Harry Kane is arguably England’s best player, currently he is only rivalled by Raheem Sterling. However, do other strikers need to see more action to unlock the true potential of Southgate’s side.
Many have voiced concerns in the past over how Harry Kane’s presence somewhat dictates England’s system and style of play. It truly came to my attention as I sat and watched England in their World Cup semi-final last summer. Kane was dead on his feet, he was dropping deeper and deeper trying to get on the ball and spray passes around; when what we needed was a poacher, someone to stretch the game and run in behind. From the moment England kicked off that second half and Croatia went on the offensive, Harry Kane had no threat. The centre half’s knew he what he wanted to do and without consistent possession, he was unable to do it. The game was screaming for Jamie Vardy to come on, instead Kane was left out there to wilt in the heat in the belief that one touch from him could win us the game.
There’s become such an infatuation with Kane’s ‘match winning’ ability that we’ve been blind sided by the detrimental effect his selection can have on the team. I am by no means suggesting Kane shouldn’t be England’s starting striker, but Southgate needs to have the metal to take him out of the game when change is needed.
It’s not such a prominent issue through qualifying when we’re trouncing the likes of Bulgaria and Czech Republic but I fear for us against stronger outfits when we reach a major tournament. Southgate needs a back up plan and leaving it until the finals will be too late. England are currently second favourites for Euro 2020 at 5.5, but any nation who watched the game against Kosovo will hardly be quaking in their boots.
More thought needs to be put in to a contingency plan for the latter stages of the game or a further consideration in to a back up system that can counter teams who don’t play how we would ideally want them to.
Against the bigger sides who are more compact defensively, England have to take advantage of their speed and ability on the counter attack. The correct utilisation of those qualities drove us to that sensational victory in Spain when it really felt like England had got over a substantial hurdle in their quest to become one of the true elite sides.
Picture the scene in a similar context to that fateful game against Croatia. It’s the semi-final of the 2020 Euro’s, England are leading France by a single goal. The game is approaching 60 minutes and France are on top, they’re pressing us further and further back. Kane has served his purpose, maybe he got the goal early on when England saw more of the ball, but now the game is no longer catered to his qualities. However they work it, someone needs to be brought in to the attack who an stretch the game. Whether that’s an out and out striker or a winger, that’s for Gareth to decide.
We’ve got some of the most exciting forward talent we’ve had in years and leaving them to twiddle their thumbs on the bench when things aren’t working, purely because of reputation is frankly ludicrous.
There is already a battle for the third starting place in England’s front three. Kane and Sterling are guaranteed but the duel continues between Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. Personally, I’d go with Sancho, he’s been much more impressive for his club and has excited and impressed on international duty. He’s 1.1 to head to Euro 2020 so count him in. Rashford is even shorter at 1.08, his ability to play centrally and out wide could make him the perfect player to change the dynamic of a game for the Three Lions. However, in a central position there is still question marks about his suitability for the role; especially now that Martial has taken that position for Manchester United.
There’s two players I’d like to see get their chance in games that need shaken up and both represent some real betting value too. Callum Wilson is available to make the final 23 man squad at prices upward of 3.0, he could be the ideal fit for when Kane is no longer required. He’s had his injury problems, but fit and firing he really is the full package; pace, strength and a deadly finish. He might be just what England need to go all the way next year.
The second is Jamie Vardy. Gareth Southgate recently opened the door for the 32 year old Leicester striker to make a return to international football. Vardy quit back in 2018 as he was frustrated by travelling for little game time, particularly at his age. However, as he’s shown this season he’s still churning out performances as if he was 25. Vardy started later than near enough any other England player, so those 32 year old legs still have more life in them. Vardy has been electric once again for Leicester this season, his pace is still frightening and his finish still matches so why not commit to giving him more game time? I truly believe that had he came on against Croatia, England would have made the World Cup final. Vardy isn’t available to be backed for the Euro’s due to his absence from the national team, however I think that may change and I’d be eager to see what price the bookies make him.
Tammy Abraham is also in the running to make the final 23 man squad. He’s found his feet somewhat at Chelsea, I’m still somewhat unconvinced by him but more importantly he’s far too similar to Kane. He’s not going to break in behind the lines and disrupt defences, I think he currently isn’t what England need so I’d avoid betting on hm despite a handsome price of around 4.5.