We got a good look this weekend at this England squad that is going to the World Cup in Russia.
Gareth Southgate kicking off against Nigeria with what looked pretty much his first team, then bringing on five squad players in the second half.
They actually played decent in the first half and scored a couple of goals that won the match, then dropped off a bit in the second half as they maybe tried to see out the game.
All in all a standard pre-tournament friendly which told us nothing new, reminding us that England will usually be able to ease past poorer lower ranked countries – but are almost sure to struggle when playing anybody of high quality in a competitive game. That being the story of the past 20 years or more.
England have got a few good players but the ratio of quality to workers/average is too low.
From a Newcastle perspective, watching England gave me quite a lot of hope.
As we know, many/most of the very best players, at the top Premier League clubs, aren’t English.
However, we should though be able to believe that the bulk of this England squad is at least representative of top ten, or top eight club quality in the English top tier.
I would rate Walker, Stones, Vardy, Kane and Sterling, as capable of playing for any club in the Premier League and most abroad as well.
However, that does leave another 18 players in that World Cup England squad.
Three of them are good but not brilliant keepers, whilst you have at least these eight outfield players as well: Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Maguire, Dier, Loftus Cheek and Delph.
When I compare their quality, I don’t think any of the keepers are better than Martin Dubravka, whilst Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune, Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame, on the second half of last season’s form, aren’t of a lower standard than those England outfield players named.
My point is that I think Newcastle have at least half a team already, who are good enough to be top eight Premier League players. Not writing the rest off and for example Yedlin could show further improvement and be seen at that same level.
However, I would say definitely those five, and so if Rafa can find another three or four of a similar, or better, standard then Newcastle could start the season with eight or nine players in the team/squad who are top eight level players.
Not quite at the level to compete with Man City just yet…but certainly potentially capable of challenging to be best of the rest outside the top five or six, if getting the luck, especially staying away from injuries.
After that, who knows if you get real luck coming your way, plus then build with more quality in future windows.
The full England squad:
Pickford, Butland, Pope
Alexander-Arnold, Cahill, Jones, Maguire, Rose, Stones, Trippier, Walker, Young
Alli, Delph, Dier, Henderson, Lingard, Loftus Cheek, Sterling
Kane, Rashford, Vardy, Welbeck