Sunday 8 September 2019 3:26 pm

Jadon Sancho can relieve England's reliance on Raheem Sterling if given chance ahead of Marcus Rashford

It sounds pernickety to demand more from a football team that has just won 4-0, taking their record in the current competition to: played three; won three; goals for: 14; goals against: one.

But such is the nature of major tournament qualifying matches that England did not need to conjure an abundance of chances to dismiss a gaffe-prone Bulgaria outfit at a canter on Saturday.

The hosts’ attacking play did leave something to be desired, however, and greater unpredictability will be required against mroe competitive opponents at next summer’s European Championship finals.

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When England did penetrate Bulgaria’s massed ranks in the first half it tended to emanate from Raheem Sterling, who has arguably become more indispensable to Gareth Southgate even than Harry Kane.

The Manchester City forward’s decision making was several cuts above his peers. He dribbled when his team-mates preferred a safe offload and it was notable that he appeared to grow frustrated at times that colleagues did not pick out his intelligent off-the-ball runs.

In short, Sterling made things happen. It was his anticipation that saw England pounce on Bulgaria’s cack-handed attempts to play out from the back, allowing him to tee up Kane for a simple opening goal.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 07:  Raheem Sterling of England in action during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier match between England and Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium on September 07, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Raheem Sterling was England’s outstanding attacker against Bulgaria. Credit: Getty

He got his reward when Kane returned the favour in a cakewalk of a second half, bundling in from close range – and a possibly offside position.

It is a measure of his new-found potency that seven of Sterling’s nine England goals have come in the last seven of his 52 international appearances.

Why Sancho deserves starting spot

Sterling and Marcus Rashford swapped flanks repeatedly and the former buzzed dangerously whether stationed on the left or right flank.

Rashford was less effective, though, save for winning a soft penalty and a slick give-and-go late in the game that he should have finished better than with an attempted lift over Plamen Iliev that hit the goalkeeper’s face.

Southgate does have an alternative to Rashford, of course, in Jadon Sancho, and it cannot be long before the England manager feels compelled to start the Borussia Dortmund teenager.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 07:   Marcus Rashford of England in action during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier match between England and Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium on September 07, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Marcus Rashford won a penalty but otherwise struggled to penetrate. Credit: Getty

While Sancho was quiet by his own high standards when introduced for the last 20 minutes at Wembley, he has looked razor sharp for Dortmund this season, where he may already have their go-to man after little more than a season and a half in the first team.

Like Sterling, he has the confidence and variety to his play to unlock stubborn defences whether by dribbling or feeding through-balls around the penalty box.

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He is not afraid to shoot either, as his 15 goals in 49 Bundesliga games shows. Rashford has 29 in 115 Premier League matches.

Both are dangerous and gifted players, but with England in need of more weapons to unlock defences, Sancho’s skill-set appears to make him better suited to Southgate’s three-man frontline.