England

Gareth Southgate questions logic of Arsene Wenger qualifying proposal

Toby Cudworth
Gareth Southgate is concerned about FIFA's proposals to alter qualifying for tournaments
Gareth Southgate is concerned about FIFA's proposals to alter qualifying for tournaments / Michael Regan/GettyImages
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England manager Gareth Southgate is concerned by proposals put forward by Arsene Wenger, FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development, in regards to simplifying qualification for tournament football, claiming players risk going 12 months without playing on the international stage.

Wenger has been tasked with reforming and reshaping the international game, with his most controversial idea so far the possibility of staging the World Cup every two years instead of four.

However, the 71-year-old's revamp doesn't stop there.

Wenger is keen to reduce the amount of travelling international players have to undertake each year, and has suggested one qualifying window in October before a major tournament the following summer - both for the World Cup and any other continental championship.

That idea is not something that resonates with Southgate, who has been England manager for over four years now. He expressed his concerns in a press conference ahead of his side's World Cup qualifier against Hungary.

"There's another part of that: what if a player was injured in the October? He doesn't play international football for a year," Southgate remarked.

"I'm not quite sure where everything is. I saw some initial proposals. They seem to be doing the rounds and I'm not quite sure exactly what's on the table now. It seems to change every time I speak to [chief executive] Mark Bullingham at the FA [Football Association], there's been another presentation and another set of proposals and it is hard to keep up with, really.

"All I would say is everybody needs to be there in the discussion - club football, international football. There can be tweaks to the calendar that would help everybody.

"If there are slightly fewer windows but you get the players together for a slightly longer period of time, that might help the clubs and the international teams. But if there is only one per year, I don't really understand that as a concept from FIFA when international football is such important part of what they do.

Gareth Southgate
Altering the format of qualifying? Southgate is not convinced / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

"And as I said at the start, if you are a player and you miss that one month or however long it is proposed to be, what, you don't have an international career at all that year? That doesn't really seem to make much sense to me."

Southgate's attention will quickly switch to more pressing matters, namely securing qualification for the 2022 World Cup. The Three Lions sit top of Group I, four points clear of Albania, and will fancy their chances of beating Hungary at Wembley after rotating a number of their best players in the routine 5-0 win in Andorra.

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