England’s performance against Tunisia will have given England manager Gareth Southgate plenty to be pleased about, as well as highlight to him some of the apparent issues if the country are to finally make good on their obvious talents in a major tournament.
Here are three main take away points that he will have to consider from a thrilling game in Russia.
Attacking threat and dogged determination
Harry Kane’s last-minute goal also highlighted a team that were willing to keep going until the very end in search of victory.
Having bombed at the Euros, the Tottenham striker will be highly pleased with his brace as he follows on from a season in which he netted 30 Premier League goals and amassed 117 points.
Whilst the likes of Lingard, who netted eight goals last season, and Sterling, who himself scored 18, squandered valuable opportunities early on that would have made the ride far more comfortable for the Three Lions – the side can also be pleased by the number they created, particularly in the first half.
Defensive frailties a concern
Unlike the side’s attacking prowess, the back line presents more of a conundrum for the manager.
Maguire, Stones and Walker may all be phenomenal talents on the ball and played a critical rile in overloading the Tunisia midfield when they sat in a low block, their quality as a cohesive unit left a lot to be desired.
With Maguire guilty of loitering on the ball on an occasion and Walker gifted Tunisia a foothold in the game from a soft penalty – there’s definitely players who could stake a claim for a starting berth when they come up against more potent attacking threats.
Dier (15 Premier League clean sheets) could well be needed to shield the back line alongside Henderson, whilst the introduction of the seasoned defenders of Gary Cahill and Danny Rose – 12 and three clean sheets respectively – could be under consideration when England come up against Belgium, in a fixture likely to decide who will top the group.
Options from the bench
One major positive that Southgate will take from the tie is the way in which his substitutions made on the game when introduced.
Marcus Rashford, who struggled for game time under Jose Mourinho in a campaign in which he scored only 35 points, was full of dribbling and endeavour – showing the sort of form that would have any opposition concerned.
Equally, Reuben Loftus-Cheek – who shad a bright season on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea – made a positive contribution from the bench, showcasing his athletic ability and willingness to dribble at players.
There will almost certainly be times when Southgate is chasing a result from behind. The strength of his bench will be a source of confidence when that moment arrives.
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