Analysis

6 urgent things Gareth Southgate needs to see before the end of the season

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

4. A settled defence to emerge

Harry Maguire is an England defender who has performed in 2017/18

Whether Southgate prefers a back four or a back three – he may yet use both at different times – the manager has been given little reason to have confidence in those competing to start in a position he knows so well: central defence.

In either system, Kyle Walker will start wide on the right, with Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand competing on the left. Eric Dier will be either the defensive midfielder or in the middle of three central defenders and stepping forward into midfield.

Of the other players to have previously played for England and in contention to start in central defence, only Leicester’s Harry Maguire has enhanced his reputation this season. John Stones's form has declined, Phil Jones has been absent through injury, Joe Gomez has been playing at full-back, while Gary Cahill's struggles have been surpassed only by those of Michael Keane.

Not since Euro 2012, when the decorated John Terry was partnered with Joleon Lescott – who that season was a league title winner with Manchester City – have England had a convincing and settled central defence. It has shown in the performances since.

5. Man City win Champions League, Tottenham win FA Cup

City success in Europe can only benefit Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling

Should Manchester City imminently secure the Premier League title, Walker, Stones, Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling can be rested domestically but retain their competitive edge while striving to win the Champions League. The potential benefits would also be significant: three of Southgate's likely starting XI growing with the confidence that comes with being a domestic and European champion, while nurturing a winning mentality.

If Spurs can complement a top-four finish with winning the FA Cup, Dier, Rose, Winks, Kane, Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier – each potentially heading to Russia – can benefit similarly.

6. An impact substitute to prosper

Southgate badly needs in-form options on the bench

Heading into Euro 2016, the prospect of Rashford appearing from the substitutes’ bench to provide England with a lift was a cause for confidence as much as a tactical advantage.

His present aura is not quite as it once was, largely owing to Jose Mourinho's pragmatic management which means the player’s season may already have peaked.

There’s little question Rashford retains his abilities, but the finest impact substitutes – essential to a manager on a stage where he may only get one chance – make an impression because of irrepressible confidence. Rashford possessed that two years ago but it may have been difficult for him to keep.

As with the identity of their goalkeeper, who that substitute is actually matters little, so long as someone emerges. One or more of Rashford (assuming he doesn’t start), Winks, Loftus-Cheek, a fit Sturridge, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be needed at their best from the bench if England are to succeed.

New features you'd love on FourFourTwo.com