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England slide to sad defeat to Italy and suffer relegation from Nations League

If Gareth Southgate refused to compromise, what are the alibis? What are the excuses? It’s no longer summer, nor “just the League of Nations”. It’s not even a result of the England football team’s continued failure to win in this country since 1961, as it wasn’t even a particularly strong Italian football team.

It doesn’t look like a strong England anymore.

And that’s why, more than anything, it’s now a big deal. There’s more going on here than a bad race at a bad time.

Southgate’s side look outdated and out of touch, just as they come to a tournament the Football Association had long targeted as the high point of an era.

This may well turn out to be a nadir in Southgate’s time. That will certainly be the talk after that lackluster 1-0 loss to Italy, which leads to relegation to the Nations League.

England had nothing to do with the kind of skill or frankness of Giacomo Raspadori’s game-winning strike.

They had very little of anything, other than a lot of worries for Southgate to try to figure it out with just one game left before the World Cup.

It was more of a regression, as symbolized by the constant reliance on set pieces and the use of a backline three that only radiates caution.

The team just didn’t seem to work.

It was more evident in the general game.

The way Italy move meant it was a game full of transitions, but that didn’t exactly translate to an open game for the most part. A big part of the problem was how England were trying to build the game. They didn’t. Anything that even looked like an attack came from a set piece. That was partly because, with no real trade in the middle, every break was eventually resolved for the full-backs. The game gradually became England forcing territory for better positioned set pieces. Maybe Southgate read Eddie Jones too much.

It’s remarkable to say that given this was a team with Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, before it even got to Harry Kane, who set back such a part of his game. The problem, however , was where they were playing.

Bellingham found himself covering too much ground, which often left a huge gap between him and Declan Rice. It gave Jorginho the space to play passes you wouldn’t usually associate with him. Meanwhile, Foden again felt like he was on a fixed tramline, rather than the fluid striker we see changing positions at Manchester City.

A lot of that comes from training. The three-man backline dictates that so many roles are filled out of tactical necessity, meaning there are no shorts or outlets for England’s range of attacking talent.

They are all in training.

Italy, on the other hand, were just a system, they had nothing to do with England’s talent, but made a game out of it with their approach. There was a greater fluidity and idea.

There was also a goal.

Even the sheer frankness of Raspadori’s superb goal was something England lacked.

Far more alarming, however, is the way a team built on this defensive framework has been so easily opened up.

It falls on Walker. It was too easily done by Leo Bonucci’s beautiful ball over the top and then easily evaded.

It still required a special strike from Raspadori, beware, this should not be overlooked.

This meant that Southgate had to consider changing things up, which eventually brought about a change in all three, as well as attacking intent.

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