Gareth Southgate’s failure to take risks is affecting how well England plays.

Gareth Southgate's risk

Gareth Southgate’s, After scoring six goals against a team that was bound to be defensively stubborn in the first game and seeing how excited people were on social media for a huge match with people from across the pond, it was inevitable that England and the United States would play to a boring draw.

It’s very likely to happen. And not “oh well, it was bound to happen,” but more like “yeah, we know what you’re like.”

In the big picture, England’s 0-0 tie with the USA isn’t that bad. After two games, they have four points, which puts them in the best position to win Group B at the World Cup and move on to the next round, as expected.

The worst part is that thousands of fans on Twitter showed more courage and creativity in making memes before the game than Gareth Southgate’s and his team did on the field for 90 minutes. That might sound harsh, but it’s true, or as the American hero Kurt Angle would say, it’s damn true. We hope the point made sense to you, Kurt. Good for you.

As soon as England started to “horseshoe” possession around the well-trained American press in the first 30 minutes, things didn’t look good. But, like Southgate, we must believe that this team’s talent will find a way.

They couldn’t do it. And it was clear by halftime, when the whistle blew, that Gregg Berhalter’s team should have led. Who required the change, but England’s manager was once again too cautious about implementing it, too frightened to attempt to control the game.

The US made England look very tired and without any creativity at all. And who should praise them for that? Tyler Adams did a great job of stopping the Three Lions by keeping the ball in his half and passing it to others. Antonee Robinson often sent his team down the wing, and Weston McKennie kept his good form going with an inspired performance.

An “inspired display” was the exact opposite of what England could come up with, even after a break at halftime that should have given them new energy. In the end, this is Southgate’s fault because he isn’t brave enough with his decisions, which shows in his team’s play too often.

Gareth Southgate’s not been able to avoid being criticized. And he’s been hit with the same stick a lot, but there’s a good reason for that. England has a large pool of talented people full of creativity, style, press resistance, and courage.

And in a game that didn’t have any of those things, Southgate just sat there and watched as his team passed the ball around the back, blocked USA corners, and couldn’t get past their backline.

Kieran Trippier and Christian Pulisic
England didn’t know what to do. / ISI Photos/Getty Images/Brad Smith
Phil Foden was sitting on the bench twiddling his thumbs while Mason Mount ran after shadows. Raheem Sterling was tired of waiting for the ball to come into the box, while Marcus Rashford was staring down the deepest defender and asking in his head for a ball to chase.

We could keep going, but the point is that England has a lot of talent and many different ways to win football games. Still, Southgate stays in his comfort zone because he fears using his bench players or people he hasn’t learned to trust.

When those changes came, the first one with just over 20 minutes left, Jordan Henderson was one of them. Another of the old guard who provides safety and protection rather than the risk and flair that this side requires to dream big and achieve big.

But how can he learn to trust a player if he doesn’t give them a chance? Too many of his regulars had trouble because the USA played an aggressive game that made the field smaller and closed off spaces. And many people were sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the courage to take a chance.

England tends to pass sideways too often and can’t close down quickly, which reflects Southgate’s limitations. Their manager still thinks with the shackles on when it comes to substitutions and setting up, and so do his players.

It’s not a new problem, but if England wants to do well in Qatar, it needs to be fixed quickly. Too many teams in the tournament will hurt them if they leave big gaps and don’t take risks against a high line.

We might not be talking about this right now since qualification is almost certain, but if Southgate doesn’t stop being afraid to change his team and bring in new players to try to tip the balance, we could look back on this as a turning point if the team leaves early.