Professional misanthrope Roy Keane was at it again after England’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the Nations League on Sunday.
“I know they’ve got players to come back in,” he said on ITV, “but on tonight’s evidence I still think they’re short.”
Keane wasn’t the only critic. Social media was awash with questioning of manager Gareth Southgate’s team selection and tactics.
In Keane’s defence, the numbers don’t do Southgate any favours. England have scored just one goal from open play in five Nations League games.
But let’s all take a deep breath.
Let’s put to one side for a moment that England only narrowly lost away to a team ranked No1 in the world.
Let’s forget for now that Southgate was deprived of key players including Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.
And let’s ignore that the scarcity of international fixtures means the significance of each performance is usually overstated.
The important thing to remember here is this: it’s OK to make mistakes in these games. It’s necessary, even.
The Nations League is the ideal scenario in which to experiment, competitive enough but with no great consequences attached to the outcome.
Southgate has already had some success. He reached a World Cup semi-final and then won a Nations League group that included Spain and Croatia.
But he must must try other players and systems if England are to improve. It could be what gets them to the final, or even silverware, next time.
Grealish the beneficiary of England’s willingness to change
It would be easy to stick with the same team every match. England waltzed through Euro 2020 qualifying last year, scoring 4.6 goals per game. Why change?
But if he hadn’t, Jack Grealish wouldn’t have lit up the last few games and made himself virtually undroppable.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bukayo Saka have also seized their chances, to a lesser degree. Declan Rice, maligned at times, has improved.
Part of Southgate’s job is to try new faces and see who thrives. Some will, some won’t, but it’s how you build the best squad.
Tactically, Southgate also has a duty to tinker a little.
For all their progress, England have continued to struggle to keep possession against the likes of Spain, Belgium and Holland.
It was the same against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final.
So of course the manager must try alternative strategies. And, no, they may not dazzle all the time.
England will be stronger at next summer’s European Championship for their experimentation.
They will be stronger for unearthing new stars and learning new systems.
And they will be stronger, too, when Sterling, Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez are available again.
No matter what Roy Keane says.