Stating the absolute obvious for one moment, England’s midfield minefield is anything but explosive.
With World Cup qualification probably days away, reality dawned a while ago that we don’t possess a player in the middle of the park who can unlock a defence. Still.
Gareth Southgate knows it too. He said as much after the collapse again Scotland at Hampden before tartan-toned blushes were saved by Harry Kane.
“There is no-one else,” he said when assessing his options. “In terms of the task we have got, that can’t be underestimated.”
Those watching England lately have rightly asked that if Jake Livermore is the answer, then what on earth was the question?
Midfield problems has always been a sore point. Let us remember that this is a nation who somehow failed find the right formula to accommodate Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and David Beckham and make it work.
Those were the days. Now? Jordan Henderson, although committed, lacks the ability to dazzle. Fabian Delph has finally found his form at Manchester City. At left back. Eric Dier, reliable but unspectacular, at least leaves an impression while clues are already there as to why Arsenal weren’t brooding about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s exit to Liverpool.
The simple fact is that while all of the above are adequate, they are all tellingly ordinary when the ball is at their feet. As we all watch and wait to see if Jack Wilshere will ever get back to the player we hoped he would be, then a player is needed whose bones aren’t made of glass.
But wait. Could we have found an answer to our passing problems by default?
Harry Winks’ call up this morning thanks to Delph’s injury may just seem like a young player filling a gap. First impressions are that he is there to make up the numbers.
But talk to any Tottenham Hotspur fan and you’ll soon realise that their excitement about the 21-year-old isn’t just enthusiasm for another ‘one of their own’.
Winks, who only a few years ago was waving flags on the pitch as the teams came out of the tunnel, is seen as a player ready to explode onto the scene. Turning himself into a fixture in the Spurs side, the signs are that he’s recovered from his ankle injury at the end of last season.
Soundbites from Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino are few and far between, but when he calls Winks Tottenham’s mini-Andres Iniesta, you start to listen.
Some will suggest his hours are better served in the U21s, but with the midfielder months away from exclusion then there’s no time like the present.
Especially if England get the job done on Thursday night. Southgate could do a lot worse than throw Winks in over in Lithuania and so we can really see what all the fuss is about.