England's biggest issues Southgate MUST solve after Hungary thrashing

Sort out the dodgy defence, start making BRUTAL decisions, and give freedom to the brightest talents like Foden and Grealish… England’s biggest problems Gareth Southgate MUST solve with only two games until the World Cup in Qatar

  • England were thrashed 4-0 by Hungary in their worst home loss since 1928 
  • Gareth Southgate admitted he’s lacked balance in his side ahead of World Cup
  • Some fans have even called for his sacking after four miserable matches 
  • Sportsmail goes through the glaring issues the Three Lions boss must address  
  • Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates

Humbling, chastening, humiliating – chuck in all the words you like to describe England’s 4-0 demolition by Hungary and it will sound about right. 

It was a historic result and for all the wrong reasons as England recorded their worst home defeat since 1928, and it sets alarm bells ringing with just five months and two international games left before the Three Lions head to Qatar for the World Cup.

A makeshift England were at sixes and sevens in unfamiliar surroundings at Molineux, with John Stones sent off to add insult to injury and rounding off a horror display against a side they were tipped to easily beat. 

There are now even calls from some irate fans for manager Gareth Southgate to be sacked before the World Cup begins, despite leading England to third place at the 2018 World Cup and then the Euro 2020 final.

It is extremely unlikely the FA would consider pulling the trigger on Southgate in the near future, but the coach still has a plethora of worries that will keep him awake at night as the competition in the Middle East edges closer. 

Sportsmail takes a look at each of these pressing issues that Southgate must address to restore confidence to a wounded squad and bring back hopes of ending their 56-year trophy drought.

England look low on confidence two games before the World Cup after 4-0 loss to Hungary

Manager Gareth Southgate has an array of issues to deal with before taking his side to Qatar


Winning just his third England cap, it was hardly a ringing endorsement of Aaron Ramsdale that he let in four against Hungary as he bids to convince Southgate that he should wear the gloves in Qatar. 

The England No 1 jersey has been there for the taking for a number of years, with Jordan Pickford having unconvincing spells in the league for Everton, while the likes of Burnley’s Nick Pope haven’t been able to grab the chance with both hands (no pun intended).

Ramsdale has often been involved in the England set-up without really being a contender, but his impressive displays with Arsenal have given hope he could start putting pressure on Pickford. 

England’s goalkeeping options look limited with doubts remaining over each of them

Aaron Ramsdale was in between the sticks against Hungary and failed to take his chance

But in his first real opportunity he wasted it – getting a touch but letting a shot fly past him for Hungary’s first goal. The second one squeezed through him. The third he could do nothing about, but for the fourth he charged out then stayed still, allowing the Hungary player to lob the ball over his head.

The standard of England’s goalkeepers has been poor for some time but there’s nothing worse than going into a major tournament with your top keepers in poor form for their clubs. Pope was relegated, Pickford’s Everton narrowly avoided the drop and Ramsdale’s Arsenal capitulated in their top four battle in the final stretch. 

England can only hope their keepers have solid starts to the season and then Southgate must make a firm choice and stick with it. The team do no need another repeat of Fabio Capello’s decision to start with Rob Green in 2010 and then switch to David James mid-tournament. 


It feels strange to think England had the best defence at Euro 2020, letting in just two goals and keeping five clean sheets, but fast forward one year and you still feel wary about trusting anyone to do a solid job. 

John Stones and Harry Maguire were England’s first choice centre-back pairing last summer and both really excelled, but Maguire has had a disaster season for Manchester United and his confidence has clearly taken a knock.

Stones has had troubles of his own in the last year, but against Hungary he was awful. He has enough experience now and should lead by example. His poor header led to the first goal and he was bullied by Adam Szalai all night long before being sent for an early bath with a second yellow.

Southgate has introduced the likes of Marc Guehi – the Crystal Palace defender who caught the eye last season – and he fared better than Stones, but the coach needs more quality options. 

England had the best defence at Euro 2020 last year but have looked out of sorts this month

John Stones should lead by example but he had a torrid display against Hungary on Tuesday

England fans will remember when the team was spoiled in defence with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell and Ledley King as options. England need that strength in depth but they just don’t have it.

Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings have also been part of England set ups recently, but both play for clubs struggling in mid-table. Joe Gomez is an option but is incredibly injury prone and out of the Liverpool first team. In-form AC Milan star Fikayo Tomori started the last game against Italy and helped keep a clean sheet. He is a player Southgate should be making to feel part of the furniture.

Southgate himself was a defender, but Tuesday’s night defensive display was woeful. He has proven he knows how to set the team up correctly to shore things up but has admitted twice during this two week international break that he ‘got the balance wrong’. 

Better to experiment now than in November, but he must learn lessons quickly. 


There was a time when the team were brimming with quality on either flank, but at the moment it seems Southgate is being forced to use his overflowing number of right backs on the opposite side.

Luke Shaw started most of England’s Euro 2020 campaign – scoring the opener against Italy in the final – but had a season to forget with Manchester United and was left out of Southgate’s recent squad for the Nations League due to injury. 

Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell has also been out injured long-term, leaving Southgate with few options as he decided to bring in Leicester’s James Justin, though he was hooked at half time in England’s first defeat to Hungary at the start of June. 

Southgate has been deprived of his two first choice left backs with Luke Shaw (above) injured 

Kieran Trippier – who was picked to play on the left side in the Euro 2020 opener – played solidly in draws against Germany and Italy, but then Reece James was drafted in to fill the position in the 4-0 loss to Hungary.

At right back England have Alexander Trent-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Trippier and James, as well as prospects like Tariq Lamptey, but the options at left back need to be stronger.

Southgate showed he was not overly keen on Chilwell after the Chelsea man failed to kick a ball at the Euros last year, and he needs better depth to ensure there aren’t right-sided players filling in.

Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell was called up in March after a superb season at Selhurst Park but missed out this time, while Ryan Sessegnon could be one to keep an eye on after returning to form with Tottenham under Antonio Conte. 


We know Southgate has his favourites. There is a feeling that Harry Maguire could have weekly shockers and be dropped by his club and he’d still start for England.

England’s team should be picked on merit – a privilege that is earned. There are too many players in the squad that have been selected despite not having outstanding seasons for their clubs.

Kalvin Phillips has been mediocre for Leeds, while there have been better defenders than Conor Coady, but both have started games during this four-game run. 

On the flip side, Southgate is letting plenty of good talent waste away on the bench – such as Jack Grealish, who has undoubted star quality but doesn’t seem to have the backing of his manager to start games. 

The England boss must make tougher calls and leave out stars who aren’t cutting the mustard

Tammy Abraham has just smashed in 21 goals for Roma in the Italian top flight but has only been given one game out of four to show he can fight with Harry Kane for a place in the forward line.

He has also sidelined the likes of Jadon Sancho, who played just once at Euro 2020 last summer, but while he clearly been under-par this season with Man United, the player was riding the crest of a wave after a standout campaign with Dortmund.

On the pitch, Southgate should pick a formation that suits the players he has available to him and stick with it. He played three at the back in the first Nations League game against Hungary before switching to a back four against Germany, Italy and the second game against Hungary.


England have been accused of being shackled under Southgate, despite boasting plenty of creatively gifted stars – including Grealish, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Sancho, when on form. 

Some fans have dubbed him ‘Safegate’ and have criticised his failure to ensure England punished Italy in last year’s Euro 2020 final after going 1-0 up.

Every England supporter has an idea of how the team should be playing and while there have been some great performances, the Three Lions have not regularly put teams to the sword despite having the players capable of doing so. 

England have scored just once in four games and the midfield aren’t getting enough freedom

Southgate has players like Phil Foden at his disposal but is getting a reputation of being ‘safe’

Of course, Southgate must strike the balance of getting the creative players ticking while ensuring the team are not split open at the back – that’s what happened against Hungary, though they didn’t even create many clear-cut chances. 

England had just two shots on target at Molineux and across the four Nations League games they have scored just once – a penalty.

Captain Harry Kane has delivered at each of the last two major tournaments but he can’t do all the work himself and the service to him must improve. The worrying thing is – if Southgate hasn’t found the balance between keeping things solid at the back and unleashing the team’s potential, will he do so by November?

Social media armchair experts have already called for Brighton’s Graham Potter to replace Southgate to get the best out of the players. 


At the Euros, the team selection offered few surprises after the opening game, and one of the reasons England performed so well was because they became a unit who fought for each other.

Southgate has built his England reign around team bonding, camaraderie and togetherness, though there hasn’t been any of that this month. 

England were at their best last year when they were settled and united – the team have to get back to that ahead of the World Cup 

To be fair to Southgate, he’s been forced to change things around because the players are exhausted and mentally drained at the end of a gruelling season – with many of them likely thinking ahead to sitting on a beach in a far flung destination across the world. 

The team were far from full strength against Hungary and – while not an excuse – the constant rotation during these four games can’t have helped them. 

Southgate has used a total of 26 players overall in this run – practically fielding two totally different sides in some games.  

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