What has Gareth Southgate done to the Three Lions?

Whether the Euro tournament trophy ends up at home or in Rome, one thing that is sure is, Gareth Southgate has done a great job with the Three Lions of England. They are 90 minutes or at most 130/140 minutes away from what could be their first ever European title. Coming off the back of a fourth place finish at the last World Cup, they seem to have banished the ghost of faltering at major tournaments. At the heart of this achievement is probably their most low-profile manager of the last two decades. After falling short with the likes of Sven Goran Erikson, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson, uncelebrated Southgate is about to send English football fans into delirium, how has he gotten the Three Lions this far?

Southgate has got his tactics right.

Merit in players selection

Southgate has departed from the previous norm of inviting and playing players based on their stature and that of their clubs. Gone are the days when playing for the big clubs guarantee places in the Three Lions. Southgate has selected the best and most in-form players without bias. A good example is Kalvin Phillips, who got an invitation to the team while still playing in the second division with Leeds and is a super regular in the team now. In time past, a player playing in the Championship wouldn’t have gotten an invite. The likes of Ben White of Brighton Hove and Albion, Connor Coady of Wolves are in the team, just to mention a few.

Phillips made his debut while still in the Championship.

Players playing outside England like Kieran Trippier, Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho have not been ignored. Just as young and budding talents like Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and others have been allowed to strut their stuff.

The selection is near perfect and the result is there for all to see.

Staying true to type

Just like his not so flamboyant persona, he has kept the team more efficient than flamboyant. Just two goals scored in the group stage with none conceded says it all. In all, they have conceded one goal in all, from set play. In spite of having some of England’s most stylish footballers of modern era in his ranks, he has kept the style largely ‘English’. Defensively strong and relying on pace and directness at the other end.

A double-pivot of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips at the base of the midfield is more of a defensive and cautious choice. He could have played only one of the aforementioned duo and deploy more of his exciting midfielders but he has resisted the urge. After what seemed like a struggle at the group stage, there were calls for changes but he has stayed true to his style and it is paying dividends.

Trusting his players

Based on form, coming into the tournament, the likes of Jordan Pickford and Raheem Sterling should not have been starters but they have proved doubters wrong. They were two of England’s best players at the last World Cup and Southgate trusted them to continue in that light and they have not let him down.

Southgate has found consistency.

Captain Harry Kane struggled at the beginning of the tournament and he seemed out of place in the team. Southgate stuck with a player who won the Golden Boots at the last World Cup and last Premier League season and he has repaid the trust, he has four goals now, one shy of the leading topscorer.

As said earlier, even if football refuses to go home, there is enough for English fans to be excited about. Southgate has done a fantastic job with this team and luckily does not court controversies. With the World Cup less than two years away, the English can dream once again.

Written by Babatomiwa Ojo

Is There Really A Process To Trust At Arsenal?

The mantra at Arsenal now is ‘trust the process’. On the back of 17 years of not winning the league title, 4 years of not playing in the UEFA Champions League and finally failing to make European places entirely last season, there should genuinely be a process to be trusted. The Gunners are only still tagged a top-six side based on reputation. The post-Wenger era is particularly not going well. In the little time that Wenger left, Arsenal have had three people at the helms and are on their second substantive manager. A section of the fans are already regretting that they called for Wenger to leave. While things are not going well under the present Manager – Mikel Arteta, there have been calls by the Manager and the club management for fans to trust a certain process. Should they really trust the process?

The post-Wenger years are not going to plan

The first question is, what is the process? In truth, there are no clear evidences of a process.

Style of play

For a process, there should be a style of play or signs of a style of play. At Arsenal presently, it is not the case. One of the reasons Arsenal hired Arteta is probably due to an expected style of play. Being a former player at Arsenal and having spent time under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, Arsenal fans expected to see an exciting style of play, that has not been the case. The style of play has not been defined, at times they have been defensive and counter-attacking, at other times they labour to be expansive. The excuse has been that the team does not have the players to play an expansive style but even majority of the players they are linked to in the transfer market does point in the direction of a style.

Arsenal management and fans are expecting an expansive attacking style with Arteta in charge

Recruitments

The recruitments in the past few years does not point to any process. There seems to be lots of trial and error and merry-go-round in player’s recruitments. Some of the so-called promising players they have signed in the past few years have become surplus to requirements and there are already plans to replace them with new promising players. Reports linking the Gunners to Brighton and Hove Albion defender – Ben White has refused to go away and it appears there is a genuine interest in the English defender. This is the same club that has spent big money on the likes of Calum Chambers and William Saliba as promising defenders, with no logical results yet.

The Gunners are heavily linked to Ben White

There are also reports of a bid for Abderlecht promising midfielder Albert Lokonga, few years after investing in promising midfielders – Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, who have both become surplus to requirements. The aforementioned are just some of the merry-go-rounds Arsenal have been doing in the transfer market. For a process, there has to be deliberate investments in quality footballers.

Coach

When trusting a process, there should be a manager that has the track record of a process. At Liverpool, they trusted a process and came good but it was with Jurgen Klopp, a manager that has the track record of a process. Arteta has shown signs that he could end up becoming a top manager, especially in leading Arsenal to FA Cup glory in his first season, but getting Arsenal back to the top may be asking for too much. It looks like the club’s management wants to trust Arteta to do the job but the problem is they may have gotten deeper into the abyss before they realize they need a more experienced manager.

The FA Cup success bought Arteta some time

Arsenal’s drop has been gradual and consistent and can’t be said to be a co-incidence. From contesting for the title, to becoming a top-four side, to becoming an Europa League team, to completely dropping out of European places. Arsenal’s management must realize they are in a dire situation and should take dire actions, but their approach in the transfer market so far betrays that. Arsenal fans can’t trust the process because there are no signs of a process.

10 Footballers of African Descent to Watch at The Euros

The next African Cup of Nations does not come up till next year but Africans will regardless enjoy the European version this month. Even as many Africans have their ‘alegiances’ to some of these European countries due to their affinity to European club football. Don’t be surprised that even many Africans are more conversant with the European players than African players.

Another subplot is the emergence of many European footballers of African decent. Majority of the teams have at least one in their ranks. One of the pre-tournament favorites, France could even lineup with a starting eleven of Africa-born footballers.

Of the many, we have selected 10 of them you should keep an eye on.

Bukayo Ayoyinka Saka (England)

Bukayo Saka is one Nigerians will watch with envy cum delight. The young man has come a long way in a very short time. He was Arsenal’s player of the season in the just concluded season, at just 19. He has five caps and has scored once for the Three Lions.

He was born in London to Nigerian parents.

Saka has had a fantastic year

Adama Traore (Spain)

Muscular Adama Traore was close to representing Mali, even declaring for Mali in 2019 before a Spain call-up came.

The Wolves winger was born in Spain to Malian (not to be confused with Marlians) parents. He has made five appearances for Spain.

Jeremy Doku (Belgium)

With Eden Hazard struggling with fitness, the weight of Belgium’s attacking play might fall on the young shoulders of Jeremy Doku.

The Rennes forward is of Ghanaian descent. He has represented Belgium eight times and is seen as a bright prospect.

Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark)

Yussuf Yurary Poulsen is one of the danger men of 1992 winners – Denmark. The RB Leipzig forward has 8 goals in 54 appearances for the Danes.

Poulsen’s father is from Tanzania.

Karim Onisiwo (Austria)

Alongside more popular David Alaba, the Austrians have two Nigerians in their ranks. The Mainz forward was born in Vienna, Austria to a Nigerian father.

He has 29 caps for the Austrian national team.

Ben Cabango (Wales)

Swansea were close to returning to the Premier League last season. One man was at the heart of it, Ben Cabango.

The center-back was born in Cardiff to to an Angolan father and Welsh mother. He has three caps for the Wales national team.

Wissam Ben Yedder (France)

Ben Yedder is one of numerous Africans in France’s ‘united nations’ team. The Monaco forward is of Tunisian descent, he rejected the Tunisia FA’s advances on five different occasions before finally getting a call-up from France.

Expected to play majorly as a backup, he has scored twice in 14 appearances.

Wissam’s parents are from Tunisia

Danilo Pereira (Portugal)

The defensive midfielder was in the squad when Portugal won the last Euros and is back as they try to defend it.

The PSG player was born in Bissau, Guinea Bissau before he left for Portugal. He has made 47 appearances for the Portugal national team.

Serge Gnabry (Ivory Coast)

The Bayern Munich winger is one of the key men for the Germans.

Born in Stuttgart to an Ivorian father and German mother 25 years ago, Gnabry has an impressive record of 16 goals in 22 appearances for the German national team.

Gnabry has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years

Ken Sema (Sweden)

Angolan-born Sema will be representing Sweden at the Euros.

The Watford midfielder goes to his first major tournament on the back of gaining promotion with Watford to the Premier League. He has made 12 appearances for the Swedes.

The above listed are just ten of a massive pool of Africa-born footballers at the Euros. It is expected to be an interesting tournament and the Africans are expected to play a major part.