The early signs are promising for England under Gareth Southgate, but surely he can only be judged on how he does in tournament football.
Southgate’s first game in permanent charge of England may have ended in defeat to Germany on Wednesday, but there were no positives than negatives to take away from the game.
The 46-year-old stepped into the hottest seat in English football in September after Sam Allardyce’s acrimonious departure after only 67 days in charge.
Southgate was given four games to land the job on a permanent basis and the former England defender passed his audition with two wins and two draws to be named full-time boss in November.
Southgate has been forced to wait for his game as permanent manager and although he tasted defeat for the first time the former Middlesbrough boss is already making a big impact after a difficult last nine months for the national team.
England have been licking their wounds since their embarrassing Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland, while the early departure of Sam Allardyce after just one game in charge was not how the Football Association envisaged things working out post the Roy Hodgson era.
Southgate is the fourth permanent manager of the national team in as many years, but the early signs under his stewardship indicate that given time he could help get England back on track on the international stage.
England dominated for long periods against World Champions Germany on Wednesday and on another day would have won, but on the flip side there is no point getting carried away by a performance in a game which Germany almost treated as a testimonial for Lukas Podolski.
Southgate used the game in Germany as the chance to experiment with his side and he implemented a 3-4-3 system that has been all the rage this season in the Premier League for leaders Chelsea and it worked well for England.
The players adapted to the change of approach and Southgate will need to show his tactical flexibility if England are to get back to challenging the best teams in the world.
Southgate has also shown he is not afraid to look beyond the established order and pick players on form rather than reputation giving Burnley’s Michael Keane and West Bromwich Albion’s Jake Livermore surprise starts against Germany and they repaid the faith the manager showed in them with encouraging performances.
Big decisions will need to be made by Southgate as he tries to create a new-look England side and all signs point to Southgate going about that without England’s all-time record goalscorer Wayne Rooney.
Rooney was missing for the Germany game through injury, but with Southgate giving him no guarantees on his place in the team or his captaincy it appears the curtain is coming down on his international career.
Qualifying for the major tournaments has not been a problem for England as their recent record shows, having not lost a qualification game since October 2009 against Ukraine, it is when they get to either the World Cup or European Championships that England consistently fail to impress and that is the challenge for Southgate to get right.
Wales at Euro 2016 won as many knockout games as England have done in the last decade and that is the barrier Southgate must lead his side over if he to become a success.
Southgate has cut an impressive figure in his early days as England manager and handled everything thrown at him so, but surely we can only really judge him on what he does in Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
Only time will tell if Southgate can build on his early promise and lead England into a new era.