With Gareth Southgate officially announced as the permanent successor to Sam Allardyce (remember him as England manager?) a couple of months ago, the ex-international centre half took charge of his first game as Three Lions boss last night in Dortmund against current world champions Germany.
So, how did England look?
Well, when you look past the fact it was pretty much Lukas Podolski’s testimonial more than a prestige friendly, there were many promising signs moving forward.
The 3 at the back formation which Southgate opted for last night was seen as a surprise by some before the game. With Chelsea performing so well using the same type of formation in the Premier League this season, many were cautiously optimistic to see who would play where and how they would perform, especially against such a tough opponent. In the end, it worked well. England were impressive for large spells of the game, with the wing-backs proving to be the best outlet both defensively and going forward for England. In Kyle Walker, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose and others currently excelling for their clubs domestically as wing-backs, it makes sense to play that system at international level as well. With Dele Alli and Adam Lallana looking more than comfortable at this level now, Southgate will be pleased with the midfield options he has if/when we qualify for Russia 2018.
Another positive for England last night was how comfortable they looked when in posession. With players such as Dele Alli and Adam Lallana looking composed and comfortable in midfield, this is arguably the strongest area of the team for Southgate and will surely be where he will look to build the squad around moving forward. The inclusion of James Ward-Prowse in this squad – another technically gifted midfielder – underlines Southgate’s preference to play an attractive brand of Football from now on.
As previously mentioned when the squad was first released, the lack of attacking options was clear to see last night, with Jamie Vardy struggling to penetrate an impressive German backline that contained world-class defenders such as Bayern Munich’s Mats Hummels. Harry Kane will be an extremely important spearhead for the side when he returns from his current ankle injury and, with Spurs playing a similar formation to what England now play, should be familiar with the role he will play as a target man figure for this England setup. However, with Jamie Vardy 30 years old and Jermain Defoe 34, Southgate will surely be looking to the under-21 side to promote strikers from that level as he builds for the future.
Overall, the knowledgeable observers who follow England will be optimistic going forward. Southgate has shown a willingness to move with the times and break away from the regular coaching style we have become used to with the national side.