Chekhov came up with the idea of the shotgun above the mantelpiece. If there’s a gun on the wall in Act 1 of your drama, someone had better be firing it by Act 2. By the same token if you have an abundance of attacking talent – dribblers, speed-merchants, velvet-touch princelings – at some point you really do need to encourage them to show it on the pitch.
For now Southgate seems to have rejected this dramatic rule in favour of something more diffuse. We appreciate and welcome guns as a basic principle. We have a wealth of promising guns in the pathway. We will, in due course, be reviewing their use as part of a wider process. Now. Shall we talk about right-backs for a bit?
Gareth Southgate indeed has “an abundance of attacking talent” at his disposal, and clearly considers this his cross to bear. What he wants is an entire team of Jordan Hendersons.
UPDATE AFTER THE MATCH: If Southgate hadn’t acted decisively to get his three most creative and dangerous players (Saka, Grealish, Sterling) off the pitch, England might have scored again. What a nightmare that would have been.
The players have mostly been very good, despite their manager’s desperate attempts to stifle them. I’m looking forward to the 8-1-1, with poor old Harry Kane lumbering along at the front of the line like one of the Walking Dead, that Southgate will deploy in the knockout round.