22 things England need to do to win in 2022
1. Add depth to the squad
England’s first XI reached the last four this summer, but the Three Lions lost twice to Belgium when fringe players were introduced.
“When I played for England there was so much depth,” former England defender Jamie Carragher tells FourFourTwo. “Even just at centre-back, there was John Terry and Rio Ferdinand – the two best in that position, winning Champions Leagues and Premier League titles. There was Sol Campbell before them, playing for an Invincible Arsenal side, Jonathan Woodgate going to Real Madrid, Ledley King, one of the best defenders Spurs ever had, and myself at Liverpool.
“They called that team the Golden Generation for the amount of top players we had. There isn’t as much depth to this squad, but they’ve still performed better than the squads I was in.
“Hopefully England doing well this year will give the clubs confidence to say, ‘England players are as good as anyone and can compete at the top level’. The academies are producing more technical players.
“Secondly, many of the players came through at lower-league teams and I think we may find younger lads opting to play for a Championship side, knowing they can break through – and this may lead them through the age groups into the England team. If players aren’t stagnating and are moving up the England levels as their careers go on, that keeps them progressing – and that could increase squad depth.”
2. Trust the unlikely leader
Aime Jacquet in 1998, Vicente del Bosque in 2010 and Joachim Löw in 2014 – all World Cup-winning managers who enjoyed a Gareth Southgate-like surge to national prominence (admittedly Del Bosque won everything with Real Madrid first, but they blatantly regarded him as some sort of quasi-caretaker). Each had at least four years in charge before they lifted the World Cup, having been given time to plan for the long term.
After his previous job behind the scenes, Southgate is the perfect man to oversee England’s next project - so it's good news that he recently signed a contract extension taking him through to 2022.
3. Send for the wingers
Although hopeful punts aren’t the answer – rest assured there will be calls for a more direct style if England’s new direction falters – the Three Lions don’t want to become Arsenal. Or Arsene Wenger’s one-trick Arsenal, anyway.
Three at the back plays to England’s current strengths, but umpteen defenders is pointless when you’re facing bus-parking minnows. With Kyle Walker in that three it’s a straightforward switch to a four; you just need a couple of decent wingers to change the attacking angles.
4. Don’t rely too much on Harry Kane
Tottenham’s talisman won the Golden Boot, but there’s a need for more goals in open play from others.
“The beauty of the World Cup was that England were unpredictable, for the first time in a generation,” says Darren Anderton, a midfield scorer for the Three Lions at the 1998 World Cup. “Runners from midfield and the goals from set-pieces made England one of the most dangerous sides at the tournament. Harry’s goals topped it all off. The main thing is getting more support from those around him.
“What’s definite, in my eyes anyway, is that he and Raheem Sterling already have a near-perfect partnership. Raheem needs to add goals to his England game. He was constantly stretching defences in Russia and, despite not scoring, it’s clear how much he’s valued by this side and by Harry in particular. They need to keep playing together as they may end up becoming a lethal combination.
“It would help if Dele Alli scored more, as well as Jesse Lingard. Their movement and running was class. By 2022 they should be even better.”
5. Decode the UEFA Nations League
Let’s face it, no one loved international week when it was just meaningless friendlies. We enjoyed the opening round of UEFA Nations League fixtures, even if the format is mind-bendingly complicated and nobody’s sure how it actually works.
Facing top-class opposition - Southgate's side host Croatia on Friday, before travelling to Spain on Monday - can only be a positive. Considering England’s competitive record against the leading nations still isn’t great, victories in the Nations League would be useful as they bid to beat the world’s best when Qatar comes around.