Don’t get carried away, England
The Three Lions are hardly the finished article and Southgate has much work to do
WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
(Daniel Sturridge 24, Adam Lallana 50, Gary Cahill 61)
Despite winning the "Battle of Britain" yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Three Lions are still a limited side with lots to work to do ahead of their friendly against Spain next week.
Here are the chinks that Gareth Southgate (below) will have to iron out.
1. WINNING BATTLE OF DINOSAURS NO BIG DEAL
At times, the slow, plodding contest at Wembley yesterday morning felt so Jurassic, it was a wonder that velociraptors didn't scamper across the pitch.
England against Scotland is considered to be the world's oldest international fixture, beginning back to 1872.
The two nations appeared to have borrowed the tactics from that era, too.
Aside from the three headed goals, nothing of any real aesthetic value actually happened.
For a fixture that had wallowed in a whirlpool of hype and nostalgia for a week, this didn't evoke the stirring lines from Braveheart but the lyrics from The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
Scotland are fifth in the Group F standings, above only Malta, and yet until the first goal went in, they were the superior side.
Tactically, England were all over the place and struggled to overcome a side filled with journeymen and Championship players.
Southgate demanded a patriotic performance, hearts on sleeves and so forth. Instead his footballers performed as if fitted with pacemakers.
Must England's performances always be so tedious?
2. THEY SHALL NOT PASS
Even against truly terrible opposition, the Three Lions failed to retain possession.
Their persistent sloppiness was occasionally bewildering. Coming a day after Brazil's passing masterclass against Argentina, watching England felt like a punishment.
Apart from Joe Hart, the other 10 Lions all play in the English Premier League, a pinball machine of a competition, so the ability to pass and move should be second nature.
Of course, most EPL players and coaches are not English and, when the foreign security blanket is yanked away in international fixtures, the three Lions' dreadful distribution is ruthlessly exposed.
Wayne Rooney gave the ball away all over the pitch. Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson continued to find Scotland's pink jerseys, but rarely each other.
Only Adam Lallana, an excellent distributor, and Raheem Sterling, of all people, covered themselves in any sort of passing glory.
Rooney's tendency to drop deeper and deeper not only saw him get in Henderson's way, but the pair of them also often bungled the ball between them.
In fact, Scotland should have scored when Ikechi Anya pinched the ball from a dithering Rooney early in the second half.
England's inability to maintain possession extends back to the Roy Hodgson era and Southgate's three games have all been pockmarked with sloppy passing.
The new coach must somehow go back to basics when it comes to keeping the ball. England can't play Scotland all the time.
3. STONES MUST STICK TO THE JOB
John Stones (above, in white) lifts the spirits whenever he's in possession. Pep Guardiola's admiration is understandable.
Stones' raw talent could parachute him into Barcelona's back four and he'd be in comfortable surroundings. Unfortunately, he was playing for England at Wembley.
In football terms, if Barcelona play on a red carpet, then this was a scratchy affair played on sandpaper.
And Stones made too many mistakes, basic positional and defending errors that were hard to ignore.
Of course, the obvious counter argument is the 22-year-old should be allowed the odd blunder to ensure he retains the confident, swashbuckling qualities of a Spanish centre back, rather than be crushed into an old-school English hoofer.
Rio Ferdinand has said as much. But even Ferdinand acknowledges that Roy Keane was always on hand in training to point out that a defender's job, in the first instance, is to do just that.
Defend first. Play later. Stones is among the best in the EPL at the latter, but he's still having problems with the former.
4. FIX THE POSITIONS, SOUTHGATE
The Three Lions top Group F, but their early dominance means next to nothing.
England haven't lost a qualifying match since 2009, a run that now extends to 33 games, but the unbeaten streak achieved little beyond artificially inflating expectations.
Once the Finals come around, opponents are usually queuing up to expose England's tactical limitations and positional indiscipline. Those problems remain locked in the Three Lions' DNA.
Rooney drifted where he pleased. Apart from his cross for Gary Cahill's headed goal, his contribution was negligible.
Dier kept popping up in the back four, a position he often occupies with Tottenham, but it was never clear what he was meant to be doing at Wembley.
In fact, that central trio of Rooney, Dier and Henderson epitomised England's longstanding confusion.
Central midfield remains a riddle wrapped in a Three Lions jersey.
Henderson's role at Juergen Klopp's Liverpool is clearly defined. At Wembley, he wandered forward, rather aimlessly.
Rooney occasionally drifted behind the Liverpool midfielder.
If Southgate gets the nod for the job on a full-time basis, his first port of call should be the centre circle of a training pitch.
Fix the positions and responsibilities of his midfielders. Enforce a degree of tactical discipline to ensure that when the tournament comes around, England might hang around for a bit longer.
Beating Scotland pleased the flag-waving patriots, but there was little on show to impress the purists.
The Three Lions are halfway to Russia 2018, but still a long way from any sort of World Cup redemption.
GROUP E RESULTS
- Denmark 4 Kazakhstan 1
- Romania 0 Poland 3
- Armenia 3 Montenegro 2
GROUP F RESULTS
- England 3 Scotland 0
- Malta 0 Slovenia 1
- Slovakia 4 Lithuania 0