England play their final Nations League games against Italy and Germany this weekend before the World Cup begins in earnest in Qatar in November with Three Lions' Manager Gareth Southgate still unsure of his starting line-up after that disappointing 4-0 loss to Hungary and draws against The Azzurri and Die Mannschaft last time out in June.
Its clear from Southgate's team selections in June that he treated the Nations League games as friendlies after a long Premier League season & the England XI that lost to Hungary was a very experimental one and the teams that drew versus Italy & Germany were below full strength yet this close to the World Cup, England must be better.
After drawing the last two games vs Italy & losing on penalties in The Euros Final, its time for Southgate to show he can devise a side who can beat a team who haven't even qualified for Qatar to demonstrate real progress before heading to The World Cup.
A more attacking, unpredictable side would faze the naturally defensive Italians who will be expecting to put England in the familiar straight-jacket with which Roberto Mancini's men have frustrated the Three Lions for the majority of the last two encounters.
Pacy, in form wide-men Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden either side of Harry Kane would give England a devastating threat on the counter in the manner in which they defeated Spain in Spain in October, 2018 and prove too much for the cautious Italians.
Yet its at the other end of the pitch - between the posts and in defence - where Southgate can make equally big changes by permanently restoring Kieran Trippier back to his favoured right-back slot and installing Nick Pope as England's no. 1 goalkeeper.
Square Pegs In Square Holes - Trippier Is England's Best Right Back
Newcastle's Kieran Trippier will surely be one of the first names on Gareth Southgate's team sheet yet the England manager must play the experienced La Liga winner in his proper position - right-back - in order to maximise both him and the England side.
Trippier is such a good footballer that he is also one of England's best left-backs and was excellent against Croatia when picked there to kick off The European Championships at Wembley last summer yet at times against Germany, you could tell it wasn't his natural side, and he is so much more effective when in his natural position.
For his free-kick threat alone plus leadership & competitiveness, Trippier has to be in the team but he offers so much more balance to the set-up when on the right side, where he started the Euros Final setting up Luke Shaw for England's early goal against Italy with a right to left cross:
Two attacking full-backs playing on their natural sides of the pitch combined to give England a lead showing the wisdom of playing square pegs in square holes that they should have added to and won the Euros tournament yet with The World Cup just two months away, Southgate has the chance to go one step or two steps further than a World Cup Semi-Final & Euros Final and win the tournament outright in Qatar.
Trippier has been a revelation since joining Newcastle and his international quality has been in evidence every single game he's played at St James' Park since his January move from Atletico Madrid bringing a higher level of technique, positioning, intelligence and distribution than has perhaps ever been seen in a Magpies' right-back.
Yet its his first goal for Newcastle, the free-kick he scored against Everton & England teammate Jordan Pickford, who tends to melt down at St James' Park, that casts doubt over the ex-Sunderland goalkeeper's suitability to start at The World Cup in the face of strong competition from Newcastle's steadier new international goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Jordan Pickford Has Served England Well Yet Nick Pope Is The Three Lions' Future
In 6ft 6in stopper Nick Pope, Newcastle United have a new giant presence at the club and not just on social media where Nick Pope Day caused a revelation last month but in the all-important goalkeeping position that he made his own at St James' Park, ousting Martin Dubravka at no. 1 on his arrival with the Slovak heading to Man United on loan.
Having already won the inaugural Premier League Save of the Month award for August for his superb stop against Brighton keeping out Adam Lallana from close range , Pope is an early front-runner for the Premier League Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper of the season having made the most saves and Sweeper-Keeper regains:
In The Premier League, Pickford has made the most errors leading to goals - 13 - than any other keeper since he joined Everton and after looking shaky against Germany in June, its only a matter of time before his record of never having made an error leading to a goal for his country in 45 caps so far is dashed and it will come at the worst possible moment for The Three Lions when it really matters.
Pickford's injury at a crucial time has opened the door for Nick Pope's big audition for England against Italy and Germany and he can stake his claim for the no. 1 spot at The World Cup against Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale, whose international copybook must be blotted by playing in that 4-0 loss to Hungary.
If he comes through it with flying colours, it'll be Nick Pope Year not just Nick Pope Day.