They do know what they're doing

Just because a team has a rough patch doesn't mean the coach is clueless - they need to be cut some slack

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

The fact that Luis Enrique and Gareth Southgate face so many detractors is quite amazing given what has been accomplished by the coaches with fairly limited Spain and England national teams.

The pair must have their own WhatsApp connection to swap notes on the disparaging remarks on their management.

"Hola Gareth, amigo; they're having a go at me again". "Hiya mate, me too - we can't win can we?"

"Congratulations on giving Germany a scare." "Yeah, well done on beating Portugal - see you in Qatar."

The Spaniard took an imbalanced team to the European Championships and exceeded all expectations by reaching the semi-final. This was on the back of reaching the last Nations League final and now he's steered them to the Final Four of this current edition.

His English counterpart took his team to the World Cup semi-final and went one better by reaching the final of the Euros. They qualified with ease for the 2022 World Cup finals, yet Southgate still needs to validate his position.

It's true that both justified scrutiny during this international break as Spain lost to Switzerland and England's patchy run continued with defeat to Italy. Both bounced back with creditable results in the final competitive game before the World Cup finals in November.

While England turned the match around against Germany, Spain left it until late, very late, to clinch victory in Portugal and win their Nations League group.

It could be argued that Southgate has a much better idea of his team than Luis Enrique. The Spain coach claimed this week that he's down to his final 40 who could make the plane to Qatar.

Remember, he didn't include a single Real Madrid player at the Euros. His main questioners do come from the capital who claim that he has a Barça bias. He didn't help his cause by selecting six players from the Catalan club for the defeat to Switzerland, especially when Jordi Alba and Ferran Torres aren't first-choice selections in La Liga. Eric García is the Spanish version of Harry Maguire: a player who wins over the coach but not the media and fans.

Luis Enrique has a settled system, but differs on a match-to-match basis with his selections. It appears that Unai Simón is the undisputed number one and Pablo Sarabia is a particular favourite, but after that it's a toss of the coin.

Missing from this round of matches were Aymeric Laporte, who should hold down one of the defensive positions, and Ansu Fati, who is getting closer to match fitness.

Slowly the jigsaw is coming together. Alvaro Morata came on to prove that he's vital to providing the source of goals. Teenagers Gavi, Pedri and Yéremy Pino also proved that youth should be given a chance.

It's a tough call on whether it's the captain Sergio Busquets or Rodri as the middleman or, indeed, both in a change of shape?

Dani Carvajal also established himself as the first-choice right-back so Real Madrid should have at least one representative.

On the face of things, the final look of the Spain team is unknown, but the rest of the world should be very afraid of the unknown.