Our three-point plan for Gareth Southgate ahead of the World Cup

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There’s not long to go until the 2018 World Cup kicks-off in Moscow on 14th June.

Gareth Southgate will already have a fair idea of his plans for England’s opener against Tunisia in Volgograd four days later.

But what does the ex-Middlesbrough man need to sort out before the tournament in Russia gets underway?

We’ve given Gareth a helping hand and come up with a three-point plan for Three Lions success in the summer…

The goalkeeping issue

England’s situation between the sticks is well documented. There are five goalkeepers to choose from, but none of them have staked a major claim for the number one jersey.

We’ve already had our say on the matter. But it’s imperative that Southgate makes a decision and sticks with it.

The Three Lions’ back-four is the weakest it’s been in a long time. So having a steady pair of hands behind it with the confidence that whoever gets the nod is going to be there for the next game could prove vital.

Jack Butland is probably just edging the argument at the moment. Although Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope and Tom Heaton could all force the issue before the end of the season.

Joe Hart, too, is back in contention after a string of impressive performances for West Ham United.

Competition for places is always good within a squad. But knowing your best XI – and in particular your best goalkeeper – is crucial.

Have two plans of action

At previous World Cups, England have been criticised for not being able to alter their system.

Whether through lack of personnel or coaching nous, the Three Lions have suffered as a result.

In Russia that has to be different. Southgate will be forced to experiment in the absence of Harry Kane during the upcoming friendlies against Netherlands and Italy.

That should give the England boss some indication of the options he has available to him and the way they fit into a different system ahead of the tournament in the summer.

Get the balance right

England’s midfield is a difficult balancing act.

Include too many defensive minded players and you’re in danger of stinking the place out.

Go too top heavy in attack and you leave yourself open to being picked off by superior sides.

It means that Southgate has to be adaptable when facing Belgium as opposed to Tunisia and Panama.

Eric Dier is a shoe-in for the Three Lions. But who joins him in the engine room? Jordan Henderson has significant claims after his recent displays in the Champions League. So too does Dele Alli. Harry Winks would be a tempting shout if fit.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could’ve been the answer, had he not picked up a season-ending injury at Anfield in the UCL.

Yet none of them compare to what Jack Wilshere offers the side. The Arsenal ace provides a dynamic pivot between defence and attack and would complement the defensive-minded Dier enormously.

Only time will tell what Southgate decides to do in Russia. But a Wilshere-Dier pivot to get England going from deep appears to be the way forward.

All Odds and Markets correct as of date and publication

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Nick Murphy

Nick is a graduate of the University of East Anglia where he doubled up as the sports editor of the student newspaper Concrete. He also supports Dagenham & Redbridge and previously edited the matchday programme at Victoria Road. Other passions include darts, cricket, speedway and horse racing.