Another match, another error as far as Joe Hart is concerned.
The 30-year-old goalkeeper hasn’t exactly enjoyed the best of times since returning to the Premier League with West Ham last month, conceding ten times in just three appearances so far this season.
This comes off the back of a relatively arduous spell in Italy with Torino, where he kept five clean sheets in 36 Serie A matches and conceded 62 goals – more than any other team inside the top-half.
And with the 2018 World Cup fast approaching on the horizon, is his first-team spot in jeopardy?
In all honesty, it should be.
Despite the fact that Hart has been at the forefront of the England national side since he made his debut almost ten years ago everything has an expiration date, and Hart’s form is not World Cup-worthy.
His woeful start to the Premier League season tells its own story but, within three minutes at Wembley on Monday evening, he showed once again why he’s not cut out for this level right now.
He was slow to get off his line following a neat chipped through ball to Stanislav Lobotka, and he offered worryingly little resistance as the Slovakian youngster prodded the ball just inches underneath his arm.
One thing that has plagued the England side for as long as can be remembered is that players are very rarely picked on current domestic form, instead being selected based on past performances and past importance to the national side, and Gareth Southgate has been guilty of this with his goalkeeper.
Speaking before the Malta and Slovakia games he re-iterated the fact that Hart remains his chosen number one, claiming that he’s England’s ‘best goalkeeper’, but the reality of this is that he’s wrong.
With the likes of Jordan Pickford, Tom Heaton and Jack Butland waiting in the wings there are further options that are in better form than the West Ham man, and these displays deserve an opportunity.
And it’s the Stoke City goalkeeper who could really pounce on Hart’s unimpressive run of form and make a last-gasp push to become England’s number one when the 2018 World Cup begins in Russia.
After being awarded a run in the England side prior to the 2016 European Championships, with a real feeling that he could be a first-team contender, he suffered a set-back during a friendly against Germany which saw him on the side-lines for a lengthy period, only returning to action at the end of last year.
But since then he’s shown the sort of form in the Premier League that a world-class international goalkeeper should, leading an always obdurate Stoke outfit from the back and setting a precedent.
His display in the shock victory over Arsenal a few weeks ago was nothing short of sensational, being subject to a Gunners’ barrage for 90 minutes but standing firm with some moments of brilliance.
On that occasion he made five excellent saves, won 100% of his attempted aerial claims and just generally commanded his back-line, keeping a watchful eye from the back and communicating well.
This is the sort of leader that England need heading forward, and if Gareth Southgate has any sense about him then he will know he must drop Hart to give someone like Butland a pre-World Cup chance.
The Premier League is still in its infancy this season so it’s hard to read into things too much but, should Hart’s form continue in this downward spiral, it’s a likely story his England day are becoming numbered.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek deserves England start after Tunisia cameo
The 22-year-old proved the catalyst for England in his second-half cameo.
England managed to get their World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a win over Tunisia.
It wasn’t straightforward and they had to wait until stoppage time, but Harry Kane popped up at the crucial time to deliver three points.
Their next match is against Panama on Sunday and a win will almost certainly be enough to see them through to the next round.
Germany’s loss against Mexico means that it may be beneficial for the Three Lions to finish second in their group, but Gareth Southgate will be focused on qualifying first and foremost.
The performance from England was a refreshing one as the players looked to play in a positive manner and were confident in their ability to play out from the back.
There were some sketchy moments, but mistakes are part of the process and there is now real hope for a better future.
Southgate has put his faith in a lot of younger players and one made an impact on Monday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a surprise selection, but the midfielder was brought on against Tunisia and he had a positive impact.
England looked like they were tiring and it was important that Southgate made the necessary changes to get a win.
It was a risk to bring on the 22-year-old considering his lack of experience, but he provided dynamism in the centre of the park when it was required.
During his short time on the pitch, he looked to be aggressive in his movement and managed to break free in the final third on a couple of occasions.
He completed one dribble and won his only aerial duel. Loftus-Cheek had a breakthrough season with Crystal Palace and he could emerge as one of the breakout stars of the competition if he continues to play in a positive manner.
At times, England looked lightweight and lacking ideas in the middle of the park.
Dele Alli was a shadow of his usual self and appeared to be carrying a knock. He managed to produce one key pass, but his influence was limited.
Meanwhile, Jesse Lingard offered threatening movement, but his final ball was poor. He had a number of chances in the final third and none of them resulted in a goal.
Although he was only on the pitch for roughly ten minutes, Loftus-Cheek provided athleticism and drive that the team were previously lacking.
All of his contributions were made with the right intentions and he seemed to grow on the world stage.
It would have been easy for the midfielder to come on and play it safe. He didn’t do that and Southgate would have been encouraged by that.
Panama is a game that England should be targeting for three points. Southgate saw that his chosen formation worked against Tunisia, but there could be a change of players that makes it more effective.
Loftus-Cheek has to be one of the players lined up for a start for either Lingard or Alli. There is an opportunity for experimentation and if the 22-year-old can deliver over ninety minutes, it could be a sign of what is to come this summer.
Three things learnt from England’s World Cup victory against Tunisia
They left it late, but The Three Lions grabbed a deserved opening game victory.
England kicked off their World Cup campaign with a victory against Tunisia on Monday evening and gave their chances of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the tournament a significant boost.
However, it was far from straightforward and it took a last-gasp injury time goal from Harry Kane to secure the three points.
Here, The Boot Room highlights three things that we learnt from England vs Tunisia.
Harry Kane is key to England’s prospects
We have often seen England players struggled to perform at major international tournaments, but Harry Kane quickly squashed any doubts over whether he would be able to transfer his domestic goal scoring form onto the international stage.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward scored 41 goals for his club this season and he further underlined the claim that he is one of the best striker’s in Europe with two crucial strikes on Monday evening. Neither were particularly impressive, both were close range finishes, but his knack of being in the right place at the right time was ultimately the difference on the night.
It is easy to forget that Kane is only 24-years-old and is one of the youngest captains at the World Cup, yet he showed no signs of feeling the pressure and his clinical instincts in front of goal will be key if England are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.
Need to be more clinical in front of goal
In many respects, Harry Kane’s injury-time winner has meant that the attention has been directed away by how wasteful England were in front of goal during the opening period.
Whilst the team produced an impressive first half display, a number of individual players were guilty of missing a host of guilt-edged chances. Dele Alli saw his header deflected onto the bar whilst Jesse Lingard failed to convert two clear-cut chances, one clipping the post whilst the other was fired too close to the Tunisian goalkeeper.
In truth, England could have been out of sight by half time and Tunisia were fortunate to reach the half time interval on level terms.
However, if Gareth Southgate’s side are to progress to the latter stages of the World Cup then they can ill afford to be as wasteful in front of goal as they were on Monday, especially when they come up against better opposition.
Midway through the second half with the game tied at one goal apiece Gareth Southgate would have undoubtedly glanced back at the England substitutes gathered on the bench as he considered how to change the game.
The good news is that the squad has good strength in depth, particularly in forward areas, and there are certainly plenty of players that have the capacity to make an impact when coming off the bench.
On Monday evening Southgate opted to place his faith in Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Both came on and made a significant impact on the game with their energy, pace, power and movement and their introduction certainly helped to generate new momentum in the closing stages of the contest.
It is refreshing to see an England squad that has so many options, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck were not involved, and it will be crucial that Southgate utilises all the talent in his squad as the tournament progresses.
World Cup One To Watch: England’s 24-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Pickford
The England international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.
At a time when the country’s goalkeeping options have never looked stronger, the Everton number one has emerged as Gareth Southgate’s preferred option ahead of this month’s competition in Russia.
To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.
Who is he?
Jordan Pickford became the most expensive British keeper in history after Everton paid £25 million – rising to what would be a club record £30 million – to sign him from Sunderland last summer.
A product of the Black Cats’ Academy, after joining the club aged eight – he has had spells on loan at Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End.
Despite a turbulent season for the club as a whole, Pickford enjoyed an impressive debut campaign at Goodison Park, which saw him named the Toffees’ Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season.
Playing every minute in all 38 Premier League fixtures for the Blues, the 24-year-old has quickly begun to repay what had previously been considered a hefty price-tag.
What is his international experience/record?
Having represented England at all levels from Under-16s, Pickford his senior bow in a 0-0 draw against world champions Germany in November 2017 before keeping a second clean sheet in a 1-0 away win against Holland in his second appearance for The Three Lions.
The 24-year-old made only his third international appearances when he started in a 2-1 friendly victory over Nigeria last weekend before he was all-but confirmed as Southgate’s number one shot-stopper ahead of the summer competition.
It is suggested that his superior ability with the ball at his feet and distribution is more conducive to the possession-based pressing style the relatively inexperienced England boss wants to implement.
Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?
“I was really pleased with what Jordan did,” Gareth Southgate revealed, as per BBC Sport, full of praise for Pickford after his performance against Nigeria.
“Normally, when you play for England, there’s not an awful lot of opportunity to produce a lot of saves. But his decision making on crosses, the punch he made, his distribution and calmness to slide passes into midfield… that was really important to the way we want to play.”
Pickford’s form will be absolutely key for an England side that has struggled for creativity in recent years.
The Three Lions’ progression from Group C – competing with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama – is likely to come down to the slimmest of margins and, in keeping goals out at the other end of the pitch, the 24-year-old will be instrumental.
What is his future after the World Cup?
While many Premier League fans would initially consider Pickford content to stay at Goodison Park, an impressive showing in Russia could prove a springboard to even greater things.
According to recent reports by The Sun, Bayern have been scouting Pickford in recent months as they look to bring in a new long-term first-choice goalkeeper.
The former Sunderland favourite’s progress since his £30 million move means the Bavarian giants have identified the 24-year-old as a top choice for succeeding club icon Manuel Neuer.
Ahead of the World Cup, Bayern will surely not be the only side monitoring his future, with assured goalkeepers becoming increasingly difficult to lay hands on.
Involvement in Russia could result in an unexpected and somewhat premature Goodison exit for Pickford. Watch this space.
To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.