Gareth Southgate will continue to focus on youth as the England manager aims for success at Euro 2020 and beyond.
Instead of basking in the afterglow of the summer’s run to the World Cup semi-finals, the 48-year-old doubled down on his youthful strategy by introducing even fresher faces straight after extending his deal until 2022.
Experienced World Cup squad members like Jamie Vardy, Gary Cahill and Ashley Young have now gone, with 18-year-old Jadon Sancho called-up this month along with fellow new boys Mason Mount and James Maddison.
More youngsters are set to be introduced over the coming internationals as Southgate focuses on building for Euro 2020 rather that short-term fixes.
“That tournament (in the summer) had to be approached on its own and built into that tournament,” the England manager said after Friday’s goalless Nations League draw in Croatia.
“But we recognise you have to keep progressing and advancing. For me, the most important thing is we build for two years’ time.
“We could live hand to mouth and pick teams that are maybe more experienced for a game like tonight.
“We could have played more of our more experienced right-backs at left-back and not given (Ben) Chilwell the opportunity, but in doing what we did you find and discover a player who looks very comfortable at this level.
“So, I think we have to try and continue that process of we always know we have to keep getting results but also looks to two years’ time as well.”
Chilwell certainly bolstered his hopes with his display in Rijeka, where Sancho came off the bench to become the first player born in the 21st century to play for England.
“I’ve briefly had a little bit of time with him when he was an Under-15 in one of our camps,” Southgate said of the Borussia Dortmund attacker.
“But also I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other youth coaches to get a good insight into his personality and how he is, just so we were able to help him settle as quickly as possible.
“He’s actually quite a quiet lad around the place, but, of course, he’s very confident on the field and he showed that belief in his spell he had on the field.”
Sancho is the kind of player that Southgate believes can flourish after returning to a four-man defence after a year using a back three.
When asked who the tactical switch to 4-3-3 suits, the England boss said: “The players who are with us – (Harry) Winks, Mount and Sancho, as well as the players from tonight.
“We need to have alternatives and options. In the summer we had a choice. We either focused on getting one system as embedded as we possibly could, or we tried to divide our time and have alternatives when maybe we would not have got to the same level doing both.
“We felt at that stage, with the team’s development, we wanted to focus on perfecting one system and we recognise that took us so far.
“But there are weaknesses in the 3-5-2. Tonight we were able to show that some of the things we observed in the semi-final, and in the game against Spain last month, in this system we were able to correct them.”
Whether England can show similar promise in Spain on Monday is another matter, but the display in Croatia was certainly improved from open play.
Southgate’s men deserved to win the Group A4 encounter and hit the woodwork twice, while Marcus Rashford missed two great chances.
“I was really pleased he was in the areas to get those chances and his general performance as the game went on, he looked more and more of a threat,” the Three Lions boss said of Rashford.
“He scored twice for us last month and we love him to bits, so he’ll take more of those chances than not.
“The more important thing for me is we’ve created good chances tonight and the likes of Marcus and Harry (Kane) and Raheem (Sterling), they’re the forwards we’ve got.
“They’ll finish them, we’ve got to make sure we’re creating them.”