For Gareth Southgate, it was an unusual feeling, but the main question is whether it will have an impact.
“I don’t enjoy losing football matches,” he said after England’s shock 1-0 defeat to Hungary. “It’s been a long time since we actually beat in 90 minutes, so I don’t like that feeling a bit, and the players are very frustrated in the changing room.”
As their manager pointed out, they haven’t had a defeat like this since November 2020, close enough two years ago.
But, as we are now close enough to the World Cup finals, the question is whether this is actually a concern for Southgate. Did he see any bigger performance issues.
His response does not suggest that.
Although the England boss noted the heat of the afternoon in Budapest, and the circumstances, he would obviously be willing to sacrifice those matches so that the squad would be fit for the most important matches of all at the end of the year. This can be inferred from his post-match comments.
When asked directly if a defeat here would change his approach to the three remaining Nations League matches, as it meant it was now difficult to finish top of the group, Southgate said he would not.
Instead it doubled.
“People know in these matches and frankly that is better than finding out in friendlies, because we will see them under pressure in matches where the quality of the opponent is good. So it doesn’t really change the way we look at the period. As a coach you have to balance disappointment with recognition. , “Well, what did we gain from it, and what do we learn from it?” — knowing that in this role he is different from most others, because the repercussions of defeat are always much greater. I must make sure that I keep everyone on the right track.”
That was a key point. He had already admitted that the team that took part in the Hungary match was a bit more balanced towards trying things out rather than winning the match.
“Well, I think we knew it was going to be a very tough game. We’ve had tough games with them, with Hungary, as with other big countries. It’s very hard to smash. Maybe we were short on half a yard, I would say, in terms of our real interruption. I think. “That was hotter than the length of the season. The other factor is that we haven’t played together for three months, but we’ve played two games in six months. And across those four games we try to balance looking at things, knowing the players, and trying to win.”
“And maybe I didn’t get the balance that day, but we learned a lot from it. I have to accept that sometimes you won’t win matches, you have to overcome the criticism that comes with it, because learning should help us in the future. We are disappointed. If we We will be a team that makes it to the final stages of the World Cup, these are the kinds of matches you need to win.”
And the broader point is to give England alternatives so they have more weapons to win those matches. It is to reinforce their better side. This is why a backlash in the attack can be forgiven here. It’s not about overlooking it, it’s about looking at what might work.
“We have a pretty good idea of what probably our strongest team is. Quite a few of these players come from not from a perfect setup. [There’s] There is still a lot we can take away and learn from the games.”
In other words, although the performance was lackluster, Southgate doesn’t particularly care about it. It has nothing to do with that. It is not a concern for the World Cup.
It maps out exactly what these next few matches are: experimentation.
It may not be what the players want at the end of such a long season, which is why the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold will only be around for half that break.
However, Southgate will argue that is actually what England needs.
The hope is that they will see its benefits come in November.