IAN LADYMAN: Gareth Southgate MUST nail it in the San Siro to stop the rot. England – winless in four – are running out of time to find form before the World Cup and desperately need a victory

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  • Failing to beat Italy, England will register a fifth consecutive game without a win
  • He could be included in the Nations League this week ahead of the World Cup
  • Manager Gareth Southgate has taken some of the blame for his side’s recent poor form
  • Now in less than two months, England need to win the Qatar World Cup
  • Click here for all the latest news and updates on World Cup 2022

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The last time an England team played five games without a win was in 2014. Tonight would be a bad time to equal that record.

Roy Hodgson was manager eight years ago. Three of those poor results, two losses and one draw, came in the group stages of the World Cup in Brazil, meaning England went home early.

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In Milan on Friday, Gareth Southgate is in the final stages of preparation for another World Cup, his second as manager of England.

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Gareth Southgate’s England team is desperate for victory and has not won in four matches

The Three Lions will face Italy and Germany in the Nations League this week and may be relegated

The Three Lions will face Italy and Germany in the Nations League this week and may be relegated

Form has left his team at the wrong time and if they lose to Roberto Mancini’s side at the San Siro, England will be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League and more importantly, some need to be reinstated. There is only Monday’s home match with Germany for this. A kind of confidence ahead of the important business in Qatar starting in late November.

Southgate was ruffled and harassed after a 4-0 home loss to Hungary at Wolverhampton in June. Earlier, England had lost in Budapest and drew with Italy at home and Germany in Munich. During this he scored one goal, one penalty.

The decline in form appeared unlikely after England qualified for the World Cup in the months following their defeat on penalties by Italy in the final of Euro 2020 last year.

England were humiliated when they lost 4–0 to Hungary in their most recent game in June.

England were humiliated when they lost 4–0 to Hungary in their most recent game in June.

Considering all this at the team hotel, a long goal kick from the San Siro, Southgate tried not to shy away from his role in what happened.

Southgate said, ‘We have played 22 games without any loss and you think it will continue and you may not be as ruthless in making some decisions. ‘I compromised on some decisions and if you compromise you don’t win.

‘We are very clear about why those things happened and what needs to be done to fix things. I am not saying that I was very comfortable. But usually there are times when you are in a big race you don’t think deeply about what could happen next and what could go wrong.

‘The summer was really complicated. Two games behind closed doors and other mitigating factors but internally we reviewed everything and realized that there were some things we should have done better. Often when you win, some of those things are still going on, but you don’t review it with the same intensity and the same spotlight.

But I think every manager makes mistakes. Every manager reflects. This is part of the improvement. It was good to sharpen that focus again because what we are going into means I have to be ruthless.

Southgate is set to manage England in their second World Cup after winning fans' hearts in 2018

Southgate is set to manage England in their second World Cup after winning fans’ hearts in 2018

If Southgate needs any proof of how quickly things can turn in football, all he needs to do is look at Friday’s opponents. After defeating England at Wembley last July, they lost at home to a World Cup qualifying play-off in North Macedonia eight months later and would not join England in Qatar.

Italy’s results under Mancini were modest. The success at Euro was the culmination of three years of unbeaten run, but Italy have won only four of 14 games at Wembley since that day, something that will be reflected by a poor crowd tonight.

Southgate’s job is to ensure that England’s blip will one day be spoken of as an anomaly, an unexpected and largely unexplained lag in a period of progress. But as he seeks to change the direction of travel, he has obvious problems.

Thursday night’s words of support for Harry Maguire were believable but it was interesting to hear him in some words nonetheless. Maguire will continue to play, he suggested, largely because there is no clear candidate to replace him.

Similarly, if Maguire goes to Manchester United over the winter without any first-team football, Southgate’s most-voiced fears about its players being undercooked may come true.

The Spirits have been high in training despite England's poor form recently

The Spirits have been high in training despite England’s poor form recently

In the short term, relegation from the Nations League would be detrimental to England and Southgate clarified. The beauty of the relatively new competition is England providing first-class opponents away from major tournaments.

If they move to another level, those opponents will lose their quality. So the events at the two famous stadiums over the course of the next four days are as important as the two out-of-tournament games for quite some time.

Southgate played that famous 0-0 in Rome in 1997 that ensured England qualified for France in 1998 and could do so with that spirit and application of his team this evening.

Southgate was also happy to inform people that England had not won over Italy since 1961. Earlier he was talking about his team’s habit of breaking new ground. After 61 years, perhaps something memorable—not to mention reassuring—is overdue.

Credit: www.dailymail.co.uk /

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