One of the most enjoyable things for many football fans is the social aspect. Fans have always loved discussing their favourite and least favourite players with their friends, offering insight into which players they rate, and which managers deserve the sack.
It seems the case that a huge proportion of England fans are very happy indeed with current manager Gareth Southgate. Let’s consult the statistics to try and understand better how Southgate is really doing.
The former Crystal Palace academy graduate has now managed his country 31 times, beginning in October 2016 with a 2-0 home victory over Malta. England have won 17 times under him, drawing eight matches and losing six times. Half of these defeats came at the World Cup, as England twice lost to Belgium and were knocked out by Croatia. The other defeats came to Germany, France and Spain respectively. Only the latter of these three was a competitive fixture – England’s opener in the UEFA Nations League.
Southgate’s favourite opponent so far is Malta, who his side have played twice, winning 2-0 and 4-0 on the way to qualification for the 2018 World Cup. His trickiest opponent is Belgium, with his two fixtures against them ending in 1-0 and 2-0 defeats at the World Cup. His biggest win so far came as the Three Lions thrashed Panama 6-1 in the group-stages in Russia. His biggest defeat is the Third-Place play-off against Belgium this summer, which ended 2-0 to Roberto Martínez’s team. All other defeats under Southgate have been decided by a single goal.
Gareth Southgate’s England have only faced a select few sides more than once. The two most common opponents are Spain and Croatia. England have played them three times each. Incidentally, the manager has identical records against them both – winning once, drawing once and losing once – with all four non-draws decided by one goal either way. Under Southgate, England have twice played Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, Malta, Scotland and Slovenia.
England’s first goal under Southgate was Daniel Sturridge’s first half header in that 2-0 win over Malta in 2016. The earliest goal was Kieran Trippier’s delightful freekick against Croatia in the Lions’ semi-final defeat in Russia – a fifth minute goal. The latest was Harry Kane’s dramatic 94th minute winner against Slovenia that sent England to the World Cup finals in their penultimate qualifier. Nonetheless, under Southgate, England have actually conceded both earlier and later goals than this – to Belgium’s Thomas Meunier in the 4th minute and to Spain’s Isco in the 96th minute [although Mario Mandžukić’s extra-time winner for Croatia in the World Cup semis came in the 109th minute].
The top scorer against England in the Southgate era is actually a Scotland player – Leigh Griffiths. His two goals were both exquisite freekicks that came in the 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw at Hampden Park. England’s top scorer for Southgate is unsurprisingly Harry Kane – who has scored 15 of his 20 international goals under the current coach. Other than Kane, only three players have scored more than twice for their country under Southgate – Jamie Vardy , Jesse Lingard  and Marcus Rashford . All in all, England have scored 49 goals under Southgate, conceding only 24.
The best proportion of possession that England have enjoyed so far came in their very first game under Southgate. There they enjoyed 78% of the ball as they saw off the Maltese at Wembley. Their worst possession count actually came in perhaps their most impressive victory – the 3-2 win over Spain in Seville. Despite a 3-0 lead at the break, they finished proceedings with only 27% of possession. That night, England had 5 shots to Spain’s 24.
The most capped player under Southgate has been Manchester United’s youngster Marcus Rashford. He has played in 28 of the manager’s 31 matches. In terms of minutes played, John Stones leads the way, having played almost 2200 minutes of football. He also leads the way on yellow cards – he has accumulated five. Stones has the most starts of any player too, with 24, whilst Rashford is winning on the number of appearances from the bench. He has been introduced as a substitute 15 times, considerably more than the next most – Jesse Lingard with 9.
As a manger, Gareth Southgate ranks as the sixth best manager in purely competitive fixtures above both Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson. However, Roy Hodgson and Ron Greenwood rank above him. Considering all types of fixture, Southgate’s record is a little less impressive; he sits mid-table.
Overall, Gareth Southgate has made an excellent start to management with England. Qualification to the World Cup in Russia was functional – with eight wins and two draws sending England to the top of the group. There weren’t any frills, but Southgate remained unbeaten. At the World Cup, England made it out of their group with ease, becoming the only side not to top their group to still reach the semi-finals. There was penalty glory and a deserved quarter-final clean-sheet on the way. Since then, defeat on the opening day was immediately forgotten as England won the hardest Nations League group of all. They’ll now compete in their second semi-final in as many years in June.
We enjoyed Southgate’s first 31 games very games; here’s to the next 31.