It could be worse

Watching England isn’t an enjoyable experience, but at least they’ll be at next year’s World Cup.

Holland and Wales definitely won’t be, while better nations than England have also laboured through qualifying.

It could be better

This isn’t a golden generation, but England do have lots of players who are good at football.

While it is unrealistic to expect their club form to be replicated at international level, it is not unreasonable to think they can perform with more intelligence and creativity than was shown against Slovenia and Lithuania.

All eyes on Gareth

Southgate’s no-bullshit policy when speaking to reporters means he talks a good game.

On the pitch, however, it is not obvious what impact he has had. There is no difference between this England team and the one that qualified for Euro 2016 under Roy Hodgson.

Now their place at the World Cup has been confirmed – which was Southgate’s remit upon getting the job in mitigating circumstances – the manager must create a game plan that is both easy enough to implement and to his players’ strengths.

Confirming England will play three at the back is a good start.

England are not a possession team

Fortunately, there is no pressure – from the supporters, at least – for them to be.

Glenn Hoddle said it best in co-commentary during the Lithuania game: England should be a counter-attacking side that defend deep and draw opponents on to them.

Dynamic players such as Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose would benefit. So would England’s workmanlike midfielders.

What is Henderson?

The criticism Henderson gets on Twitter is grim, but it is remarkable that a player who has never had a good game for England in almost 40 appearances is poised to be an automatic starter in Russia (and probably vice-captain).

Neither a creator nor a protector, perhaps the role of water-carrier in a 3-4-3 will bring the best out of him.

Winks is an option

Mauricio Pochettino calls him the "perfect midfielder", and Winks did a lot of good things on his debut, albeit against limited opposition.

There is a place in the squad for a player who can pass the ball intelligently and efficiently.

So is Wilshere

The biggest threat to Winks' participation.

If Wilshere is match-fit when the World Cup comes around, he has to go.

Kane should be captain

It’s not going to be the difference between England winning the World Cup and not, but it would be weird if Southgate gave the captaincy to anyone else.

Kane’s the team's best player and a perfect professional, and four goals in four games as skipper indicates that he’s comfortable wearing the armband.

There is competition for places

In pretty much every position but central midfield.

Jack Butland looked the part against Lithuania, while Kieran Trippier and Harry Maguire also did enough to earn further opportunities.

Alli, Rashford and Sterling are fine options to support Kane, but not all of them can start – especially when Adam Lallana returns from injury.

The absent Phil Jones, Danny Rose and Jamie Vardy will also be important members of the final party.

Who’s on the plane?

Predicting the 23 names that Southgate will take to Russia is a fun, but pointless, exercise at this point.

A lot can change in nine months.

Just ask Kieran Gibbs, Jonjo Shelvey and Danny Ings, who featured when England played Lithuania in their final Euro 2016 qualifier two years ago, but were nowhere near being selected when the tournament started.

A surprise name or two - think Alli, Rose and Eric Dier - will emerge over the course of the season. They always do.