England are half way through this month’s Nations League matches and have so far failed to pick up a win, claiming only a questionable point in last night’s draw with Germany.
The two games over the past few days are far from what we have been used to over the past couple of years and Gareth Southgate certainly needs to take a number of points into consideration, if we are to find the same enjoyment from the 2022 World Cup as we have in the previous two major tournaments.
Here are five of the main points we took from yesterday’s draw at the Allianz Arena.
Pickford isn’t perfect
Jordan Pickford’s club form has often been on a much lower par than his performances at internationalevel for at the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Euros.
However, the goalkeeper was named as Everton’s Play of the Season at the end of the last campaign and looks like he has solidified his place in the Three Lions’ starting line-up.
Despite Pickford’s heroics for England, the 28-year-old regularly receives criticism - often undeserved - and last night wasn’t any different.
Jonas Hofmann took the lead shortly after half-time for Germany, with the shot bouncing off Pickford’s glove into the net.
The former Sunderland man made a mistake, but unfortunately goalkeepers will often be remembered for their mistakes rather than all the good things they have done.
Pickford has been sensational for England - all it shows is that he’s not perfect.
It certainly shouldn’t affect his position in the squad and there is no doubt Aaron Ramsdale or any other potential replacement could easily make the same mistake.
James and Alexander-Arnold are a blessing
Neither Reece James or Trent Alexander-Arnold started against Germany last night, while Kieran Trippier made his first appearance since October.
Yes, James was at fault for Hungary’s goal at the weekend, while Alexander-Arnold is yet to reach the heights of his club form - but they would play such a important role in both our attack and defence this winter.
While I would personally opt for the Liverpool defender, the duo are so exceptional at coming forward and I don’t think any of our attackers can offer what they can.
While I’m pretty sure one of them will start in the World Cup, if Southgate was crazy enough to bench them both, I would have a lot less confidence in whether we could go the whole way.
Maguire’s club form is creeping in
I said prior to the Germany match that, despite Harry Maguire being terrible for Manchester United, his form for England has never been doubted.
The defender impressed at both the World Cup and the Euros and it would be hard to drop him for that reason.
However, his performance last night has raised further questions about his inclusion, as he looked extremely similar to the lumbering figure that occupies Old Trafford.
If he is going to play as poorly for England as he does for United then it is a huge risk to rely on him at the World Cup, especially when there are the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi and Conor Coady desperate for their chance.
Grealish is a different beast for England
Gareth Southgate was often criticised doing the Euros because of how little he used Jack Grealish, who was arguably one of our best players during the tournament.
Following his big money move to Manchester City a month later, it was expected his chances of earning a regular spot in the international team would increase.
However, the midfielder has had a rather underwhelming season for the Premier League champions and his place under Southgate looks increasingly threatened.
Despite this, Grealish was brought on with less than 20 minutes to go and changed the game for the visitors.
In what was a rather disappointing performance for England, the former Aston Villa captain brought in some much needed energy and an attacking threat that we had so far failed to display.
Grealish’s impressive cameo appearance shows that, while his club form has dipped, he still looks like the exciting player we saw at the Euros.
We can’t get complacent ahead of the World Cup
After reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and the Euros final last summer, it is fair to say England fans’ expectations have risen.
With the Qatar tournament rapidly approaching, there has been plenty of talk around whether we can lift the trophy third time round.
However, I think our past two matches has brought us down to earth and shown that we can’t be complacent this winter.
Our previous two trophy attempts were very unexpected, however it is yet to be seen whether this team will thrive or buckle under the pressure they could be under in Qatar.
Southgate can’t rely on the success of last summer to ensure we come out on top this time round and he definitely needs to pluck up the courage to make some changes from the side that suffered defeat to Italy.