Gareth Southgate, the England manager, has enjoyed a particularly positive period over the last four years or so.

A better than expected performance at the 2018 World Cup Finals saw England reach the semifinal, before succumbing to Croatia in extra time and then in the delayed 2020 European Championships, England reached their first major final since 1966, drawing with Italy 1-1 but losing on penalties.

Add to that a solid initial Nations League campaign, which saw them reach the semi-finals and Southgate has certainly produced consistent results, and a straightforward World Cup Qualifying campaign saw England safely into the hat for the draw for the Finals in Qatar.

But what was not expected was England’s capitulation in the current 2022/23 Nations League. England have lost twice to Hungary, including a 4-0 home defeat which was the worst by an England team on home soil since the 1920s, as well as stumbling to fortunate and somewhat dull draws against Italy and Germany.

Those results now leave England up against it, battling to save themselves from relegation into League B of the Nations League and they have their final two games to decide their fate coming up on Friday night and Monday night.

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Let’s now take a look at the reasons why England find themselves in this tricky predicament in League A Group 3 and quite what the situation is in this tough group.

Nations League – League A Group 3

Results

  • Hungary 1-0 England (Szoboszlai 66(p))
  • Italy 1-1 Germany (Pellegrini 70), (Kimmich 73)
  • Italy 2-1 Hungary (Barella 30, Pellegrini 45), (Mancini 61 OG)
  • Germany 1-1 England (Hofmann 50), (Kane 88(p))
  • England 0-0 Italy
  • Hungary 1-1 Germany (Nagy 6), (Hofmann 9)
  • Germany 5-2 Italy (Kimmich 10, Gundogan 45(p), Muller 51, Werner 68,69), (Gnonto 78, Bastoni 90)
  • England 0-4 Hungary (Sallai 16,70, Nagy 80, Gazdag 89)

Two draws and two defeats, with just one goal scored from a dubious 88th minute penalty; there are plenty of things to concern Gareth Southgate with this run of form, especially with it being on the eve of the World Cup Finals later this year.

However, it has not just been the results. Performances in all four games have been poor, none worse than the 4-0 shellacking handed out to Southgate’s team by a Hungarian team that had none of the talent but far more desire to beat England at Wembley by a greater margin than even the Marvellous Magyars team of the 1950’s did when beating England 6-3.

Current Table

  1. Hungary – 7pts (+4)
  2. Germany – 6pts (+3)
  3. Italy – 5pts (-2)
  4. England – 2pts (-5)

England’s Situation

England cannot win the group, even if they win both their remaining games as one of the other three teams will finish above England given the remaining games.

If England lose to Italy, then they will be relegated into the Nations League League B.

A draw will almost certainly see England relegated into League B, but if Hungary beat Germany and then England beat Germany in their final game, England could stay in League A that way.

Anything less than four points, England will be relegated.

Meanwhile any of Hungary, Italy or Germany could still top the group and qualify for the Nations League Semi Finals which take place next year.

Southgate’s England Squad For Nations League Games 5 and 6

Goalkeepers

  • Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest)
  • Nick Pope (Newcastle United)
  • Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

With Jordan Pickford out injured, there is a chance for one of the three goalkeepers to deputise for Southgate’s first choice. Nick Pope probably has the edge in experience, but Aaron Ramsdale’s solid start to the season for Arsenal may just see him preferred.

Defenders

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
  • Ben Chilwell (Chelsea)
  • Conor Coady (Everton)
  • Eric Dier (Tottenham)
  • Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace)
  • Reece James (Chelsea)
  • Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
  • Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
  • John Stones (Manchester City)
  • Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan)
  • Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United)
  • Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

John Stones is suspended for the first game but even so 12 defenders for two games England must win highlights why many England fans, myself included, are frustrated with Southgate’s squad selections.

Are Fikayo Tomori or Marc Guehi likely to win you a game against Italy or Germany? Or might Marcus Rashford or Jason Sancho not be better options?

Also, if Southgate omitted Sancho and Rashford due to their form last season, how come Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, both out of the United side at the moment and struggling for form, are included?

It must be frustrating for the likes of Ben White, Dan Burn, Max Kilman, James Tarkowski, Tyrone Mings and Joe Gomez to see Maguire selected in front of them. While the same can be said for left backs Matt Targett, Tyrick Mitchell, Rico Henry and Aaron Cresswell who could all lay claim to being in better form than Luke Shaw.

Midfielders

  • Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund)
  • Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
  • Mason Mount (Chelsea)
  • Declan Rice (West Ham United)
  • James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
  • Phil Foden (Manchester City)
  • Jack Grealish (Manchester City)

Injury to Kalvin Phillips keeps him out of the squad, but Jordan Henderson, who is injured, is called up. Another strange call. There’s no real surprises in the remaining selections but England do look a little thin on the ground in this area of the team. Jude Bellingham’s superb form for Dortmund means he must surely start both games.

Attackers

  • Tammy Abraham (AS Roma)
  • Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)
  • Harry Kane (Tottenham)
  • Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
  • Raheem Sterling (Chelsea)
  • Ivan Toney (Brentford)

It is good to see Ivan Toney given a chance, and Tammy Abraham also deserves a shot too. Jarrod Bowen’s form for West Ham hasn’t been as good as Sancho or Rashford for Manchester United and while Saka and Sterling are always going to be picked, the United duo look to have been somewhat harshly omitted in my view.

Probable England Team v Italy (5-3-2) – Pope, James, Chilwell, Maguire, Dier, Walker, Rice, Bellingham, Mount, Kane, Sterling.

Remaining Fixtures

Friday 23rd September (7.45pm Kick Off)

  • Germany v Hungary (Leipzig)
  • Italy v England (Milan)

England need at least four points or more to stand any chance of avoiding the drop into League B and even then, four points may not be enough depending on how other results go in the group. As such, this has to be viewed as a must win game for the Three Lions.

Yet their record against Italy in recent times is shocking. England have won 2 of the last 16 between the teams, Italy have nine wins in that time, with five games drawn. All England’s wins have been either in friendly games or meaningless cup competitions, with Italy winning almost every important encounter between the two.

Yet bet365 have England as the 6/4 favourites to win this game, but I think that is crazy given the form and record of Italy against England and I think the 11/5 on the draw is the bet to back here, although if you fancied a bet on a winner, I’d take Italy to land a 1-0 victory.

Monday 26th September (7.45pm Kick Off)

  • England v Germany (Wembley)
  • Hungary v Italy (Budapest)

My gut feeling here is that England will already be relegated by the time they face Germany, but I expect Germany to be pushing hard to win the group with a victory here.

No England v Germany game can ever be said to be a friendly, or meaningless for one of the teams, but Germany will have more riding on the game in all likelihood.

However, England have something to prove and will want to head to the World Cup with at least a better result or two behind them, so I am backing England to spoil the German’s night here by taking a narrow victory.

Odds on this game will be available after the conclusion of the game with Italy at bet365.