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Gareth Southgate said he will take time to consider his future as England manager after their World Cup quarter-final exit to France.
The 52-year-old has led England to the 2018 World Cup semi-final, the final of Euro 2020 and to the last-eight in Qatar, where they were eliminated despite a strong display against the reigning champions.
Southgate has a contract with the Football Association until 2024, expiring after the next European Championship.
Whenever he leaves, he will do so with more major tournament victories than any other England manager. But if he goes now, ultimately he will leave without the trophy he craved.
His departure would give the FA a difficult decision: who should replace the country’s most successful manager of the modern era?
There does not appear to be one obvious candidate, as reflected by our writers’ choices to be the next England manager.
Sean Dyche, former Burnley manager
Southgate’s success as England manager has come from him being a proponent of “Sufferball” — sacrificing attacking endeavour to maintain defensive solidity and control. It is rarely thrilling, but Sufferball means that if England perform poorly during a knockout game, they might force extra time and penalties, writes Carl Anka.
There have been calls for Southgate to release the handbrake and allow England to play more expansively. There has been talk of other “big nations” moving away from Sufferball and employing club tactics of positional play. But with Euro 2024 only 18 months away and Nations League promotion on the line, England need a savvy, results-orientated manager. Just for a bit. Bring in Sean Dyche.
“He did an incredible job at creating an environment at Burnley with no egos, which is what you want at an international side with lots of big characters,” says The Athletic’s Burnley correspondent Andy Jones.
Dyche has more tactical savvy than some assume and his 4-4-2 isn’t too far away from something Diego Simeone has used at Atletico Madrid. Think of Dyche as a short-term continuation of Sufferball while a “progressive” manager can be found. Or at least until Graham Potter gets a few more Champions League games under his belt.
Graham Potter, Chelsea manager
How do you get continuity from Southgate? That will be the big question at the FA when they have to find a new England head coach. The Southgate era has been a huge improvement for the England men’s national team, and the FA will want to build on that, writes Jack Pitt-Brooke.
An internal promotion for Steve Holland feels unlikely and Lee Carsley has not been in the under-21s job long, so the FA may have to look outside the organisation to find someone who embodies the values they have been developing over the past few years.
They need someone with a commitment to instilling a culture that develops young players, someone with emotional as well as football intelligence, someone who fits into the Southgate tradition of playing a modern brand of football while also treating the players like adults. And the best example of that from a current English manager is Graham Potter. No one else really comes close.
There is an obvious problem: Potter signed a five-year contract to manage Chelsea just three months ago. The days of England being able to recruit managers who are in big club jobs are over. Something would have to change for Potter to get the England job, namely him leaving Stamford Bridge. Is that so hard to envisage at some point soon? Maybe this is not exactly the right time for Potter, but no one would offer the same sense of Southgate 2.0.
Jose Mourinho, Roma manager
Right, laugh all you want but I’m going with Jose Mourinho, writes Alex Kay-Jelski.
Yes, he’s recently shown he’s a bit out of touch when it comes to managing big clubs and he definitely can’t maintain harmony in a dressing room on a day-to-day basis. But he does still know how to get results in one-off games, he can still win trophies (see Europa Conference League last season) and he excels at what works at tournaments — not conceding goals and being quite boring.
As Michael Cox wrote in this excellent piece, teams who win the World Cup are ones that have a tight defence. It may not be joyous, but won’t it be worth it for the 1-0 win over Spain in the final of World Cup 2026?
Sarina Wiegman, England women’s manager
England need a winner and Sarina Wiegman is a winner. She won the European Championship with her native Netherlands in 2017 and repeated the feat with the Lionesses in 2022, writes Caoimhe O’Neill.
Meticulous in her approach to coaching, Wiegman’s management style is one which the England men’s team could benefit from. She isn’t afraid to mix things up but will also stand her ground and stick to her beliefs, like naming the same starting XI game after game — something she did in all six Lionesses games on the way to Euros glory at Wembley. That was bold. To do that as a manager you need fearlessness and the trust of your whole squad.
The Lionesses camp has epitomised togetherness, even for those on the outside of the XI. The team admire, trust and are inspired by her.
Wiegman’s wise, no-nonsense approach is something England men could benefit from… once she is done winning the World Cup in 2023.
Mauricio Pochettino, The Athletic columnist and former PSG, Southampton and Spurs manager
Mauricio Pochettino was apparently always reluctant to consider international management as a career option, writes Dominic Fifield. At 50, energetic and ambitious, he still loved the day-to-day buzz of the club routine, with more time to work on the training ground and the opportunity to develop his own group of players, tactically and technically. He had been pining for that rhythm since departing Paris Saint-Germain over the summer.
But, of late, his stance has slightly shifted. Perhaps there might be value in considering a national team where, in the short and intense periods when he is granted time to work with his players, he might concentrate more on moulding a team of elite players with specific contests in mind. The international calendar, now with UEFA Nations League fixtures around the more run-of-the-mill qualifiers, might have his competitive juices flowing after all.
He has relished working with young, vibrant and attacking players in the past. England can be that group. No, England are that group. He can impose a high-pressing style of play with this generation of players. He can send his side out to be possession-based and look to build incisive, attacking play through midfield with the team Southgate has nurtured so brilliantly. This group are technically excellent and can be tactically flexible.
There are, of course, a couple of issues to address. An Argentinean in charge of the English national team? Personally, it’s not a huge issue, particularly given Pochettino has worked extensively in the Premier League with Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, where, despite leaving when they were still unpacking the Amazon documentary cameras down at the Spurs training complex, he still feels part of the furniture.
The other obstacle would be his commitment as a columnist to The Athletic, but resolving that is above my pay grade.
Thomas Tuchel, former Chelsea and PSG manager
“But Tuchel is German!” I hear some of you say. A German managing England? I’ve never got too hung up on that kind of thing, writes Stuart James. What’s the alternative: pick the best available Englishman and fail?
In an ideal world, Graham Potter would take over from Gareth Southgate but, realistically, that’s not going to happen. Tuchel is a brilliant tactician, which is extremely important for an international manager. The 2021 Champions League final against Manchester City is a case in point. Tuchel outwitted Pep Guardiola, adopting a game plan he had used in a number of big matches; exactly the kind of approach you need in tournament football.
Sixteen months later he was out of a job at Chelsea, but there were mitigating circumstances. Todd Boehly’s appointment as interim sporting director was never going to work and meant Tuchel spent too long discussing possible signings with the owner rather than dedicating time to the training pitch.
An innovator and an erudite man, Tuchel has the emotional intelligence to handle everything that comes with being an international manager. Whether the Football Association could afford him is another matter.
Eddie Howe, Newcastle United manager
A couple of caveats, writes George Caulkin. First, I think the England manager should be English, not because I’m some kind of tinfoil-wearing nutter; honestly, I don’t care that much. I just think the same criteria should apply to players and that the top job should be the ultimate aspiration for English coaches. If this is a form of self-harm, so be it (although Southgate thinks the same).
But… I find myself in the awkward position of having to nominate Eddie Howe. It’s awkward because zero per cent of me wants him to leave Newcastle United (sorry, but I would take a League Cup ahead of the World Cup). This is where my second caveat kicks in: I’m convinced Howe wouldn’t take it yet, and he’s pretty much said the same, so I think I’m safe here.
Instead of people focusing on how it ended at Bournemouth, Howe’s work there deserves re-evaluation. Over two spells, he took the club from the foot of the EFL to the Premier League and then kept them there for five seasons. Extraordinary.
At Newcastle, he took a blowtorch to his reputation as a footballing fundamentalist, embracing pragmatism and making history by rescuing an ailing team from a hopeless position. Yes, he has benefitted from money, but Newcastle’s story under Howe is about the transformation of players like Joelinton and Miguel Almiron, while Kieran Trippier — established international, La Liga winner — admits he is playing the best football of his career. Howe makes players better.
This season, Newcastle are transformed again; attacking hard, winning, shithousing, in a Champions League position. England wouldn’t mind some of this, no? Well… unlucky.
Luis Enrique, former Spain manager
England should move heaven and earth to hire Luis Enrique after this World Cup, writes Dermot Corrigan.
While some might be wary of going again for a foreigner who does not ‘get’ English football, the former Spain coach is one of the most technically and tactically expert managers either in club or international football.
The ex-Real Madrid and Barcelona player had a tremendous three years as Barcelona’s first-team coach, winning nine of 13 available trophies, including a treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in his first year in charge in 2014-15.
As coach of Spain from 2018, his clear and modern idea of how he wants his team to play guided a not-at-all-vintage group of Spanish players to within a penalty kick of the Euro 2020 final, and two Nations League final fours. It may not have gone 100 per cent to plan in Qatar, but he will have learned from the experience.
His focus on possession and pressing should especially suit the technically excellent core of England players; it’s what John Stones, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Bukayo Sako, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho et al are used to at club level.
The Asturian speaks good English and is a born communicator unafraid of taking on traditional media power centres — as shown by his Twitch streams direct to fans during this World Cup.
The Premier League had seemed his most likely next place of work, but the England job would surely be attractive to an inquisitive character who is always looking for big new challenges, and now has unfinished business in international football.
Marcelo Bielsa, former Leeds United manager
Marcelo Bielsa was so well-liked in Chile, an adopted country, that they still sell fridge magnets of him nearly a decade after he left, writes Amitai Winehouse.
Bielsa was so well-liked in Chile that when he was on the cusp of going, a movement was set up across social media to stop him from going.
Bielsa was so well-liked in Chile that even now his exit was like a bereavement — they will always be Las Viudas de Bielsa (Bielsa’s widows).
Look, this is the academy generation. The England squad are highly talented systematic players who can follow instructions to a tee. The likes of Jack Grealish are outliers — what the best of England’s bunch needs is a coach who choreographs attacking movement, teaching players to move, pass and arrive at the right moment to score beautiful goals. There is no one more suited — and more gettable — for that than Bielsa.
All you have to do is watch the goals from his time at Leeds, Athletic Bilbao and Chile to see how he has taught footballers to do the same things over and over again with an effective outcome.
Bielsa would take the talented automatons that make up the elite of English football and get the best out of them. He’d create an aesthetically pleasing England side for the first time in history. And he’d leave us all wanting more when he leaves.
Plus: he’s available. And St George’s Park is fairly up to scratch, so it would only need two or three running tracks adding and the plug sockets moving a few centimetres.
Southgate was an emergency option when Sam Allardyce was sacked but he knew the FA and he knew a lot of the players on their way up. He’s done well creating an atmosphere that the players feel comfortable in but he’s ultimately not taken the team as far as it might due to his caution and in-game management, writes Simon Hughes.
England probably need someone who is capable of doing that. It’s important the players like him but it’s more important they respect and trust him. With all of that in mind, I’m going for Arsene Wenger assisted by Ashley Cole.
(Top photos: Getty Images; design: Sam Richardson)
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