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Published 31 December 2021 5 min read
Gareth Southgate

'The challenge starts again'

Written by:

Nicholas Veevers

Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate looks ahead to 2022 as England head into another major tournament year
After what was the busiest calendar year on record for the England men’s senior team in 2021, boss Gareth Southgate is ready to see what 2022 holds for his team.
The Three Lions played 19 games in the last 12 months, reached their first ever EURO Final in an unforgettable summer before sealing qualification for next December’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar during the autumn.
It’s fair to say there’s plenty to look back on for fans, players and Southgate’s staff. But with 2022 bringing another major tournament and a new UEFA Nations League campaign, the manager and his team are already taking the opportunity to align their approach for the new year. 
“I think, as a team, what you have to do is constantly reset your goals and ambitions and constantly review your performances,” explained Southgate.
“What is going well that we need to keep and what can be better? Where can we improve as a team? 
“We know that what got us to the EURO Final in 2021 won’t be enough in 2022, so you’ve got to evolve and improve. 
“That’s always been our mindset since we’ve been working with the team and the team has responded to that.”
Southgate and his staff will be watching all English players in action for their clubs in the first three months of 2022
Southgate and his staff will be watching all English players in action for their clubs in the first three months of 2022
Evolution has always been a key theme within Southgate’s team, with the changes made between the squad which featured at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the group for EURO 2020 illustrating that.
And with the next World Cup now less than a year away, no-one can really know what the next squad to represent England in Qatar next December might look like, including Southgate himself. 
“You get new players who come in and challenge for places, established players who are desperate to keep their places so we have good competition within the group and some great experience of high level matches,” he added.
“Within any team you need competition, so there’s an unspoken competition between players to get in the team. 
“And then when you bring good players together - whenever you bring them together - they will compete and they compare themselves to others in the group and in England, that is the process that is going on. 
“But we also know that 12 months is a long period and even though the team has looked settled in the last few months and performed well, the challenge starts again for us in March. 
“We need to equip ourselves well with every challenge that you put before us.”
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The four-month break between the November international window and the next fixtures in March always provides our national coaches with a chance to reflect and plan.
It’s also a busy time in the football calendar and Southgate along with his assistant coach Steve Holland will be out watching and reviewing as many games as they can as we head towards the March international window with two international opponents set to be confirmed for England soon.
And the squad selection process has always been done by looking at things over a longer term right from November through to March, as Southgate explains.
“There’s the long process when we’re looking at a squad we’re going to select of watching the players week after week, either live or on the laptop by downloading the game and then watching them back," he revealed. 
“Obviously physically you can only be at a certain amount of games, but we like to watch as many of the games as we possibly can to know not only who are our best players but also what else is going on in their world at the moment. 
“Where are they physically? And where are they in terms of form, so that we know what is coming into the building. 
“Then week after week, we’re probably putting an order in if we were picking this week, where would we be? Would there be any changes? Where are we with injuries? Very often that can change a few days leading into a squad announcement, because we have mid-week matches in Europe and you can pick up a few injures just before. 
“So we always have a list of contingencies, I guess who are the first three or four in each position.”
With that explained, and a busy few months to come before England’s March international games are announced in the new year, it’s over to the players to show their form on the pitch.