He is England’s second-most successful manager after Sir Alf Ramsey, he took England to the semi-finals of the World Cup for just the third time in 2018 and then he led the team to the European Championship Final in 2021, only to lose on penalties to Italy.

Gareth Southgate should therefore have plenty of goodwill in the bank with England fans, but at the moment, questions are being asked of the England head coach ahead of their kick off in Group B of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar which starts on 20th November.

And today could well be the day that breaks the camel’s back in terms of the ongoing support Southgate has enjoyed.

How can that be the case without England even kicking a ball at the 2022 World Cup Finals and with them being an 8/1 chance to win the tournament with bet365 Sport, rated better odds than Spain and Germany?

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It is certainly a strange one but there are a number of factors that are playing into this narrative, which is playing out somewhat vocally on the Twitter social media platform at the moment.

And this could come to a head later today (Thursday 10th November) when Gareth Southgate officially announces his England squad at 2pm UK Time.

What Are The Issues England Fans Have With Gareth Southgate?

The truth of the matter is that there are two areas of discontent with Southgate at the moment, the first is England’s current form heading into the tournament and secondly, and certainly drawing the most ire from England fans, is Southgate’s squad selection and the reasons why he is including some players, and omitting others.

Let’s clarify the key issues one-by-one:

  • England’s Current Form

Since England lost the Euro 2020 Final to Italy on penalties, England’s only wins have come away to Hungary, home and away against Andorra, and then home wins over Albania, Switzerland and the Ivory Coast, the latter of which were reduced to 10 men after 40 minutes.

Those six wins, the last of which came back in March 2022, have come alongside draws in Poland and Hungary in the World Cup Qualifiers, then defeat in Hungary and Italy in the Nations League, a 4-0 home defeat by Hungary in the same competition (England’s worst home defeat since 1928) alongside three draws, home and away to Germany and at home to Italy.

In their first five Nations League games, England scored just one goal, and that was a fortunate 88th minute penalty gifted to them by the officials away to Germany.

This form does not bode well. If a team of Hungary’s calibre, who didn’t even qualify for the World Cup can beat England home and away and the 3 Lions cannot beat Germany or Italy, even at home, then that spells problems for the latter stages of the World Cup when the big teams meet up.

  • England’s Style Of Play

Part of Southgate’s problem is his image as a defensive minded coach. His last major finals squad was loaded with defenders and saw just a couple of strikers make the trip.

Add to that a lack of goals, at least until the final 3-3 draw against Germany in their final Nations League game, and England are looking toothless and many fans blame Southgate’s tactics for this, often playing the equivalent of five defenders and two defensive midfielders and just three more attack minded players.

On the one hand, Southgate has enjoyed success with these tactics in the past, but recently they have not worked and it does not seem as if the England manager has any ‘Plan B’ to call upon if England are struggling and that is a genuine concern for the tournament.

However, it is fair to say that both these issues are dwarfed by the selection issues that Southgate is facing.

Southgate’s Squad Selection Baffles England Fans

When Gareth Southgate became England manager, one of the most refreshing soundbites from his press conference was the following:

I never pick on reputation – form has to come into it. You have to look at the opposition and the type of game you’re expecting and select the players best suited to that.”

However, over the last 12 months or so, Southgate hasn’t really kept to that promise, sticking with some of his favoured players despite them being woefully short of form, while other players who are in great form for their clubs, are being overlooked.

Yet in other instances, notably with attacking players, if they have dropped form, then they have been overlooked for the squad. It is this inconsistency that has bugged England fans a great deal.

And now these same out of form players are set to be selected in Southgate’s squad for the World Cup, ahead of players that are in much better form, if reports are to be believed.

  • Southgate’s Favourites

So who are the players who are out of form for club and country but who will still likely make the squad?

Harry Maguire is the name that first comes to mind with the Manchester United captain having a nightmare 12 months for club and country and despite not being a first choice at United any longer, he remains very much in Southgate’s plans for the national team, despite being at fault for two of Germany’s three goals in the 3-3 draw between the teams.

Luke Shaw’s form is also up and down, but the United man may also get a place in the squad chiefly due to a lack of options at left back with Ben Chilwell going down with injury. That selection may be understandable though as Shaw’s form has improved of late.

Jordan Pickford is another who will be on the plane and first choice, but the Everton goalkeeper has had an error-strewn season and in truth, Nick Pope, Dean Henderson and Aaron Ramsdale are all probably in better form than the Everton man.

Kalvin Phillips has barely recovered from a nasty injury and made the bench for Manchester City last night and if the City man is picked for the team, then his fitness levels will be very low compared to players that have played the whole season so far. Kyle Walker is another who has been out recently injured and whose fitness levels are not yet 100%.

Raheem Sterling’s form has been poor for Chelsea, but he is a certainty for the plane and so is his team mate Mason Mount, who has been in better form, but perhaps not as impressive as some if the players playing at other teams.

  • Southgate’s Foes

Gareth Southgate has long held the belief that Trent Alexander-Arnold is not England’s best choice right back and while defensively he needs work, there is not one serious pundit in the world who believes that Kieran Trippier (as good a form as he is in) or Kyle Walker is a better player.

Reece James certainly is in the same bracket as Trent but his injury means that unfortunately the Chelsea star won’t make this World Cup, which is a real pity.

Arsenal defender Ben White has been superb at right back too for Arsenal, even though he is more a central defender. White can also play in midfield if required, but at the moment he seems on the fringes of the squad.

Fikayo Tomori is having a stellar 12 months for AC Milan, but again he cannot get a look in ahead of Harry Maguire or Southgate’s other favoured defenders.

In attack the divide between the favoured and those not is even more pronounced. Sterling, Mount, Kane, Grealish are all certain to be selected in the squad, but players like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Tammy Abraham, Ivan Toney and most heinously James Maddison, could be overlooked.

James Maddison has been involved in 22 goals this season for Leicester City, Grealish has been involved in three for Manchester City. Only Harry Kane has more involvements in a goal than Maddison.

There is no way that Southgate can select the likes of Maguire, Sterling, Grealish and Phillips and claim that he is picking on form, when players like White, Rashford, Tomori and Maddison could miss out.

It is that which has really bugged many England fans as the assortment of angry Tweets throughout the article show.

Fading Chances

The bookmakers certainly think England’s chances of World Cup success are fading. After the Euro 2020 tournament, England were ranked as one of the favourites to win the World Cup by many bookmakers.

Now they are fourth favourite, their odds drifting out to 8/1, with Brazil, Argentina and France now ranked comfortably above them.

Is that more evidence of England’s fading chances of success in Qatar? Bookies are seldom wrong, that is all I will say.

Squad Prediction & Reaction

My feeling is that Gareth Southgate will select this 26-man squad for the World Cup Finals later today:

Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders – Kyle Walker (Man City), John Stones (Man City), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle Utd), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Everton), James Justin (Leicester)

Midfielders – Kalvin Phillips (Man City), Declan Rice (West Ham), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Phil Foden (Man City), Jack Grealish (Man City), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Strikers – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United), Tammy Abraham (AS Roma)

And if James Maddison does not make it onto the plane, then I expect the Twitterverse to go into meltdown due to unhappy England fans.