A fit and firing Adam Lallana, successful Champions League runs and clarity on a plan to get the best from the squad could be key to England’s Russia 2018 hopes
The sense of anticlimax was inescapable. Gareth Southgate had spent his evening on the touchline dodging paper aeroplanes, tedium-induced origami, and blocking out occasional spasms of booing from the home support, and was left to plead for patience post-match. It matters not that plenty of nations would love to be in England’s position. Argentina are in real danger of missing out on a World Cup for the first time since 1970 after failing to beat Peru at La Bombonera. Holland are third in their section and in peril, while even the reigning European champions, Portugal, are facing up to the likelihood of a play-off. The same fate awaits Italy. England, in contrast, have emerged unbeaten through another qualification campaign, and yet the mood was almost apologetic.
Now Southgate has Sunday’s qualifier in Lithuania and, at best, four friendly fixtures before he must select a squad for the tournament in Russia. So what areas must England address most urgently if they are to repair the disconnect between team and support?