England heads to the Amsterdam Arena on Friendly night for a high-profile friendly against the Netherlands. Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate will use Friday’s game and Tuesday night’s encounter with Italy to test out his options.
The England boss has headaches throughout the squad, in many different positions. Some observers claim this is the weakest England squad heading into a major tournament in years. The players have to out and prove that theory wrong.
No established number one
England currently has no first-choice goalkeeper. Former first-choice Joe Hart has struggled for first team football on loan at West Ham. The former City stopper did player the Hammers last game against Burnley but made a big mistake in a 3-0 defeat.
The other options are highly rated younger pair Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Stoke’s Jack Butland. Both are talented, but both are playing for teams who have let in a frightening number of goals this season.
Pickford impressed on his international debut in a goalless draw against world champions Germany. According to media reports, the former Sunderland ‘keeper will start against the Netherlands.
Southgate also has the option of giving Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope his first in international football. However, that looks unlikely at this juncture.
Problems at centre-back
The foundations of a good football team are having a good goalkeeper and a solid defence. Unfortunately, England has a dearth of top quality centre-backs too. Chelsea captain Gary Cahill has been a mainstay for England at centre-back in recent years.
However, the Blues defender has been omitted from the Chelsea squad of late, while Southgate has also decided to leave him out of the Three Lions squad. Manchester United centre-back Chris Smalling has also been left out of the squad.
England’s most consistent centre-back at club level is arguably Smalling’s teammate at United Phil Jones. The former Blackburn defender is injury-prone and is sidelined due to injury.
The centre-back options available to Southgate are highly inexperienced ones. The likes of Leicester’s Harry Maguire and Joe Gomez have collected a few caps. Meanwhile, Swansea’s Alfie Mawson and Burnley’s James Tarkowski have received their first call-ups for the national team.
However, both Tarkowski and Mawson have impressed this season on an individual level. On form, they definitely deserve their chance to shine in the upcoming games.
Whether the pair fit in well with Southgate’s football philosophy of playing out from the back is another question. It will be highly interesting to see which centre-backs shine in the friendly games.
Low Expectations at the World Cup
England heads into this summer’s World Cup with low expectations. In fact, they are eighth favourites to lift the trophy. It is probably a good job the Three Lions are not highly rated, as Gareth Southgate has so many issues to sort out before World Cup 2018.
England are second favourites behind Belgium to make it out of their group. However, for most England fans it would be a massive surprise if Southgate and co. made it into the latter stages of the competition.
Does England have any chance of winning this summer’s World Cup?