England head into the 2022 World Cup without a win in their last six competitive matches. Yet. all hope is not lost ahead of the voyage to Qatar. Jude Bellingham gives the nation a chance of a first success since 1966.
Gareth Southgate has been under considerable pressure as England manager throughout this poor run of results. This is irrespective of the fact he led England to their most successful ever result in a European Championship and their best World Cup finish in over 50 years.
Fans called for him dismissed ahead of the tournament. But, the reality is that he has simply tried to find alternative solutions in matches.
The Nations League was a promising concept at the outset, but now teams are just using it to trial players in different positions against strong opponents ahead of a tournament. Southgate does the same with England. Consequently, his results suffered. Even then, the second-half display against Germany on Monday proved the team can still be a real contender.
Gareth Southgate learning lessons after run of form
Whilst results have got fans in a state of panic, Southgate picked up valuable information about his England side since Euro 2020.
Harry Maguire’s form and lack of confidence at Manchester United rendered him a dispensable commodity. This decision is made easier given the Premier League form of John Stones and Eric Dier.
The main takeaway, however, is the emergence, and subsequent use, of Jude Bellingham in midfield.
If Phil Foden is the heir to Paul Gascoigne’ throne as England’s creative maestro, then the Borussia Dortmund midfielder has everything to be the best midfielder the Three Lions have had since Bryan Robson.
Emergence of Jude Bellingham
Rarely do you see a midfielder so complete at such a young age, but Bellingham has absolutely everything. His years spent in the Bundesliga have helped him hone his natural talent with regular game time at the highest level. Furthermore, his Champions League experience has been vital. Standing 1.86m tall and with a rather imposing yet fluid stature, like Patrick Vieira, Bellingham can do everything in midfield.
Against Germany, he was the catalyst for the turnaround. He kept the ball moving in tight spaces, as well as winning the penalty through some excellent anticipation.
He excels in the areas in which Declan Rice struggles, mainly ball progression. Now, Bellingham is an invaluable player in that partnership when England have possession.
Jude Bellingham can star with England at the World Cup
England fell short at the semi-final stage in Russia four years ago. A more intelligent Croatia team simply worked out how to unsettle Southgate’s charges. It was painfully obvious at the time how England needed a calm head in midfield. There wasn’t a player who could keep the ball both moving forward and away from Luka Modric.
Gary Neville bemoaned the lack of such a player in ITV’s UK coverage of the semi-final in 2018. Yet, little did he know that the player he was describing was about to ascend through the ranks.
Paul Scholes stands as the last great English playmaker from a deeper midfield position. Unfortunately, the presence of both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard often meant managers misused him.
Bellingham won’t have that problem. He is coming into the team right at the moment. It needs a player with his skills, and there isn’t any direct competition.
A spot in the starting XI is a guarantee for the former Birmingham City academy graduate. Unless Bellingham plays it is highly unlikely England will win the big matches in Qatar.
Southgate may well have the last laugh in December. In taking all the pre-tournament criticism only to have actually unearthed a perfect player for a specific role. A player who could finally propel England over the line, and Jude Bellingham is just that.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Sports Press Photo
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