ENGLAND U21 EXIT: WHATS GONE WRONG FOR THE YOUNG LIONS?
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
After two straight defeats against Switzerland and Portugal, England U21s are on the verge of another group stage exit at the European Championships.
With a highly talented squad, there is no doubt that this England side should be performing better than they are and another early exit is unacceptable for the Three Lions.
So where has it gone wrong for England U21s?
Most of the blame has been pointed at manager Aidy Boothroyd, and the fact he was chosen to be the name to lead England for this Euros, after such a disappointing Euro 2019.
England went out in the group stages of that tournament, after a tough defeat against France where Boothroyd’s side were leading up until the 89th minute, followed by a shock 4-2 defeat against Romania, where once again England capitulated with five minutes ago, going from 2-1 up to 4-2 down.
That squad featured the likes of Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, who were breaking through at Derby County, James Maddison, who was a regular at Leicester and an emerging Phil Foden, plus the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Dean Henderson and Tammy Abraham.
Many called for Boothroyd to be let go after that tournament, but the FA decided to give him a chance to get it right at the next attempt.
It was the defending which stood out as England’s biggest on the pitch problem that tournament, but that has changed for this tournament.
England have yet to find the net in the two games that they have played so far and have only had one shot on target.
With players such as Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Noni Madueke and Dwight McNeil, Rhian Brewster, Ebrechi Eze, Todd Cantwell and Conor Gallagher available to Boothroyd, it is unbelievable that England have been so poor in the final third.
Curtis Jones was also called up to the squad, but he has been benched and subbed on both times, with Boothroyd preferring the two-man midfield of Tom Davies and Oliver Skipp.
While both Davies and Skipp are great players with bright futures, Curtis Jones lack of involvement is baffling to many England fans, but that is not the only selection choice confusing England fans.
Max Aarons started as a right wing back in the loss to Switzerland but was dropped for centre-back Japhet Tanganga when England changed to a four at the back system, another move that surprised and annoyed many fans.
Tanganga is a capable full back, but Boothroyd choosing to go with a natural centre-back instead of an out and out right back summarises the problem with his management reign.
Despite starting well with the under 21’s, winning the 2018 Toulon Tournament, it is clear that the former Watford manager is out of his depth with this side.
Before arriving at the England set up, Boothroyd was sacked by Coventry after one win in sixteen, and in 2013 he was let go by Northampton, after his side sat bottom of League Two in December.
Boothroyd has had some success in his club management career, winning promotion to the Premier League with Watford in 2006 and reaching the play-off final with Northampton in the 12/13 season.
England have navigated the qualifying stages well, but this is the bare minimum expected for an England U21’s side that features plenty Premier League and Championship regulars.
It is unlikely that England will go through, and while the players are not blameless, this generation of talent should be performing a lot better than they currently are, and the blame should go mainly to Boothroyd and the FA, who kept him in charge after his first Euro’s.
A new manager could be the spark England need, and could make this side a lot more fun to watch, and one that performs closer to expectation.
England’s talent pool is growing stronger and stronger with every new generation, and a new manager may be necessary if the Three Lions want to see success in future tournaments.