10 Conclusions from England’s international week

So England’s first intenrational week of the new season is over, what conclussions can we draw?

  1. Midfield search continues- England’s problem position remains midfield or more specifically the creative playmaker to run it. Jordan Henderson deserves credit for making the absolute most of his talent but England need a better solution. Adam Lallana was again injured missing his chance to push his claims and both Ruben Loftus-Cheek & Dele Alli disappointed. When England reconvene in October the season will be 3 months old and those jockeying for position will have a form book for Southgate to judge. Expect some new names to press their claims between now and then.
  2. Luke Shaw is getting back to his best- The most pleasing aspect of England’s match against Spain was the return of Shaw. He’s finally beginning to look the player he was before his horrific leg injury. If he can continue his renaissance England may have their left back for the next decade. Mercifully his sickening collision on Saturday wasn’t as bad as first feared.
  3. So is Danny Rose- Things have turned around very quickly for Rose. Three weeks ago he was out of favour at Spurs and a candidate to move after a World Cup punctuated by mistakes. Rose was incisive going forward after he replaced Shaw and then again against Switzerland. He also looked assured in defence and suddenly everything looks a lot Rosier (no pun intended)
  4. It’s 3 from 4 at the back- Joe Gomez has made an excellent start to the new season and now Southgate has a dilemma. He has 4 good candidates for his back 3 and no clear pecking order, Kyle Walker was dropped against Spain but excelled against Switzerland. With Gomez, Stones, Maguire and Walker Southgate has four players with complementary skill sets enabling him to tailor his defence for different opponents. A nice trick to have, but sadly there is now a gulf between his top 4 defenders and number 5. James Tarkowski looked out of his depth and Phil Jones is Phil Jones. Perhaps Eric Dier should be the fifth choice at the back giving the manager an extra spot in midfield?
  5. Jordan Pickford is untouchable- Pickford was fine against Spain, more importantly Jack Butland was awful against Switzerland. More specifically Butland’s clean sheet was fine but he’s not the sweeper keeper England need to start attacks from the back, making Pickford the undisputed number 1.
  6. Fringe players need games- For now Southgate is sticking with his World Cup squad arguing that the best players in June wouldn’t suddenly not be after four games in August. But that’s unlikely to last until October should certain players fail to secure some game time with their clubs between now and then. Fabian Delph, Danny Welbeck and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are obvious cases of players who looked rusty. They won’t be so lucky next time.
  7. Rashford is key- I called this! Rashford had a lot to prove this week and responded with 2 goals and some positive penetrating runs. It seems we are now back to the Rashford or Sterling debate for the trip to Croatia.
  8. Under 21s continue success- This news largely flew under the radar but Aidy Boothroyd’s Under 21s are almost qualified for next summers European Championships. After winning in Latvia and a draw with Holland, England have a 6 point cushion in their qualifying group with 2 to play, the first is a home match with Andorra and a draw will do. Boothroyd has been quick to state this is the strongest Under 21 group he’s ever had and its been further strengthened by Mason Mount, James Maddison and Ryan Sessegnon. Given the core group are the Under 20 World Cup winners plus Tammy Abraham, Tom Davies, Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell England should be amongst the favourites in Italy.
  9. The Nations League finals look a big ask- It seems harsh to suggest this after 1 game but qualifying for next summers Nations League Finals looks very difficult now. Spain not only took 3 points at Wembley, they won 6-0 against Croatia giving themselves a huge goal difference advantage. Even if England beat Croatia and then beat Spain in Seville next month, the Spanish would still control the group. However beating Croatia next month would keep England clear of relegation to Division B.
  10. England’s opponents were very good- England ultimately played 2 games this week, a narrow win and a narrow loss. Both England’s opponents are ranked in FIFA’s top ten and both beat credible sides 6-0 in their other fixture of the week. England have some growing to do yet but they are at least competitive against top class opposition.
England at the King Power

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