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Is Southgate beginning a bold new era?

Amid the euphoria of England's run to the World Cup semi-finals in the summer, one flaw remained evident throughout. Gareth Southgate's side were technically inferior to the world's elite teams, a truth exposed for all to see when Croatia eliminated them with a 2-1 win in the semi-finals in Moscow.

England's manager was fully aware of the deficiencies and, by selecting an even more youthful squad than usual for the behind-closed-doors Uefa Nations League game against the same opponents in Rijeka on Friday, it appears he is seeking solutions to his side's major problems. With the manager emboldened by a new contract which runs until after the 2022 World Cup, is this a significant moment in England's evolution under Southgate?

Southgate's first post-World Cup squad for the Nations League meeting with Spain at Wembley and the friendly with Switzerland at Leicester brought disappointment in some quarters as it was a safe selection showing loyalty to those who served England so well in Russia, injecting little fresh young blood.

There has been no such show of conservatism this time around, though, as Southgate's squad contains six uncapped players, including 19-year-old Mason Mount – on loan at Derby County from Chelsea – and Borussia Dortmund's 18-year-old former Manchester City attacker Jadon Sancho.

The selections of Mount and Sancho stand out – evidence that Southgate now believes he must cast a wider net; a reflection on the paucity of English talent in the Premier League that has taken him into the Championship and the Bundesliga.
Mount, flourishing with regular football under Frank Lampard at Pride Park, edged out 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek, whose decision to stay at Chelsea after figuring at the World Cup following a fine loan spell at Crystal Palace looks increasingly flawed.

Southgate showed self-confidence and assuredness when making these selections. And he currently makes decisions from a position of huge strength after signing a new contract that will take him through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Southgate has also bought himself precious time for experimentation – a word he rails against but there is surely an element of truth in it – after building a formidable fund of personal popularity in Russia, not simply because England reached the last four but also because of his own demeanour.

It is much easier for Southgate to risk the odd poor result after reaching England's first World Cup semi-final for 28 years than if they had flopped in Russia – judgements and verdicts may not have been so kind and patience not in such generous supply then. Southgate's selection also came after two very average performances in defeat by Spain at Wembley and in the narrow win against the Swiss – old failings such as lack of midfield creation were still in evidence and he has decided to act.

Southgate attacks England's Achilles heel

As England arrived in Rijeka accompanied by a glorious Croatian sunset, this new-age squad looks increasingly like a new dawn, an attempt by Southgate to solve his biggest problem. England cannot escape the brutal truth that they were badly exposed in the key midfield area when losing twice to Belgium and in the semi-final against Friday's opponents in Russia.

Southgate's England were game but uninspired, lacking in creativity in those games. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who had an excellent World Cup, and Tottenham's Eric Dier are honest journeymen at the highest international level but not creators among the elite. It is with this in mind that Southgate has grasped at the opportunity given to him by Ross Barkley's new, although admittedly brief, lease of life at Chelsea.

Barkley last played for England against Australia in May 2016 and figured in only four games last season after struggling with injury and failing to establish himself under Antonio Conte at Chelsea. He was ignored by Roy Hodgson despite being in his Euro 2016 squad, was not considered by Sam Allardyce and Southgate has steered clear until now.

Barkley's biggest faults have been decision-making and a habit of conceding possession in dangerous areas. For all the plaudits he received after scoring in Chelsea's 3-0 win at Southampton, his carelessness after coming on as substitute helped Liverpool snatch a draw at Stamford Bridge.

He is now 24 and entering the crucial phase of his career. Barkley is unquestionably capable of the creation England need – now he must take advantage of Southgate's so far fruitless search for that X-factor. Leicester City's James Maddison, uncapped and only 21, falls into the same category after an impressive start to the season following his £20m move from Norwich City, while Southgate has also taken advantage of Harry Winks' return to fitness at Spurs as another option after impressing on his debut in a World Cup qualifier in Lithuania two years ago. With Mount also in the mix, the manager has real alternatives to the old order. These are a very important few days for England's potential midfield creators of the future.

(BBC)

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BAD WEEK FOR MANCHESTER CITY

6th February 2023

After falling to close the gap on Arsenal by losing to a record breaking goal by Kane at the Tottenham stadium.Manchester City now find themselves being charged by the Premier League with more than 100 breaches of its financial rules following a four-year investigation.

According to BBC , it has referred the club to an independent commission over alleged rule breaches between 2009 and 2018 , and also that Man-city has not been co-operating since the investigation which started in 2018 .

BBC further states that The commission can impose punishment including a fine , points deduction and expelling the club from the Premier league.

The alleged breaches include ,  breaching rules for requiring full details of manager remuneration,from 2009-2010, to 2012-2013 seasons when Roberto Mancini was in charge . Also player remuneration between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016.

The Premier league stated that City breached rules related to UEFA regulations , including Financial Fair Play , from 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 ,as well as Premier League rules on profitability and sustainability from 2014-2016 to 2017-2018

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Mason Greenwood attempted rape charges dropped

2nd February 2023

Charges of attempted rape and assault have been dropped against Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood who was arrested in January 2022 after the allegations emerged.

The 21-year-old was arrested in January last year amid allegations surrounding images and videos that emerged online.

He was later charged with attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the charges were discontinued after a key witness withdrew their involvement.

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Sport

Raphael Varane announces retirement from international football after 10 years of service.

2nd February 2023

The Manchester United defender will now focus on his club career having made 93 caps for France, appearing at three world cups and on European championship. The Les Bleus won the World cup in 2018 and Raphael Varane started all but one of France’s matches in Qatar as they finished as runners up to Argentina

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