With the World Cup less than two months away, it seems England (7/1 World Cup Outright) have picked the worst possible time to embark on a dreadful run of form, meaning Gareth Southgate has plenty of questions to answer prior to the first match against Iran.
Monday’s 3-3 thriller with Germany in the Nations League at Wembley means England failed to win any of their six matches in the competition and thus suffered the indignity of relegation to League B.
Football can be fickle and although Southgate guided England to their first major tournament final since 1966 last year, he heads to Qatar under pressure.
Poor form can often lead to chopping and changing the usually settled starting XI and it is not entirely clear who will make the plane.
Possibly the biggest point of contention will be Harry Maguire – the Manchester United man was at fault for two of Germany’s goals on Monday.
It seems unlikely at this stage that Southgate will rule him out given he has been such a trusted, and mainly reliable, member of the squad, but an alarmingly low level of confidence coupled with a lack of playing time at Manchester United means he is unlikely to arrive to Qatar in great shape.
Potential candidates to replace him could be Fikayo Tomori, Ben White, or Conor Coady but none have particularly great experience at international level or, in Coady’s case, have never been first choice.
The midfield question looks like it has been answered in some style by Jude Bellingham who is sure to partner Declan Rice in midfield following two good displays in the past week.
Full-back is also an area of the field where questions are to be answered – Reece James looked good in both games and appears to have nailed down the starting spot, assuming Southgate goes for a back three including Kyle Walker.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will do well to force his way in given the Three Lions boss stated Kieran Trippier was also ahead of the Liverpool defender in the pecking order – right-back is genuinely where Southgate is spoiled for choice.
Left-back is the complete opposite. Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are not playing regularly for their clubs and are the only two recognised and realistic options, meaning Trippier may well be utilised there again.
Reliable cover for Harry Kane is also a necessity and it doesn’t look like Southgate has many options should the worst happen and Kane is absent for some games.
Raheem Sterling or even Marcus Rashford could play the false nine role with Tammy Abraham and Dominic Calvert-Lewin looking more likely to be impact players, while Ivan Toney’s involvement is open to question given that he wasn’t given a single minute against either Italy or Germany.
The first match against Iran (England 1/3, draw 19/5, Iran 9/1 – Match Betting) will set the tone for the whole tournament. England will be expected to not just win but do so in convincing fashion against a side who have never made it out of the group stages.
Right now, there might only be six or seven cast iron starters (fitness depending) meaning Southgate has got a lot of thinking to do between now and November.