England’s next international game will be their World Cup opener, and they prepared for it in the worst possible fashion, being relegated from their Nations League group and stretching their winless run to six games.
A 1-0 defeat to Italy left England over 7 hours without a goal from open play, something that was rectified against Germany at Wembley but only after they found themselves 2-0 down. The international break has sprung more questions than it has provided answers around the players and manager on show, and some came off worse than others over the 10 days with the Three Lions.
101 takes a look at who the five biggest losers from the international break were.
Loser: Trent Alexander-Arnold
With Alexander-Arnold seemingly on the fringes of Gareth Southgate’s consideration and not performing at his best for Liverpool so far this season, this international break seemed to be a perfect opportunity for the right-back to nail down a place on the plane to Qatar.
However, he was an unused substitute for England’s defeat to Italy, and then was dropped from the 23 man squad for their final clash with Germany, which felt like a perfect opportunity to experiment.
His place in Southgate’s squad for the trip to Qatar must now surely be in major doubt, with Reece James and Kieran Trippier both preferred to the Liverpool man in England’s back 5.
Loser: Ben Chilwell
Another fullback bizarrely left in the cold this international break, Arsenal right winger Bukayo Saka was chosen to play at left wing-back ahead of the Chelsea man against Italy, despite on paper Chilwell being the best fit for Gareth Southgate’s back five.
Chilwell is likely to go to the World Cup, with a lack of options beyond him in the Three Lions setup. However, his chances of any gametime should Luke Shaw be fit seem to be minimal, and that is concerning.
Loser: Ivan Toney
Called up to the England squad for the first time as a result of his good form for Brentford, Toney was not even afforded a late debut in a dead-rubber against Germany, or seemingly considered when England were 2-0 down just half an hour earlier.
Southgate wanting to turn to those who will definitely be on the plane in November is understandable, but it felt like a major wasted opportunity to see what the 26-year-old could offer his Three Lions side.
Loser: Nick Pope
From one man not offered a chance to one who failed to take either of those handed to him, Nick Pope must now be sweating on his place on the plane to Qatar after a pair of lacklustre performances.
The Newcastle goalkeeper looked uncomfortable using his feet, especially against Germany, and cost England the win by parrying a shot straight into the path of Kai Havertz. Without playing, the stock of Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale have risen, and Dean Henderson will be increasingly hopeful of taking the no.3 spot at the World Cup.
Loser: Gareth Southgate
Southgate’s Three Lions side looks tired, uninspired and frankly, found out. He put his faith in Harry Maguire, who has handed him further headaches with a poor performance, while the snubbing of the likes of Toney, Chilwell and Alexander-Arnold have provided yet more questions.
Clearly, he has his favourites and the style that he demands is stuck to. The questions will be asked, however, whether another man could get more out of this clearly talented group of stars.