Chris Waddle Opinions - Euro 2024

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In an exclusive interview with Lord Ping, former England international Chris Waddle gives his opinions on:

Taking Luke Shaw doesn't make sense

It's the end of the road for Southgate

England ticks all the boxes for Guardiola

Ronaldo should be coming off the bench



On England vs Slovakia

England can learn lessons from Spain

ery annoying to watch this England team struggle to break down teams that are defending in numbers. In the end, we got our breakthrough when the Slovakian’s were on their haunches after giving everything.

I’m pleased that we won the game, but there are still so many problems to address with this team.

Gareth Southgate is picking all of his big names, but that is coming at the expense of finding any balance. All of the players in front of the back four want the ball to feet. We haven’t got anyone making runs in behind, and our football is so predictable. I feel sorry for the ball players in this team because they’ve got no options with the ball other than short, simple passes.

We could learn a few very basic lessons from Spain. Georgia have been one of the surprise packages at this tournament. They play with a lot of men behind the ball and break rapidly – they’re a difficult team to break down. Spain took them to the cleaners by playing positive, varied football. Their wide players Williams and Lamal are so positive. Their first thought is to beat the fullback.

In midfield, everyone has a role and understands what to do to make the team function coherently. Rodri, who is a wonderful player, understands the holding role perfectly.

Ruiz, he’s fantastic. He isn’t a physical player, and that’s fine. The way that Spain go about winning the ball in the middle of the park doesn’t require physicality. The players they have can read the play, they’re mobile.

The front six of Spain is a lesson on how the game should be played, and it’s frustrating because England have players that are as good if not better than the Spanish ensemble of talent. 

Apart from the two goals, England didn’t produce anything. Everyone loves to see an overhead kick, and it was a wonderful goal, but it doesn’t mask the fact that this was another really poor performance from England.

We showed absolutely nothing in this game. We were outplayed by a pretty average Slovakia team for ninety odd minutes.

We got off to the perfect start in extra time with Kane’s header and then you expect England to really go for it. There are fresh legs on, and Slovakia are on their knees mentally and physically after putting so much into the contest. At that point, you’re expecting this team to be ruthless and show some quality, but it didn’t happen.

When you look at what England have produced over four games at this tournament, Switzerland will be going into that quarter-final as clear favorites.

We spoke before about substitutions or lack of them, why do you think Southgate didn't turn to his bench earlier? It was such a desperately poor performance.

All of the players that Gareth has chosen to start with at this championship are star players – they are all big players for their clubs and Gareth Southgate has a lot of faith in them.

Fans and pundits know that these players can produce better than what they’ve shown so far. Sometimes as a manager, you have to act to spark a reaction, and if that means taking off one of your big players because they’ve been poor, then so be it. You need to be decisive as a manager.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what reputation you’ve got, if you’re not playing well, then you must understand that you can get hooked. That doesn’t seem to be happening with these players until the very last moment.

England were a minute from going out of the competition having made minimal changes during the game. Was that a manager’s faith being rewarded by his player that were on the pitch or was it luck? It was probably a bit of both, but that luck will run out soon enough.

Did this result and performance leave more questions than answers.

The players who are starting the game are not performing to the ability of what we expect. I liked what Portugal did, OK, they lost against Georgia, but they completely rotated the team and got some minutes into the legs of players on the fringes of the squad. There were able to do that because they were going to finish top anyway

We still don’t really know what several of our squad can offer, while we’ve seen the same faces labour in every single match.

There are so many questions about the wider group. I feel like we’re four games into the tournament and we can all see the problems that are in this team, and not much is changing.

Considering Luke Shaw has been injured since March and has yet to appear in this tournament, do you think Southgate was wrong to take him or at least not to pick another recognised left back in his squad?

The decision from Gareth Southgate to take Luke Shaw doesn't really make sense. We’ve had four games, and the left side's been a mess the whole time. If we had lost against Slovakia – which we could have – he wouldn’t have seen a single minute of action.

I think the knives would have been out, because it’s hard for any manager to justify picking a player who hasn’t been able to get onto the pitch due to injury. If Shaw isn’t fit for the quarter-finals, then you have to ask what was the point in taking him.

Trippier has done a job there. I think the England team is better with Saka playing there because he will stretch teams and overlap. Playing Saka at left back offers more balance than Trippier currently does.

We saw Gareth play with wing backs against Slovakia. It was hard to tell if that was part of a coherent plan or a last throw of the dice to get more attacking players into the team. Eze went out to left wing back, Saka to right. Eze did a job over there. Has it given the manager food for thought in terms of how he sets his team up against Switzerland? I think we will get more of the same if I’m being honest.

Five minutes of anything decent

This is an England team that is set-up to play conservative football. I don’t think that suits the players that we have in the squad. Football is all about being positive and taking the shackles off. It’s about having the confidence and belief in your own ability to take a game to the opposition. I don’t see that confidence in this team.

I don’t think anyone should get carried away. We were very poor in the match. After 120 minutes of football, England had five minutes in the game that was good.

If we can beat Switzerland, then I think we would have done very well.


On Gareth Southgate

Do you think Gareth Southgate will remain England manager after the Euros or does it hinge on how far they go? What would be a success?

Listen, we know that all the fans and pundits are fickle when it comes to the England manager. If we go on and win this, people will say that Gareth should be in charge for the World Cup.

Personally, with everything that has gone on here, I think it’s time for a change. It’s become a little bit sad – it feels like the end of the road for Gareth Southgate and England.

At the start of the Euros, I said it would only be a successful campaign if we reached the final. I still think that’s the case because we’ve been knocking on the door now for the last three or four tournaments.

I don’t think we’ll ever have a better chance of winning a major tournament than we did when we lost to Italy in 2021.

What has been his biggest downfall as manager? What would you do differently?

Over the last four or five years, he's basically had a certain team. You could name the team before the squad was announced, and he’s been loyal to his group of players that have been with him at previous tournaments.

I think injuries to key players have created problems. For me, those injuries highlight a lack of succession planning. Magurie and Shaw particularly.

This squad has seen him change his approach and bring in form players, leaving out the likes of Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford for example.

By playing the same players, he hasn’t given new guys an opportunity to play at this level. It felt like at this tournament with the squad he has picked, he’s been playing catch-up in terms of trying to bed players into the team at speed

A lot of these guys have been given a chance – they’ve had a go – and I think after the tournament, it’s time to move some of them on and look to the future.

When he does eventually leave, who would you like to see replace him in the hotseat?

The FA should be ambitious. They should be thinking about replacing Gareth Southgate with the best possible candidate available. If we want to win something, if we want to see this group of players play to their absolute potential, then we need to appoint the best.

I’ve heard that Pep Guardiola is thinking about international management when he leaves Manchester City. He wants to work with a group of players that are capable of winning something, so England should tick all the boxes for him.

The FA should be on his case. They should have a conversation and see if there’s interest. If there is, then they should be doing absolutely everything possible to bring him in.

That would be brilliant, wouldn't it, to see the players properly coached for a start.

Of course it would be. His record is unbelievable as a manager and, this is the time to make a move for him. Pep is the perfect candidate for England. If there’s even a possibility of bringing him in, then it needs to be explored

Waddle on the tournament so far and England’s chances

The only positive that you can take from England’s tournament is that we’re still in it. We’re alive. Good teams find a way through, and I wouldn’t say that any of the big nations have really looked imperious.

I’ve been impressed by Switzerland and Austria. The minnows have had a go, which has been great to see.

Everyone has fallen in love with Georgia. Fans love seeing teams they’re unfamiliar with having a go, which is exactly what they’ve done.

When you’re looking at the knock-out stages and the route to the final, it’s starting to look like what we all expected.


On England vs Switzerland

Do you think Southgate will start with the same formation he finished with against Slovakia? Should he?

Marc Guehi is suspended, so I suspect that Lewis Dunk will come into the team alongside John Stones. I’m not so sure that he will revert to a back three or match us up to the Swiss formation to be honest.

I think if he wanted to be bolder, he could play Walker alongside Stones. Switzerland don’t play with a big physical presence up top, so it wouldn’t be a major concern to put him next to Stones, who he knows inside out. Then you could get Trent into the team at right back.

Left back, there are still question marks. Does he go with Saka from the start and really go for it? Does he put Shaw in if he’s ready?

If it was me, I would put walker alongside Stones, and bring back Alexander-Arnold at right back with Saka at left back. That then releases Palmer on the right of the attack, even though I would prefer Palmer to be playing in the ten role. We still have the problem with Foden and Bellingham, but I can’t see a world where one of them misses out, even though Anthony Gordon is the best option for that left wing role.

It would be wonderful if we could impose ourselves on the Swiss rather than sitting back. Take the game to them.

What Swiss players have impressed you so far this tournament and who should England look out for?

Granit Xhaka is the obvious name. He is the midfield orchestrator. He makes everything tick in that team and he is also a great leader. If you think about his development over the last few years as a player, then you have to say that Xhaka is one of the most improved central midfielders in Europe.

Xhaka’s been one of the best players at the tournament. Switzerland have a lot of experienced players.

I like Vargas. He’s a good player that has experience of playing at this level and he causes problems with his movement. He can go inside and out. The defence is solid – Akanji and Schar are two excellent footballers. Yann Sommer is an excellent goalie.

They're a bit like Denmark. Well organised, well drilled, three at the back, with a sprinkling of brave attacking players who can hurt you.

Are you confident that England are going to be able to overcome a very well organised Swiss outfit who have impressed so far at this tournament?

Switzerland will be full of confidence, understandably so after they dispatched Italy in the round of sixteen. They beat them quite comfortably.

They were decent against Germany. Got a good point and were unlucky not take all three.

It’s going to be England’s hardest test at the tournament so far.

Are we in prayers territory with this England team. That’s how it feels watching at home – give us something to be positive about Chris.

The only thing that you can say in terms of positives is that, despite the poor performances, we’re there. We’re still alive and kicking – we haven’t been sent home yet.

There is another opportunity for this group of players and manager to improve things. That’s all you can ask for as a player, the chance to go out and show the world how talented you are. That is what England need to demonstrate.

It’s normally always a good sign if you’re winning games without playing well. I’m not sure that cliché applies here, but the fact is that we’re still in it. Improvements are needed to progress, but it’s a great opportunity to silence the critics and demonstrate that we can compete on the biggest stages.


On Euro 2024

Who do you think have been the three most impressive players at the tournament so far?

I never thought I’d say this, but Granit Xhaka has to be in there. I’ve been impressed by him and the way that he's played for Switzerland.

Fabian Ruiz, Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams have impressed me for Spain.

Nico Williams is someone that you would pay to watch. He has unbelievable talent. He is willing to take anyone on. He takes risks with the ball and he’s brave – if he loses it, he loses it, that’s what he’s in the team for and he knows that he has a guy like Rodri behind him. He’s such a positive player.

I’m waiting for Rafael Leão to come to the party for Portugal. It hasn’t happened for him yet, but the big players tend to produce moments that matter when the games start to carry extra pressure. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time for him because he is someone that I love to watch.

How do you feel Cristiano Ronaldo has performed at this tournament?

I don’t think anyone can argue with Ronaldo’s legendary status in the game. What he’s achieved in his career has been phenomenal. He’s still got ability, no question, but, with the players that Portugal have, I think he’d be better suited to a role as an impact player within the squad.

He doesn’t really have the pace anymore, but his movement is still terrific, and he comes alive in the penalty box. I watched his performance against Georgia, and it told me that he can’t play for 90 minutes at this level, although he will never think that.

You could see that he was getting frustrated; falling over every time a player went near him, and I think that had more to do with the fact that he wasn’t in the game. He has cut a frustrated figure at this tournament so far for me.

I think he’d more impactful coming off the bench for the last 30 minutes when the opponent isn’t as sharp.


On Newcastle

Apparently, Newcastle are closing in on the signing of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. What kind of a role could you see him playing at the club?

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has done well in the Premier League, but there are so many doubts over his fitness. He’s had a lot of injuries over the last couple of years and he hasn’t been a player that Everton have been able to rely on, which is a shame.

On his game, fully fit, he’s a player that I really like.

The centre forward role at Newcastle is so important. The club need a forward that is going to be fit for an entire season. Unfortunately, Callum Wilson has had his own injury struggles. Isak has had a few too.

If Dominic Calvert-Lewin joined the club fully fit, then it would be a great addition, but I can’t help but worry about his injury record and potential lack of availability.

Anthony Gordon’s future and summer business

I was told about Liverpool’s reported interest in Anthony Gordon, and we’ve all seen the stories.

I would be shocked if Newcastle entertained any offer from Liverpool for him because he is one of the players that they will be planning to build around. He had a great season with Newcastle, got into the England squad, and is making the right steps in his development as a player.

His potential is there for everyone to see, and he will only keep on getting better. I would be amazed if Newcastle sold him.

It looks like the club are balancing the books and addressing any PSR concerns with the sales of Elliot Anderson and Yankuba Minteh, so they should be in a strong financial position. It’s always sad to see an academy player leave the club, but that’s what happens and the rules incentivise clubs to sell those players.

The rumours concerning Alexander Isak won’t go away. Are you worried that your old club may sell him this summer – is he irreplaceable?

I don’t think that any players are irreplaceable. Players come and players go, but if you want to be successful, you should do everything in your power as a football club to hold onto your best ones.

Isak is certainly one of Newcastle’s best players. If you can keep him fit, I don’t think there is a player like him in the Premier League. He is definitely good enough to play for any of the top four clubs in the division, which is where Newcastle want to get to.

There was a reported offer from Tottenham that included cash and Richarlison. That’s not a deal I would be interested in if I was Eddie Howe. 


On Tottenham

Where do Tottenham need to strengthen?

Tottenham are crying out for a number nine. That has to be the priority for the club this summer. We saw Son play there at times last season, but he’s not the long-term solution and I like him in a wider role.

Eze has been linked and I can see why clubs are interested in him because he’s a great talent. I think if Tottenham were to move for him, then he would be mainly used in a wide role because I can’t see him playing in the ten role as that is where Maddison plays.

He’s got great pace and balance, he’s graceful. I could see Eze in a Tottenham shirt and I think the fans would love to watch him play. He’s definitely a Tottenham player. He’s had a wonderful season with Crystal Palace, it looks like he’s put some injury trouble with his Achilles to bed – he’s going to be a man in demand this summer, but I do think he would be a great addition for Ange Postecoglou.

Jaden Philogene is a man in demand. I know you keep an eye on players in the Championship. What can you tell us about this lad who is reportedly attracting interest from Barcelona, Tottenham and a host of other top clubs?

Jaden Philogene came up through the ranks at Aston Villa, he was loaned to Cardiff and did really well there.

Hull paid £5 million for him, which is a lot of money for a Championship club but is starting to look like a real bargain. I’m certain that Aston Villa will have a sell-on clause on him after letting him go for that price.

A lot of clubs are looking at him. He had a great season with Hull scoring twelve goals and laying on six assists. He’s only twenty-two, so the potential is massive.

When I first saw him, I thought he looked like a player that was destined to reach the top of the game. I found it strange that Hull managed to get him because his potential was clear. He’ll obviously be sold for a lot more money than Hull paid for him, so it’s been a shrewd investment from them and a great bit of business.

He's one of those wingers who picks up the ball and takes people on. He’s an entertainer. He’s exciting.

I'll be honest, I think his game probably suits the continent rather than England. I think he’ll have more freedom to express himself playing in Europe where he can focus on the things he does well and not have to worry as much about the defensive side of the game.

For his development as a player, a move to Europe would also benefit him. Barcelona have been linked to him, which says it all about the type of player he is and could become.

He’s going to have some wonderful options and he deserves them. If I was him, I’d go to a club in Spain or Germany. 


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V: 1.24.0 All rights reserved. August 2021
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