Are Southgate's England missing fab four?

England have been unable to call upon their fab four - Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling - for an entire year. In each of England's last seven games, dating back to Novembe

Are Southgate's England missing fab four?

England have been unable to call upon their fab four - Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling - for an entire year.

In each of England's last seven games, dating back to November 2019, Gareth Southgate has been without at least one of the talented forward quartet through injury, prompting their goal rate to drop significantly.

This has of course paved the way for new faces - Jack Grealish, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Mount have all impressed - but England's free-flowing, free-scoring style in late 2019 has been absent.

England in action against Belgium 1:10
Sue Smith says England suffered without the pace of duo Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling in their Nations League defeat to Belgium

That drop has also coincided with England's move back to the five-man defence that proved successful at the 2018 World Cup, a formation Southgate has a lower win percentage with but often opts for against tougher opposition.

England under Southgate: Back four or back five?

Back four Back five
Games 24 24
Win percentage 70.8% 45.8%

In the last seven England games, Rashford has been unavailable four times, Sterling three times and Kane once, while Kane also started on the bench in the victory over Belgium last month. Sterling will once again be unavailable for Wednesday evening's game against Iceland at Wembley.

Wednesday 18th November 7:00pm Kick off 7:45pm
Sky Sports Main Event HDSky Sports Main Event HD

Sancho was also deemed unavailable for the win over Wales at Wembley last month after breaking coronavirus protocol, and has also experienced a dip in form for both club and country, having not scored for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga in 11 games.

preview image 5:19
Highlights of the Nations League Group A2 match between Belgium and England

Iceland 0-1 England - September 5 - Notable absentees: Rashford, Maguire, Henderson, Winks

Denmark 0-0 England - September 8 - Notable absentees: Rashford, Walker, Henderson, Winks, Maguire, Foden, Greenwood

England 3-0 Wales - October 8 - Notable absentees: Sterling, Sancho, Kane, Henderson, Greenwood, Foden

England 2-1 Belgium - October 11 - Notable absentees: Kane (from bench), Sterling

England 0-1 Denmark - October 14 - Notable absentees: Sterling, Chilwell, Trippier

England 3-0 Rep of Ireland - November 12 - Notable absentees: Rashford, Alexander-Arnold, Coady, Gomez, Ward-Prowse

Belgium 2-0 England - November 15 - Notable absentees: Rashford, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Coady, Maguire, James, Ward-Prowse

England vs Iceland - November 18 - Notable absentees: Sterling, Rashford, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Ward-Prowse, James, Coady

In England's six games before coronavirus halted football, Southgate's side scored 27 goals, averaging 4.5 goals per game, with 19 of those coming from England's fab four. Southgate had Kane, Rashford, Sancho and Sterling available for all but one of those six games, and were averaging nearly 12 shots per game, compared with 8.7 per game since.

In the seven games since, England have scored nine goals, averaging 1.3 goals per game, with England's fab four responsible for just three goals. Southgate has never had all four available.

Raheem Sterling
Image: Raheem Sterling has been unavailable for three of England's last seven games, and won't feature against Iceland on Wednesday either

However, England's reduction in strike rate, and indeed change of formation, has also coincided with tougher opposition. England's 27 goals before coronavirus came against Bulgaria (twice), Kosovo (twice), Montenegro and Czech Republic, and an average world ranking of 79th.

England before and since coronavirus

Last six games of 2019 Seven games since
Goals 27 9
Goals per game 4.5 1.3
Shots per game 11.8 8.7
Fab four available 5 of 6 games 0 of 7 games
Average ranking of opposition 79th in world 17th in world

Since, they have faced Denmark and No 1-ranked Belgium twice each, in addition to Iceland (twice), Wales and Republic of Ireland, an average world ranking of 17th.

Southgate will also argue that he has been thin on the ground in both midfield and defence - Maguire's form dipped before his sending off against Denmark, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez are both injured, Jordan Henderson missed the first three matches of the year and Phil Foden missed a total of five games for breaching coronavirus protocol.

Jack Grealish in action for England against Belgium 3:32
The whole world is taking notice of Jack Grealish following a series of impressive performances for Aston Villa and England, says Gabriel Agbonlahor

A similar level of absentees at club level would be deemed a crisis, but with an unlimited English talent pool to dip into, Southgate is unlikely to escape the criticism.

He does, however, want to see the Premier League bring back the five substitutions ruling[1]; Southgate would directly benefit from this going into the Euro 2020 tournament.

"We were able to make five changes against Belgium, we made four in the end and clubs don't have that option," Southgate said. "What will it take for that to change? There were a couple of less serious injuries against Belgium but what do we do? Wait until we get a load of really nasty ones?

"(Injuries are) a worry in the longer term because with no winter break, something has to give."

Our England Euros XIs - now pick yours![2]

With England's hopes of qualifying from their Nations League group over, attention now turns to next summer's Euro 2020 tournament and who makes it into Southgate's best XI.

Our team of writers have picked their strongest England sides for the competition. Does Rashford start? is it a five-man or four-man defence? And where can Southgate squeeze Grealish in?

See who they've chosen and why here, then use our team selector to pick your best England XI.[3]