’s team should definitely have taken the lead at half-time. A change was needed, but the England manager was once again too hesitant to bring it; too scared to try to dominate the game.

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The United States made England look incredibly fatigued and completely uncreative. And they deserve credit for that; Tyler Adams did a great job of stifling the Three Lions, getting the ball into his own half and putting others into play. Antonee Robinson released his nation regularly on the wing and Weston McKennie continued his fine streak of form with an inspired display.

An ‘inspired show’ is the polar opposite of what England could muster, even after a half-time break that was supposed to inject them with a lease on life. This ultimately comes back to Southgate, whose reluctance to be bolder with his decision-making too often bleeds into his team’s performance.

He hasn’t been immune to criticism, has Gareth. And it was often enough to beat him with the same stick, but for good reason. England has a talent pool that is bursting with creativity, flair, resistance to the press and courage.

And in a game that lacked all of that and more, Southgate sat and watched as his team scrambled the ball behind, headed for U.S. corners and failed to break past the baseline.

origin 1England didn’t have the answers | Brad Smith/ISI Photos/GettyImages

While Mason Mount chased the shadows, Phil Foden sat on the bench twiddling his thumbs. While Raheem Sterling was tired of waiting for a ball in the box, Marcus Rashford stared at the deeper defender and demanded a ball to chase into his head.

We could go on, with the point that England have loads of talent and many different ways of approaching – and winning – football matches. Yet Southgate continues to live in his comfort zone, fearful of calling to the bench and those he has yet to learn to trust.

When those changes came – the first was with just over 20 minutes to play – one came in the form of Jordan Henderson. Another of the old guard that offers safety and security, not the risk and flair this side must be associated with in order to dream big and achieve bigger results.

But how can he learn to trust a player when he doesn’t give him a chance? With the United States playing an aggressive game, shrinking the field and closing down spaces, too many of his regulars have struggled. And many were sitting on the sidelines waiting to be brave and take a chance.

England’s tendency to pass wide too often and their inability to close quickly mirrors Southgate’s limitations; their boss still thinks with chains in terms of substitutions and setups and, consequently, so do his players.

It’s not a new problem, but it needs to be resolved quickly if England are to go deep into Qatar. There are too many teams in the tournament that will punish them for making big gaps and not taking risks against a high line.

We may not talk about it now with qualification all but assured, but if Southgate’s timid approach to switching sides and bringing in fresh faces to try and tip the balance doesn’t change, then we may look back on this as a reference point after a early exit.

This article was originally posted on 90min.com as Gareth Southgate’s risk averse stance is affecting England’s performance.