Russia 2018 will perhaps go down as one of the most popular and entertaining iterations of the Competition in its 80+ year history. From landmark VAR rulings, upsets and underdogs galore, and a plethora of incredible games, it was indeed one to remember one year on. For England fans, it was a much celebrated and beloved affair: the Three Lions garnered their best finish since Italia 90, and many were expected to continue their heroics. Here, I’ll look at some of Southgate’s shining stars too see how they’ve performed in the 2018/19 season, and assess whether they’ve exceeded, met, or failed to match expectations set from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Raheem Sterling: Whilst Sterling only recorded one goal in Russia, in the quarterfinal tie against Sweden, the forward was stuck in a misfiring mire for the national team. But in the 2018/19 season, Sterling presented his most influential and incredible season yet in the sky blue of Manchester City. Finishing the season with 27 goal contributions (17 goals and 10 assists), Premier League and Carabao Cup successes, and scooping the PFA Young Player award, Raheem Sterling shook off media skepticism and criticism as one of the true talents in Pep Guardiola’s already brilliant side.
Jordan Henderson: How did this happen then? Henderson was perhaps unfairly associated with the much maligned football of Roy Hodgson’s England in their 4-3-3 consistent pass back style of play. For the inventors of the beautiful game, this was not the beautiful footballs fans desired.
But like the man listed below, Henderson was integral to the success of Jurgen Klopp’s ‘gegenpressen’ style, being a constant fixture in the core of the midfield, keeping the likes of Naby Keita and Fabinho relegated to the bench various times across the season. If this season was a showcase of the puppetry and playmaker styles Henderson can provide, then we can all be optimistic of Spain circa 2008-12 coming back to life at Wembley.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Prior to the World Cup, 19 year old Trent Alexander-Arnold was winning plaudits and acclaim for his influential role in Liverpool’s iron defence. And after the World Cup, Alexander-Arnold’s form maintained and arguably improved. He and Andy Robertson are perhaps the most in form full back pairing since Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman for their Merseyside rivals. As the youngest player to ever appear compete in consecutive Champions League finals. With Kyle Walker aging, the future is bright in the hands of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Mid table obscurity
Harry Kane: It pains me to say that, as a fan of Harry Kane, the 2018/19 season was truly hit and miss from the Tottenham targetman. From being the Golden Boot winner in Russia to not even being in the top 5 goalscorers in the Premier League the following season. In a season plagued by injury and Spurs’ other attackers stepping up to the plate, it felt like Kane never truly got to replicate his top form we have come to expect from him. The captaincy role and the unprecedented big Champions League stage for Tottenham may spell bad omens for Kane.
Jordan Pickford: Since Pickford became the National Team keeper, England have faced 2 penalty shootouts against Colombia and Switzerland. That’s progress right?
Pickford, as part of Everton’s defence, has been rocky at times, but has been the clear game winner when Everton has needed him. He recorded the joint 3rd most clean sheets in the league this season. Disappointing performances against Liverpool and Newcastle courtesy of Divock Origi and Ayoze Perez are balanced out by the fact that Goodison Park did not see the home side concede in 3 months.
Marcus Rashford: I do feel that a strike force of Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and the above mentioned Sterling could be phenomenal for England. Whilst Sancho and Sterling have been consistently good for Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City respectively, Rashford has failed to match his compatriots. Whilst fans may be quick to attack Paul Pogba or Phil Jones for subpar performances, I found a particularly interesting stat that Bournemouth’s Josh King has outscored Rashford in each of the last 4 Premier League season. Rashford is still incredibly young, and under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he may find himself a permanent fixture of the Red Devils’ starting 11. Although, the same may not be said for his position in the Three Lions.
Jesse Lingard: Often joked as being a teenage sensation at the ripe old age of 26 years old. Lingard was highlighted in particular in Russia for being the pacey attacking midfielder the England side so desperately lacked. Combined with a remarkable goal in the 6-1 rout of Panama, 2019 looked to be the year Lingard showed his true potential.
Instead, Lingard could be symbolic of Man Utd’s recent form. Mass media coverage, high expectations, all the tools for success..and it ultimately ended up being a disappointment. His season ultimately peaked dancing at the Emirates…on January 26th.
Kieran Trippier: For many England fans, the Summer (or for me, my entire adolescence) peaked when Trippier curled in his free kick against Croatia. Seas of Carling flowed through streets across the Land. Surely Trippier is primed to succeed as England’s new starting fullback on the level of Ashley Cole and Kyle Walker?
That didn’t happen. Serge Aurier’s presence and the backup of Kyle Walker-Peters created competition for Spurs’ RB, but Trippier failed to capture the magic, set piece, and creative ability we all bore witness to. A disappointing season to say the least, and it’s unlikely that Trent or Walker will be benched in favour of him.
The road to Euro 2020 is well and truly underway. England can surely consider themselves a favourite but one fearful of elite sides France, Portugal and Belgium. It’ll take a mixed combination of 2018 and 2019 forms to contest for the trophy and ‘bring football home’, but ever increasing optimism amongst England fans and an increased focus on Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez, and Trent Alexander-Arnold could see the 2010s start with Germany knock England out of the World Cup, and the 2010s end with England winning the Euros.
It’s a rollercoaster of emotions being from this country…bit of an understatement.