The No.1 jersey is still up for grabs
Two games, two keepers – but the evidence is still inconclusive as to whether Jordan Pickford or Jack Butland have firmly staked their claim to walk out as England No. 1 against Tunisia. Both looked perfectly assured across the two games, although the Stoke keeper’s extra experience may just see him get the nod.
Southgate – right man for these times?
Considering all the drama that usually surrounds England managers going into World Cup tournaments, Gareth Southgate’s understated style may just be England’s secret weapon going into a World Cup where, for once, expectations will be at a record low. Whilst the rookie international manager has yet to be tested on the biggest stage, his calm approach to management and clear affinity with many of the players he previously worked with at U21 level may just help England progress further than expected.
Midfield mindset will be key
Southgate still has some thinking to do to ensure England have the midfield dynamism to make a real impression on Russian soil. Against Holland and Italy, the England manager had plenty of time to tinker, but question marks remain as to which players can force their way in to Southgate’s favoured midfield trio. Jesse Lingard certainly staked a claim, whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to frustrate, and doubts remain as to whether Adam Lallana can recapture his international form following long-term injury.
Without Kane, England are still able…
A collective intake of breath swept across the nation when Kane hobbled off injured against Bournemouth a few weeks ago, but this international break offered a good acid test as to how England might be able to cope without their one truly world class player. The signs were mostly good with Rashford and Vardy proving able deputies across the international week. A fully fit and firing Kane back refreshed after an extended break wouldn’t go amiss, however.
And finally… the VAR debate isn’t going away
It looks as if VAR is here to stay with the controversial technology already primed to be this summer’s biggest talking point. The technology is only meant to be used to help clarify ‘clear and obvious’ errors, and even after several replays, the penalty call for Italy last night continues to divide opinion, whilst the time delay from goal to final VAR decision continues to be maddening.
Expect plenty of angry radio phone-ins this June and July…
All image sources from PA Images