Five things Gareth Southgate needs to do before the 2018 World Cup
Nick Murphy | 19 March 2018
England boss has some calls to make
The Premier League takes a break this week to allow the international teams to take centre-stage.
England will start their preparation for the World Cup with two friendlies against Netherlands and Italy.
With next summer’s tournament in Russia firmly on the mind, the Coral News Team have given their verdict on five things that Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate needs to do before the summer tournament.
Sort out the goalkeeping situation
It doesn’t bode well when England’s supposed number one goalkeeper is not even the number one at West Ham United. Joe Hart’s decline in form presents Southgate with a problem. Does he bank on the 30-year-old’s tournament experience in the face of his dwindling quality?
Or does he drop the goalkeeper from not just the first-team, but the squad, in the face of better if less experienced options? Logic suggests the latter.
Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford are the most obvious replacements for Hart. The pair have their faults, but both represent a better and more consistent option than the Manchester City stopper. Southgate must make his decision prior to pre-tournament friendlies in order to instil confidence in his side.
Decide on his centre-halves
The Three Lions look set to play 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 in Russia next summer. So the need for three solid centre-halves is paramount. England have not had a top-quality centre-half combination since the days of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell.
At the moment it’s anyone’s guess who makes the team sheet for the first game against Tunisia in Volgograd. On quality alone, John Stones and Harry Maguire would appear to be the most obvious selections. Yet Stones has been benched by Manchester City of late, while Maguire is devoid of international experience.
Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are all third-choice options. Although recent call-ups for James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson would suggest that Southgate still isn’t happy with his defence going into the summer tournament.
Have a back-up plan for Kane
England have been stung by a lack of a plan B before.
If Harry Kane’s injury is worse than first feared, then Southgate could be forced to alter his plans for the way that England set-up. That may mean a change in personnel to accommodate a switch in formation without the focal point up top.
The Three Lions boss has experimented with different systems in Kane’s absence before. Fixtures against Netherlands and Italy this week should provide him with the vital information to be able to settle on a plan B, should England require it.
Utilise Tottenham’s success
England must base their play and their personnel around Tottenham. Spurs look likely to have at least four representatives in the team for the opener against Tunisia. Add in Kyle Walker, who joined Manchester City from the North Londoners last summer, and that influence appears even greater.
The understanding between the players is already there. The link-ups between individuals are already there. It makes sense for Southgate to utilise all of that in his preparation for the World Cup.
Settle the Wilshere question
Is he going or is he staying? The Jack Wilshere question continues to divide opinion among England fans.
Southgate had previously dismissed calls to bring the midfield ace back into the squad after two years out in the cold. But the 26-year-old’s recent good form for Arsenal appears to have forced the Three Lions’ managers’ hand.
Odds of 4/9 suggest that the diminutive ace is likely to go to Russia. But if he does go, he must start. A player of Wilshere’s undoubted quality is wasted on the bench. If Southgate opts to take the Gunners star, he must play him and he must play him in his best position.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing