Ramsdale and Smith Rowe to start for England against San Marino

Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is expected to make his England debut against San Marino on Monday night, with his Arsenal team-mate Emile Smith Rowe also expected to make his first England start.

England are likely to line up in a 3-4-3 formation, with one of the youngest squads that Gareth Southgate has ever used in his five years in charge.

Ramsdale has been a regular in the senior England set-up since being part of the extended squad of 33 that Southgate named for the pre-Euros training camp in June.

However, he is yet to play in any senior fixture – when Southgate decided to rest Jordan Pickford last month against Andorra, it was Sam Johnstone who got the nod in goal.

Gareth Southgate called up Aaron Ramsdale following the goalkeeper's impressive start to life at Arsenal

Gareth Southgate called up Aaron Ramsdale following the goalkeeper’s impressive start to life at Arsenal

Smith Rowe came off the bench for the final 10 minutes of Friday night’s win at Wembley against Albania, but he is expected to make his first senior England start in San Marino tonight.

Smith Rowe gets his chance after the withdrawals of Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish yesterday.

Luke Shaw also did not travel to San Marino, while Crystal Palace loanee Conor Gallagher was called up to the England senior squad for the first time.

England head to FIFA’s 210th and lowest-ranked nation – who have lost all nine World Cup Qualifiers by an aggregate score of 36-1 – needing just a point to guarantee top spot in Group I and a place at next year’s World Cup.

San Marino vs England: Who will bolster World Cup claim?

The England right-back debate took another interesting detour in the win over Albania with Reece James performing like there really should be no debate regarding the issue.

Gareth Southgate reverted to a back three, and James continued his stellar club form for his country, playing like a man who was eager to make himself an automatic selection for Southgate moving forward.

He rampaged down the right at Wembley, delivering a string of superb balls – including for Harry Maguire’s opener – and sparked the attack that led to Harry Kane’s goal with one of several driving runs.

The exciting Chelsea player is still only 21-years-old. So, with just eight caps to his name, Southgate will surely be keen to get more international experience into his legs.

Two of the country’s most impressive performers at Euro 2020 were Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice and the duo are likely to play many more matches together on the international stage. But a long-standing problem for this England group has been retaining possession through the middle of the park against the best sides.

It was a problem against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final, when, after scoring early, England sat back, came under increasing pressure, were unable to keep the ball and then eventually conceded twice. And it was a problem again in July, when, again, England scored early against Italy in the Euros final before their opponents took charge.

A positive start and one-goal lead was also squandered against the Netherlands in the 2019 Nations League semi-finals. It is a recurring issue and one Southgate is clearly aware of.

Since the Euros, he has experimented with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden in central-midfield roles, while Reece James was even given a brief cameo in the position at home to Andorra in September. Mason Mount could also be an option.

However, Jude Bellingham, whose progress with England is being carefully managed by Southgate, seems to be the more straightforward selection in the middle of the park if a ball-player is the priority – and his run out against Albania was a reminder he is very much a part of Southgate’s plans.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder – the youngster player to represent England at a major tournament – will still only be 19 when the World Cup comes around, but he has already gained a lot of big-match experience and shown he has the technical skills to help his country use the ball better.

While Rice and Phillips are perhaps a little underrated with the ball at their feet, and Jordan Henderson offered a reminder of what he can bring to the engine room against Albania, there is no escaping the fact England completed under 75 per cent of their passes against Italy in July. The eventual winners were up at 89 per cent.

A technical alternative, or addition, to those more experienced figures in central midfield would be a welcome asset on occasions.