Gareth Southgate will continue in charge of England until the 2022 World Cup after signing a new four-year contract.
Here, Football Paradise’s Jim van Wijk takes a look at some of the key challenges facing the Three Lions ahead of the qualification campaign for Euro 2020.
Keep the Young Lions roaring
Youth was key to England’s World Cup success, the new bond making a real impact on the pitch as well as off it. Southgate has shown with his squad selections since the finals in Russia that he will continue to give an opportunity to young talent. However, finding a balance between the continued progress of the senior national team and a lack of game time for some at club level will be a difficult balancing act – just as many of his predecessors had found.
Tighten up at the back
Despite all of England’s promise, old defensive shortcomings were highlighted as Spain came from behind to win their Nations League opener at Wembley. Southgate must decide whether to opt for a three or a four-man back line and so develop a solid base from which to bring in the attacking threat offered on the overlap down both flanks. A 1-0 win against Croatia in Rijeka would not be a bad way to start things off.
Find a midfield maestro
How best to provide the supply line in the transition from defence to attack with a cutting edge in a key area is always a testing conundrum. Southgate has been keeping an eye on the progress of England Under-21 midfielder Mason Mount, the 19-year-old on loan at Derby from Chelsea. James Maddison, meanwhile, has impressed during his first few Premier League outings with Leicester after a big-money summer move from Norwich. According to Foxes team-mate Harry Maguire, the 21-year-old is “definitely good enough to play for England”. Time will tell after he and Mount were both selected for the games against Croatia and Spain.
It cannot be all about set-pieces
Much was made of England’s dead-ball success at the World Cup – from the ‘Love Train’ at corners to Harry Kane’s confident penalties and the free-kick radar of ‘Bury Beckham’ Kieran Trippier. However, if the Three Lions are to develop, then Southgate must find a way to produce a greater attacking threat from open play. Getting the ball out wide and then swiftly back into the danger area to give Kane something to feed off would perhaps not be a bad training ground routine to work on at St George’s Park.
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