England’s 1-1 draw against Hungary on Tuesday night provided more questions than answers for Gareth Southgate.
With World Cup qualification virtually in the bag, barring an epic collapse in their final two games against Albania and San Marino next month, Southgate can look forward to fine-tuning his plans for Qatar.
Here Sportsmail examines some of the issues he faces.
HOW DOES HE GET CAPTAIN KANE BACK TO HIS BEST?
This is an issue largely out of Southgate’s hands. Harry Kane looked off the pace against Hungary and was eventually substituted. The striker’s form at Tottenham has been below-par — Kane is yet to score a Premier League goal this season.
As much as the England boss might try to play it down, the performances of his talismanic striker will be a concern.
The pair enjoy a close bond and Southgate will no doubt speak to Kane over the coming weeks. There seems little danger of Kane losing his place in the team, even if his performances do not pick up.
But when asked if the position of England striker was up for grabs ahead of next year’s World Cup, Southgate replied: ‘We’ve got competition for places in every position. There are going to be moments where different players are playing at their very best and moments when there might be dips.’
WILL HE FINALLY SELECT MASON GREENWOOD?
You would imagine the answer would be yes, if the forward continues to perform for Manchester United.
Yet there appears to be more to Greenwood’s absence from the previous two England camps than meets the eye. If he is once again excluded next month, eyebrows really will be raised.
When asked what his plans were for Greenwood ahead of Albania and San Marino, Southgate replied: ‘We will decide the squad and then if there are any individual conversations to be had, which happened with Mason and Jude (Bellingham) this time, then we will have those.’
DOES HE STICK WITH TWO ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS?
Let’s face it, the experiment of playing just one holding midfielder against Hungary did not work.
Having Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish and Kane in the same team sounds great in principle, but England looked unbalanced — particularly when Hungary countered.
Kalvin Phillips should be available next month, so Southgate is in a quandary. Will he revert back to a more defensive midfield axis of Phillips and Declan Rice, or give Mount and Foden another go?
He said: ‘The balance of the team is something we have got right over a long period of time. It will be one of the things I reflect upon. It is always crucial and against Hungary we were a bit more open without the ball.’
Put aside the discussion over 4-3-3 and consider the decisions Southgate has to make in midfield.
Rice will be the first name in the squad, given the glowing terms Southgate used for him this week. Phillips, Mount and Foden are guaranteed to be involved if fit, while James Ward-Prowse, who Southgate holds in high regard, will hope he has done enough to warrant selection.
The big issue then revolves around Bellingham and Jordan Henderson. Bellingham was rested this month, but it does not seem likely the Borussia Dortmund teenager will be held back again.
That leaves Henderson, who has been limited to just 305 England minutes this calendar year. Not starting against Hungary hurt and one wonders what is to be gained by taking a 31-year-old away if there is no intention to use him.
Henderson will not want to just make up the numbers and Southgate will not want to have an issue with a man who has fulfilled a huge role for him over the last five years. It will be interesting to see how this is handled.
RIGHT BACK AT IT
We know Trent Alexander-Arnold is not a midfielder after the experiment against Andorra but will he be given another start in his favoured position? The Liverpool star will return at Watford on Saturday and is eager to make up for lost time.
Reece James will expect to be involved if he is fit but Kyle Walker is Southgate’s go-to man. Will three right backs (and Kieran Trippier) really be included for Albania and San Marino?
It is another question Southgate must answer.