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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Gareth Southgate's England list includes Rooney, Rashford decisions

England have appointed manager Gareth Southgate on a contract that will take him up to the Euro 2020 finals. The former under-21 coach's four matches as temporary replacement for Sam Allardyce -- W2, D2, L0 -- gave him plenty to work on.

ESPN FC has five key questions he must find an answer to.

What is Wayne Rooney's role?

The Football Association have chosen not to punish Wayne Rooney for his early-hours drinking session at the team's Grove Hotel lodgings where he was pictured partying with revellers from a wedding, on a "rest day" between England's Nov. 11 Friday night 3-0 defeat of Scotland and 2-2 friendly with Spain the following Tuesday.

That affair has only heightened the scrutiny on the current captain, whose armband cannot now be guaranteed. Rather than such off-field scrapes, his role in the team is the more pressing question.

Is the 31-year-old good enough to play centre-forward instead of the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy or Marcus Rashford? Can he really be considered a better No. 10 than Dele Alli or Adam Lallana? Would he a better bet in midfield than Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson? The answers to those questions do not favour England's record goalscorer. Henderson, in rich form for Liverpool and current vice-captain, is playing regularly in midfield while Rooney is no longer an automatic selection for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

"I'm proud to play for my country and I'm proud of my achievements," Rooney raged at reporters following United's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Nov. 19. "It's not finished yet."

Southgate must soon make that call.

Keep faith in John Stones?

As a centre-back who was as comfortable on the ball as most midfielders, Southgate must recognise something of himself as a player in John Stones, even if he probably had more physical power than the young Manchester City defender currently exerts.

The two worked together at U21 level and that relationship seems likely to persist, with Stones being trusted by Pep Guardiola in top-level matches of late. But Stones has not had it easy at City since his £50 million summer move from Everton. His new club are yet to keep a Premier League clean sheet and, as he takes on a steep learning curve, Stones has been guilty of some errors of concentration.

England, especially against lesser opposition who will allow them to dominate possession, need someone to become a spare man from defence. Stones can be that player.

What becomes of Marcus Rashford?

"We didn't really have a different plan," was Kyle Walker's explanation for England's Euro 2016 humiliation against Iceland in the round of 16. That night in Nice, as England lost 2-1, the only semblance of variation came in Rashford's replacement of Rooney at the criminally late juncture of 87 minutes.

If Southgate is to make his mark, harnessing Rashford's rare talent looks a good place to start. The Man United youngster's rise was so stratospheric that Southgate was only able to play him once for the U21s -- though he was rewarded with a hat trick in September's 6-1 defeat of Norway.

Yet since Southgate took the temporary reins, there has been a change in Rashford's standing. Mourinho's persistent faith in Zlatan Ibrahimovic has pushed him to the left flank; a goal drought dating back to September has resulted. Southgate's sparing use of Rashford in giving him just 23 minutes against Spain may reflect his own doubts.

Harness the Jurgen Klopp/Mauricio Pochettino effect?

Half of Southgate's outfield starting XI against Spain were pulled from a combination of Liverpool and Tottenham players, with Nathaniel Clyne partnering Danny Rose at full-back and Henderson and Eric Dier playing behind Lallana in midfield. Walker and Daniel Sturridge were on the bench, with Alli and Harry Kane absented through injuries.

Two clubs provide the core of the new manager's squad and that group work under managers who ask for perpetual energy from their players, in pressing opponents and attacking at pace. Were Southgate able to simulate the response that Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino get from their teams, then England might at last consign the leaden, one-paced football which they have trotted out at successive tournaments to the past.

Lallana's all-action performance against Scotland showed the benefit those coaches can have on England.

Make use of maturing Theo Walcott?

At 27, and 10 years into his England career, no national manager has yet fully trusted Walcott. The night in September 2008 when his hat trick laid waste to Croatia in a 4-1 win remains the watermark.

This season, though, the forward has shown his most consistent form since he suffered knee ligament rupture in January 2014. Sunday's headed goal against Bournemouth in Arsenal's 3-1 win was his ninth of the season, already level with last season's total.

Arsene Wenger has talked of Walcott's new dedication but he must prove himself to the sixth permanent England manager of his international career. His role as a substitute for the matches against Scotland and Spain suggests Southgate will have to be convinced.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.


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