England ended their 2017 fixtures with consecutive goalless draws against Germany and Brazil at Wembley.
Manager Gareth Southgate continued to formulate his plans for next summer’s World Cup across both games having sealed qualification earlier in the season.
Here’s a looks at the main talking points to emerge from the two recent friendlies.
SOUTHGATE PLAYING THE GENERATION GAME
While Southgate’s plan to give England youngsters a chance in the senior set-up is not new, his selections for the two glamorous Wembley friendlies certainly reiterated his ideals.
The likes of Chris Smalling, Jack Wilshere and Jermain Defoe will be all the more worried that their England careers are over – or at the very least stalling – as Southgate aims to implement his plans of promoting from the younger age groups.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Gomez picked up the respective man of the match awards against Germany and Brazil while inexperienced players such as Dominic Solanke, Angus Gunn and Lewis Cook were also involved in the squad over the last few days.
THREE LIONS AT THE BACK
Southgate has seemingly settled on his formation for the future, naming three central defenders with wing-backs allowed to push forward.
Harry Maguire and John Stones looked solid in both friendlies and Gomez also came in to shine, while having players such as Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Trippier offer plenty of pace on the flanks.
The system also allows for two strikers and can accommodate creative players alongside the guile of Eric Dier in the middle of the park.
HART OVER HEAD IN THE RACE FOR THE GLOVES
Joe Hart now has 75 England caps and is a bonafide senior member of Southgate’s current squad.
The West Ham loanee has struggled at times this season but was recalled between the posts despite Jordan Pickford impressing on debut against Germany.
Now Southgate must decide if his largely inexperienced side need someone like Hart behind them or if Pickford, and Jack Butland, should now be given their chance to step up in competitive games.
ENGLAND NEED KANE IF THEY ARE TO BE ABLE IN ATTACK
Keeping two clean sheets against both the World champions and a team boasting the world’s most expensive player is not to be shirked at.
But at the other end of the pitch England struggled to create clear-cut chances, with Tammy Abraham, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford not able to break the deadlock across both games.
Harry Kane was absent due to injury and this was further proof that, if England want to progress deeper into the World Cup next summer, the Tottenham striker is vital to Southgate’s attacking intentions.
SOUTHGATE NEEDS TO STICK TO YOUNG GUNS
While still trying to turn England into a big-hitter on the world stage, Southgate appears to be supported from those above him when it comes to taking time to develop and hone his precocious players.
Now, the England boss needs to maintain that stance when it comes to naming his World Cup squad next year, starting with the March friendlies against Holland and Italy.
There has been too much reliance in the past on taking experienced tournament campaigners to finals in place of exciting talent but this time it should be different as Southgate is gearing up to have a host of names ready for Russia.
— England (@England) November 14, 2017
Provided by Press Association Sport
Gareth Southgate has not been afraid to put his faith in youth since taking charge of England and guiding the Three Lions to the 2018 World Cup.
The England manager continued that policy for the two goalless draws against Germany and Brazil as he works on his master plan for Russia next summer.
Here’s a look at the young players given their chance in the senior England side since the start of the season.
The Tottenham midfielder had been waiting for his chance back at his club but grabbed his opportunity with both hands to earn his first England call-up for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania.
He started the latter and was a bright spark in a forgettable 1-0 win for the Three Lions with the 21-year-old impressing in possession. Injury forced him to miss the recent friendlies after he starred for Spurs in their two Champions League games against holders Real Madrid.
The Leicester defender could be installed as the elder statesman of recent debutants as he was handed his maiden cap at the age of 24.
Maguire started alongside fellow newcomer Winks in the win in Vilnius, retaining his place in Southgate’s back three for the recent friendly double-header where he played his part in keeping the World champions and the mighty Brazil at bay.
Pickford made his debut in Friday’s goalless stalemate with Germany, making a couple of impressive saves to keep Timo Werner out.
The Everton goalkeeper is another to roll off the England production line and was handed the gloves for his first cap despite his Everton side struggling in the Premier League and he proved his call-up was justified.
The 21-year-old midfielder felt he had to move away from Chelsea on loan this season to play regular first-team football and earned his senior debut after starring for a Crystal Palace side who sit bottom of the Premier League.
After a nervy first 10 minutes on his debut against Germany, Loftus-Cheek showed his class and grew into the international fold before picking up the man of the match award. His international week was marred as he was forced off in the first-half of the Brazil game with a back injury.
Another Chelsea loanee who has earned his senior England call-up while away from Stamford Bridge, Abraham has scored five goals at Swansea so far this season.
With Harry Kane out injured, the 20-year-old was handed a starting berth by Southgate for the Germany game. He struggled to make a similar impact to Loftus-Cheek but showed some promise and also came off the bench four days later against Brazil.
Similar to Winks at Tottenham, Gomez had to be patient to land a run of games in the Liverpool side despite being a regular fixture in the England youth teams.
The 20-year-old is now enjoying himself at Anfield and the defender came on for the injured Phil Jones against Germany before starting and earning the man-of-the-match accolade in the Brazil stalemate, playing his part in keeping Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and club-mate Philippe Coutinho quiet.
While Solanke has only played seven times in the Premier League, the Liverpool forward is highly thought of by Southgate and his staff and was called up for the Brazil friendly alongside Lewis Cook and Angus Gunn.
The former Chelsea youngster, 20, came off the bench in the latter stages and did enough to impress ex-England international Ian Wright, coming close to winning the game late on only to get the ball caught under his feet.
Provided by Press Association Sport
England manager Gareth Southgate revealed his pride in the defensive steel that consigned Germany and Brazil to successive Wembley shutouts.
Having kept the world champions to a 0-0 draw on Friday night, a youthful Three Lions side again proved their mettle, repeating the trick against the attacking brilliance of Neymar and company.
The football Association’s marketing team were probably not envisaging 180 minutes of goalless football when they unveiled the top two sides in the world as England’s final opponents of 2017, but Southgate was left invigorated by the experience.
As a former centre-half he appreciates the work that went into both results and comes away convinced that the foundations of his side are sturdy enough to cope with all comers at next year’s World Cup.
“The resilience collectively and individually was absolutely outstanding,” he said.
“They’re not going to face more difficult tests than they’ve had in the two matches we’ve just had. We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying and we’ve played the best two teams in the world and not conceded.
“In terms of heart, resilience and spirit it was up there with anything I have been involved in.
“I was probably more proud than I was against Germany because we played, I think, the best team in the world, with their full team out, and came out with a really creditable result.”
Liverpool’s Joe Gomez followed in the recent footsteps of Harry Winks and Ruben Loftus-Cheek by claiming the man-of-the-match award on his full debut, just reward for a performance of calm authority.
He is now among a handful of players who have gone from rookie recruits to genuine contenders for Russia 2018 in the space of a transformative international break.
“I thought they were all excellent but Joe was named man of the match and rightly so,” Southgate said.
“I think his decision-making was outstanding. We know his athleticism is a real asset but to see his calmness in the face of such high-quality movement, dealing with through passes he had to read… superb.
“Joe has been one of the best young players in our system for a long time. It gives me plenty to think about.”
Brazil boss Tite offered a respectful nod to England’s tactical discipline.
He has seen his side routinely dominate since taking the reins from Dunga, qualifying from the tricky South American pool amid an avalanche of goals.
But this time he was unable to find a way through.
“They were like ice, really cold, they never lost their minds,” Tite said.
“We have scored many goals this year but not today because England played really well, blocking our offence. They were trying to close out the space and they had a lot of mental power.”