The Three Lions turned in their most impressive World Cup display for some time in Russia last summer and the feel-good factor has continued into the Nations League and subsequent Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
The squad assembled by Gareth Southgate has some real positives to it and could be a match for any nation on it’s day; unfortunately, for England fans they are still a work in progress and the glory of winning a tournament will likely evade them once again.
Here we look at factors from both sides of the argument.
- A POSITIVE MINDSET
The so called ‘golden generation’ of English football may have passed without success but the biggest thing holding that side back wasn’t ability but pressure from the media and fans forcing players to play with fear. That element has seemingly evaporated now, and, with a youthful side, the country is pulling together with excitement rather than expectancy and that could prove key when the big matches come around.
- HARRY KANE
Harry Kane is arguably the best striker in the world. He’s a prolific goal scorer and won the Golden Boot at Russia 2018 with his ability to score from pretty much anywhere. Any team with a player who can find the net with the consistency that the Spurs man does has a chance of winning games, which is exactly what Southgate’s team have been doing with relative ease lately.
- PACE TO BURN
A team with pace is a team that strikes fear into opposition and England have an offensive trio that, when they have their burners on, could rival a stallion in the Breeders Cup 2019. Raheem Sterling must be one of the first names on the team sheet whilst Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho are interchangeable.
No defender in the land would want to face up to either one of them in a one on one situation and, unlike many with insane speed, they all possess trickery and an end product as well.
- THE LACK OF A MAGICIAN
One area England have lacked for a while is that creative spark in the middle of the park; they have the runners but is there someone they have who can unlock a stubborn defence? At the moment, the answer is probably not. Leicester midfielder James Maddison, who was in the latest squad but didn’t feature, is in that mould but is unproven at the very highest level and it would be a huge pressure on him if he’s to fill that void next summer.
With that in mind, England will need to hope teams come out against them because if a decent side chooses to let England dictate things then Southgate could witness his men struggle.
- THE DEFENCE
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire – who joined Manchester United this Summer – John Stones, Danny Rose. That’s England’s probable back four and every one of those players is a better footballer than they are a defender. It’s not a problem for a defender to be comfortable on the ball, just look at Virgil Van Dijk now or Franz Beckenbauer back in the day.
Still, first and foremost a defender needs to defend. That would have been an area for concern for Southgate, who was a centre half in his playing days, before the calamitous showing against Kosovo on Tuesday rammed home the message. A better side would have gone on to win that match with such gifts being afforded.
All things considered; it looks like England will threaten to do great things but ultimately fall short – again. Can they possibly win something in 2022 or 2024 as their younger players continue to gain experience? Maybe but that has been the soundbite since the nineties – so maybe not.