As Carragher questions England approach, what does the data say about Southgate's substitutions?

By Sports Desk June 21, 2024

Gareth Southgate's game management came under fire once again on Thursday, as England produced another underwhelming display in a 1-1 draw with Denmark.

The Three Lions were second-best for long periods and appeared content to sit back after Harry Kane's 18th-minute opener, with Morten Hjulmand's rasping strike handing Denmark a point – the least they deserved.

Former England defender Jamie Carragher was among those to highlight the lethargic nature of the display, saying more energy was required from the bench.

Posting on X as Southgate made a triple substitution on the 70-minute mark, introducing Eberechi Eze, Jarrod Bowen and Ollie Watkins for Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Kane, Carragher wrote: "Pleased Southgate has made changes. By the look of England so far they are going to need real energy from the bench in every game. Disappointed Anthony Gordon wasn't one of those changes."

Southgate's reluctance to use Gordon was a hot topic on social media, with England again looking lopsided in the absence of a natural left winger or left-back.

Just 23.3% of England's attacking touches came on that flank, with 44.6% coming on the right-hand side, where Kyle Walker – not renowned for his attacking qualities – often looking like the Three Lions' best outlet.

One major criticism of Southgate at recent tournaments has been a perceived failure to change games from the bench, but does the data back up that idea?

As far as the Euros are concerned, yes. Southgate has made 33 substitutions in total at the 2020 and 2024 editions, with those players playing a total of 682 minutes.

They have just one goal and one assist between them in that time. Both came at Euro 2020, with Jordan Henderson scoring in a 4-0 quarter-final win over Ukraine and Jack Grealish assisting Kane's header against Germany in the previous round.

In 97 games under Southgate overall, England have scored 19 goals via substitutes, a paltry figure given the Three Lions have netted 207 times during his reign, playing 35 qualification matches against largely inferior opponents.

 

Those goals have come via 13 players, with nobody netting more than two (Tammy Abraham, Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Grealish and Kane).

Notably, only two of those 13 players – Kane and Watkins – are in England's squad for this tournament. Rashford (32) and Grealish (21) have 53 substitute appearances between them under Southgate but were the two most high-profile omissions from his party.

Carragher also believes Southgate must recognise "football is about picking the best team, not the best players".

While Foden has appeared frustrated while stationed on the left-hand side, Trent Alexander-Arnold has struggled to aid England's ball progression in an unfamiliar midfield role – only eight of his 40 attempted passes against Denmark were into the final third.

Carragher wrote for The Telegraph: "Unfortunately, two of the best Premier League footballers – Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden – will have to be sacrificed now.  Introducing Alexander-Arnold into midfield in a major tournament was always a risk. 

 

"It is a more physically demanding position than full-back, and, on the evidence so far, Alexander-Arnold has more time and space to utilise his passing range when he is in the hybrid role.

"Nobody loves watching Foden more than me. But for England to come up with a system that works and complements everyone, he cannot operate in the starting XI with Jude Bellingham and Kane if they are all trying to occupy the same space and positions."

Foden did not have a single touch in the attacking third within the width of the six-yard box against Denmark, and when it came to making changes, Southgate preferred to stick with a below-par Bellingham rather than shift the Manchester City star infield.

Southgate's substitutions will be key if England are to grow into this tournament, and the data suggests he has improvements to make in that area.

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