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England National Team: Three keys to another defining week for Gareth Southgate

England have two important fixtures in the next few days, but it’s progression of the players under Southgate that will be the focus as they hope to prepare for Russia 2018

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

After a successful weekend for Leeds United, the international break is once again upon us and as the players jet out to represent their teams, our focus now deviates from Leeds to England.

My club and national side have both frustrated at times, but as Leeds the team march on in this wonderful season, I hope to see real progression within the national side in the next week or so.

England first travel to Berlin to face Germany tomorrow night in a friendly and then return home to face Lithuania on Sunday in a World Cup Qualifier.

Overall, I am pleased with the squad Gareth Southgate has chosen. The youth and potential throughout the squad is a breath of fresh air. It’s fantastic to see players being selected on merit and not on standing within certain football teams.

Southgate has already shown he’s bold enough to make the ruthless decisions England will need if they want to succeed going forward. Last Fall here on TIAT, I mentioned the need for Southgate to be allowed to implement his structure within the various levels of English football, and I think so far this is happening. The squad selection and the confident manner of Southgate does give me the hope that the potential will finally be fulfilled for England.

Southgate and the selected England players have to manoeuvre through the next two fixtures hoping to showcase the current and future talent and, for me, there are three defining points as we gear up for the games:

1. Injuries to Key Forwards- Where are the goals coming from?

The scheduling of the Germany friendly just before the Lithuania game is odd but does allow Southgate to play with the system somewhat. The injuries inside the front line means the need for creativity from the midfielders is of vast importance. The pace of wingers should be effective on the counter attack and I would expect this is where the goals may come from against the efficient Germany side.

The absence of Harry Kane should mean Jamie Vardy is given the chance to lead the line after he and Leicester have found form as of late. Vardy’s ability to run in behind should thrive with the likes of Adam Lallana and Dele Ali threading balls through the defence.

England v Turkey - International Friendly
With Kane injured Vardy will be looking to take centre stage for England
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Injuries have also meant Jermaine Defoe and Marcus Rashford both return to the squad. Jermaine Defoe’s goal scoring record at club and international level is clear for everyone to see. Rashford has shown glimpses of what he can do - his ability to drive at defenders and his confidence and composure are as good as anyone’s. The lack of a real chance at Manchester United this season has meant he has been slightly forgotten inside English football, and I think he should see time during the home fixture against Lithuania.

2. Keen to see Michael Keane

Liverpool v Burnley - Premier League
Keane has been the rock at the back for Burnley this season
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

A position that is currently up for grabs is the centre back position, and with certain players struggling at domestic level, this has in turn meant that Burley’s Michael Keane has earned his place within Gareth Southgate’s squad once again.

The 24-year-old has been phenomenal this season and is set to be given the chance to further increase his stock in the next two games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Keane even start against Germany on Wednesday evening.

Players like Keane can set the foundations for the impending success within the national set up. We need to be developing the players at this level and Keane can become the bench mark for what we should all come to expect from an international footballer.

3. Lithuania more important than Germany

The Germany game is friendly and should be treated as such. Because it’s Germany, people may think that score is the most important thing. However, we should judge that game on the ideas and progression we see from Gareth Southgate’s team. We need to see his influence start to come to the forefront but should understand Rome was not built in a day and it will take time for the squad to be at a level to compete.

The result against Lithuania is vital, and while the qualifying group we are in is easy on paper, teams arrive at Wembley and sit behind the ball. The superiority we have is only a benefit if we can play patient and organised football. The score line for me is irrelevant but I want to us to showcase the plethora of talent we have and to show the growth since our dismal Euro’s.

Overall, the faith that Garry Monk and Leeds United have instilled in me this season has meant I now believe that England can follow suit. Let’s hope we not just qualify for Russia but challenge the big teams in International football once again under Gareth Southgate.