Gareth Southgate has built up a lot of equity with the English fans since being appointed in 2016. However, football can often be fickle and possess a short memory; as the old cliché goes, you’re only as good as your last game.
That being said, this isn’t to tarnish any of Southgate’s achievements or progress. Still, if England decided to go in a different direction after the UEFA European Championships, Graham Potter could be the ideal replacement. He has done wonders at Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, with much fewer resources, so what could he bring to the budding English setup?
Style of Play/Progressive Football
Gareth Southgate has brought adaptability and boldness since taking over, switching from a 3-5-2 in 2018 to a 4-3-3 and even 4-2-3-1 now. His use of creative players and playing from the back has England going into the Euros with a good chance of winning. Euro 2020 betting has them as one of the favourites to win outright at 5/1. However, that hype and expectancy come at a cost. If Southgate doesn’t have England performing at the tournament, there will be calls for a manager who can use the talent available correctly. He is known to be conservative and to favour players who have gotten him this far.
Graham Potter has been noted for his adventurous play, despite a Brighton squad not brimming with talent. It means he sticks to his belief and style of play no matter the opposition. Potter has his teams play through quick passing combinations out wide before working the ball back inside for through balls or creating space out wide for a cutback. They will be patient in building from the back and are often admired for their creative use of centre backs. Potter is flexible with formations, using a 4-2-3-1, a 4-2-2-2, a 3-5-2, and a 3-4-3. He could bring a style that England has not seen before but could be suited to them finally playing on the front foot to bring the best out of the creative options.
England have not won a major tournament since 1966, and it’s not because of a lack of talent. Since then, they’ve had players like Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Peter Shilton, Bryan Robson, Stuart Pearce, John Terry, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, just to name a few. Also, the Premier League became possibly the strongest tournament in Europe, adding to England’s resources at its disposal.
The talent is not in question, so why hasn’t England won since? Tactical inflexibility and a reliance on a 4-4-2 formation dogged certain teams while others simply couldn’t adapt to other nations famed systems, like the Dutch’s total football, Brazil’s 4-2-2-2, or Spain’s tika taka. A tactical system that brings the best out of the current crop of players could make them a very dangerous proposition indeed.
What Southgate has been lauded for is his development of young talent. His work with England under-21s is often cited as the reason for this, but he also forges bonds with players. The World Cup put players like Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier on a stage and elevated them in the world game.
Graham Potter transformed the Brighton squad and even made Ben White an England international. His work with players like Neal Maupay, Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard and even Lewis Dunk was paramount to Brighton staying up last season. With the wealth of young talent that England has available, Graham Potter would be the ideal candidate to help them realise their potential on the international stage.
Gareth Southgate enters Euro 2020 with one of the best squads at the tournament and is expected to go far. They have their eyes set on winning, and anything short of a semi-final would be seen as a failure. If that happens, people like Graham Potter will be waiting in the wings.