As England prepare to take on Kosovo in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Pristina on Sunday, we take a look at what the Three Lions can learn.
See if Maddison is the right creator
Gareth Southgate has usually been quick to blood young talent. Not in James Maddison’s case; the Leicester flair player had created more chances than anyone else in the Premier League since the start of last season before getting a belated international debut, 13 months after his first call-up, as a substitute against Montenegro.
With qualification secure, Southgate should start Maddison to give him an extended opportunity. With, at most, four places available in the squad for attacking midfielders, competition between Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mason Mount, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Maddison means several are set to be disappointed.
Give Abraham a go
Tammy Abraham is the second top scorer in the Premier League and the one more prolific player, Jamie Vardy, retired from international football after realising his fate was to be Harry Kane’s deputy. For Abraham that may be the best-case scenario now: whatever criticism of Kane’s Spurs form, he is so potent for England and so integral to Southgate’s style of play that he starts.
The question is, were he injured, would Southgate promote Abraham or use Marcus Rashford as a striker? The Chelsea forward, who got his first international goal as a substitute on Thursday, should start to give him a chance to press his case while Callum Wilson ought to be demoted.
Give Winks a defensive test
Since Harry Winks was installed as England’s holding midfielder, it could scarcely have gone any better. They have won 6-0 and 7-0. The reservations about the Tottenham man are whether he possesses the physical and defensive capabilities to shield the back four against better teams and, if England’s group is notably weak, Kosovo at least have the attacking threat to help determine if the 23-year-old is more than just a deep-lying playmaker or if Southgate needs to revert to Declan Rice, who struggled in the defeat to the Czech Republic.
Arrow in on Maguire's partner
There is little doubt that Southgate would prefer to pair Harry Maguire with John Stones at the heart of the defence. Yet the Manchester City man struggled in the Nations League and has had an awkward, injury-hit season. Even when being thrashed, Montenegro opened up England too easily on occasion. Southgate has alternatives to Stones: Joe Gomez has had a difficult campaign with Liverpool and was reprehensibly booed by some fans after the incident with Raheem Sterling, but is quicker than Stones and a more natural defender.
Tyrone Mings impressed with his strength of character when racially abused on his debut in Bulgaria last month. It will be instructive who Southgate chooses and, if it is Stones, whether that vote of confidence spurs him back to his best.
Keep going with his answer to Klopp’s flying full-backs
It is no coincidence the defeat in Prague came with the declining Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier, who had been dropped for the summer’s Nations League, playing. Full-backs’ attacking importance has been illustrated by Liverpool in the last two years and, on Thursday, Southgate had his version on the flanks. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s magnificent delivery means he should be the first-choice right-back. The former Liverpool target Ben Chilwell bears comparison to Andy Robertson and his terrific crossing brought three assists against Montenegro. The Leicester left-back ought to be the regular.