Chris Sutton believes Harry Kane is one of four nailed-on starters for England at this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.
The Three Lions are in Nations League action when they take on Italy this week before facing Germany on Monday.
Their last fixture was a humbling 4-0 home defeat to Hungary in June.
Premier League-winning striker Sutton notes that this result was the first time fans have turned on manager Gareth Southgate.
“The 4-0 home defeat by Hungary in June was the first time that England fans have turned on Gareth Southgate, with boos ringing out at Molineux and chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’,” he wrote in his Mail Plus column.
“After that humiliation, Southgate will know he needs a performance — you can’t go into a World Cup having lost 4-0 to Hungary, then defeated by Italy and Germany with two flat performances.
“We often get carried away heading into World Cups but I don’t think anyone’s going to be feeling optimistic if the performances aren’t there in the next four days.”
Sutton is not sure what Southgate’s preferred XI or formation is, which is quite worrying two months before a World Cup gets underway.
“The biggest issue for him is that with two months to go until Qatar, we’re all still so uncertain about who the best 11 players are and what the best formation is,” he said.
The former Blackburn Rovers striker thinks Kane, Jordan Pickford, Declan Rice and Raheem Sterling are the only players who have a starting spot “nailed down”.
Sutton added: “How many players can you say confidently are nailed down for a starting spot?
“Southgate loves Jordan Pickford, Harry Kane is nailed down, Declan Rice is nailed down, Raheem Sterling too.
“But other than that? He loves Mason Mount, but there have to be questions over the Chelsea man’s position in the team with his performances this season, and with so much talent going forward he can’t rest on his laurels.
“These two games against Italy and Germany are really important for us all to feel the faith again in Southgate,” Sutton continued.
“The way they play in Milan tomorrow night and at Wembley on Monday is more important than the results. It’s about demonstrating flow, a style of play where we all have confidence in this England team.
“It’s about stripping things back — does three at the back actually work in terms of us getting the ball into Kane and Sterling? Are there partnerships, combinations and patterns of play forming?
“There has to be something there in these games where we’re all sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, it looks like it’s going to click’, and the confidence will run from there.”
Sutton is worried by the “lack of continuity” in the team and thinks Mount and Jarrod Bowen have to impress with the likes of Marcus Rashford vying for their spot in the squad.
“There’s a lack of continuity, playing with different front lines and personnel,” he said. “The one constant is going to be Kane and then you need players around him to suit his style of play.
“It’s a big week for Mount and Jarrod Bowen, with the likes of James Maddison, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho all in far superior club form but not in this squad.
“Southgate always seems to find a place for Mount in his team but he’s not daft, he knows that it all comes down to winning the World Cup.
“While I do think we’re one of the teams that can lift the World Cup in Qatar, I still rank France, Spain, Brazil and Argentina ahead of us.”