England, if they have much in their favour at the moment, have a few special young attacking players. Although it will be a while before we see them on the pitch together, there is the basis of a fearsome front line in there somewhere.
Raheem Sterling has returned to the correct trajectory to become a world beater, Dele Alli has overcome a tricky start to the season to make himself one of the world’s best under-23s again, Harry Kane – who misses this international break through injury – is unrivalled in the Premier League in his goal returns. But one attacking midfielder, one striker and one winger does not make a forward line. One other potentially game-changing component has snuck into the squad for this Premier League hiatus, Nathan Redmond.
The Southampton winger has returned to a wide role under Claude Puel, having started the season in a central berth. Redmond, despite often being linked with a move elsewhere, remained at Norwich until the start of this season and it has served to his benefit. He is on course to make over 30 league appearances for the fifth straight season and has consequently progressed significantly as a footballer. From being the star at Norwich, a move to Southampton suited him, it enabled him to play regular minutes, but without moving to a team that would be in relegation peril. Puel has kept faith with Redmond too, which has led to his call-up to the England team after being an under-21 stalwart.
This break is Redmond’s chance. Injuries to others mean that Marcus Rashford will lead England’s line rather than potentially occupying a wide role, but Alli and Sterling can be expected to occupy the central and right roles respectively. It is an opening for Redmond to develop an on-pitch relationship with a pair of young players a step ahead of him in their career progress, but who could easily become his accomplices in a talented, free-scoring England attack.
Redmond’s flexibility gives Southgate options. He could rotate with Sterling on each flank while finding pockets of space around Kane or Rashford to create goalscoring opportunities. He has created more chances and taken more shots per 90 minutes than his Manchester City counterpart, while Sterling’s tendency to hug the touchline has seen him beat more players and draw more fouls. Redmond, from the left, could play a narrower, inside forward role while Sterling and Kyle Walker stretch the game on the opposing wing.
Consistency is what threatens the careers of so many of England’s best young players; Redmond must find a reliability in his performance to hold down a role in a team that changes dramatically from fixture to fixture thanks to injuries, form and withdrawal from selection.
A sensible set of career choices to this point have given Redmond the opportunity to make himself an England regular. Patience despite the hype, and his marathon of 33 England under-21 caps has stood Redmond in good stead. He could become a 50-cap, top six player or his career may stagnate from hereon in, either way he has built solid foundations.
The prospect of Redmond, Alli and Sterling behind a fully fit, in-form Harry Kane is enough to give England fans hope.