Fresh options at the back for Southgate’s England
England won plenty of praise for their attacking play in this week’s 5-3 win over Kosovo but their defending left a lot to be desired.
After conceding an early goal following a Michael Keane error, England raced into a 5-1 lead but allowed Kosovo to fight back to ensure a nervier finish that it should have been at St Mary’s in Southampton.
Manchester United summer recruit Harry Maguire was at fault for Kosovo’s third as he brought down Vedat Muriqi, who then stepped up to score the resulting penalty.
Manager Gareth Southgate bemoaned some “obvious poor errors” for the goals England conceded and he does have a few options if he opts to tinker with his squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Brighton’s Lewis Dunk
Lewis Dunk has been a mainstay in the Brighton defence for nearly a decade and almost seamlessly made the step up to the Premier League when Albion won promotion in 2017.
The centre-half has been capped once by England under Southgate, a 3-0 friendly win over the USA last year, but missed out on the latest squad.
In terms of defensive qualities, Dunk is right up there with the best English centre-halves but doesn’t necessarily fit Southgate’s Three Lions model.
Burnley pair James Tarkowski and Ben Mee
Burnley’s James Tarkowski was linked with Leicester City over the summer as a possible replacement for Maguire but the Clarets asking price proved too high for the Foxes.
Tarkowski may now rival Maguire for an England spot and he is a man who is in Southgate’s thoughts. The 26-year-old has been capped twice and was involved in the build-up to the World Cup last summer, he also made the standby list after missing out on the 23-man squad but reportedly withdrew due to injury.
Fellow Clarets defender Ben Mee has been a solid performer over the years but is yet to be called up by the senior squad, having played for England at Under-21 level.
The defender will count himself unlucky if he fails to make an England appearance but at 29, age is no longer on his side, and Tarkowski and Dunk appear to be ahead of him in the pecking order.
A strong season for Burnley could change all of that, but right now an England debut looks unlikely for Mee.
Recalls for Manchester City stars Kyle Walker and John Stones
If Southgate does make defensive changes for the next two games the most likely scenario is recalls for Man City duo John Stones and Kyle Walker.
Stones missed the last squad as he has been absent for City through injury, while Walker’s omission came as a surprise.
Southgate may have decided against selecting Walker as right now he has a real battle on his hands at City to stay ahead of summer recruit Joao Cancelo, and with no disrespect intended to either Bulgaria or Kosovo he will have felt England could cope without the 48-cap full-back this month.
At 29 it remains to be seen how long Walker has left at the very top level but you would expect him to make the Euro 2020 squad despite his recent omission, barring either injury or a dramatic loss of form.