England’s defence still poses a selection dilemma for Gareth Southgate, says Martin Keown, with Manchester City centre-half John Stones “devoid of confidence” and Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings failing to convince as a partner for Harry Maguire.
The Three Lions have eased their way to Euro 2020, with qualification for another major tournament secured with the minimum of fuss.
Having reached the semi-finals for the last World Cup and inaugural Nations League, Gareth Southgate’s side are expected to go well at next summer’s European Championship.
There are, however, a few issues to be ironed out and only two games in March before a 23-man squad for the finals must be selected.
Former England international Keown believes the biggest question continues to hang over the back four, with there no obvious option to line up alongside Manchester United’s £80 million ($98m) man Maguire.
The Arsenal legend told the Daily Mail in the wake of a 4-0 victory over Kosovo which once again highlighted strength at full-back but highlighted needs in the middle: “Southgate will have left Kosovo asking himself questions.
“Who starts at the back alongside Harry Maguire? I’d go with Joe Gomez. Southgate likes to pick players who play regularly for their clubs. Gomez has not been starting as much as he would like for Liverpool, but I’d break that rule for him.
“Tyrone Mings, who has come a long way in a short space of time, encountered a couple of tricky moments on Sunday night. He sat very deep and did not always deal with Kosovo’s balls into the box.
“John Stones seems devoid of confidence, too. So that is an area for Southgate to look at. At least his full-backs pick themselves.
“The attack-minded Trent Alexander-Arnold does not always act as a right-back, but that is because he is one of the best going forward.
“In a one against one, Ben Chilwell is very tidy. He goes forward with good quality and, more often than not, provides that end product.”
England also have decisions to make in midfield, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain having returned to fitness and favour.
He is one of several players competing for playmaking posts, alongside the likes of James Maddison, Harry Winks, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Ross Barkley and Dele Alli.
Someone is also required to occupy a holding role, with Declan Rice struggling to convince, and there is plenty of competition for the wide attacking berths currently filled by Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.