Gareth Southgate admits England still have a lot of work to do to be a top international team despite extending their 100% record in 2022 World Cup qualifying with victory overt Poland.
England needed a late Harry Maguire goal to win after a John Stones error allowed Poland to equalise at Wembley.
The win leaves England top of Group I with three wins from a possible three and two points clear of second place.
“I’ve never hidden from the fact we’re a work in progress,” said Southgate.
“We’ve got a huge amount to do to be a top team and we’ve showed some signs of it and some nous in seeing the game out to the end.
“We’re still a threat on set-plays and have only conceded five goals in 14 matches.
“Those critical moments in games have got to be right and we have to find an additional level if we’re going to be successful in the summer.”
‘We’re not far away from knowing our best 23’
The delayed European Championships, scheduled to take place from 11 June to 11 July, will be the next time Southgate will be able to gather his players together.
England play friendlies against Austria and Romania at the start of June before their Euros opener against Croatia on 13 June.
Having had to cope without a number of injured players during this international break, Southgate admits that the make-up of his Euros squad will depend on who is fit after what has been a gruelling Covid-affected season.
“First thing is we need to see who comes through the next 10 weeks fit and well because we had a lot of players missing from this camp as we have all season,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Hopefully they’ll all be back but there’s a chance that one or two won’t be and unfortunately a chance we could lose others as well in this period because it’s going to be so intense.
“We’ve got a batting order if you like in every position and we’ll review that after this week to see if we are still where we were before the start of the week.
“Then we have to think about systems and people that can play more than one position so you can take an additional player in a certain area of the pitch so quite a complex process but we’re comfortable with our organisation on it and we’re not far away from knowing who our best 23 are.”
‘Stones has shown a lot of resilience’
Stones has started all three of the recent World Cup qualifiers as recognition for his fine club form with Manchester City this season.
However, it was his error that allowed Jakub Moder to equalise for Poland on Wednesday, courtesy of a moment of hesitation and poor control.
Southgate, though, was pleased with the way the centre-back reacted, with him providing the headed assist for Maguire to score the winner following a corner.
“What pleased me was that he gained his composure quickly and saw the game through well and contributed to the goal at the end,” added Southgate.
“We can’t hide from the fact it’s a poor mistake and it wasn’t a great pass to him as well [from Nick Pope] I have to say but that’s done, it’s important in those moments that the team step up and he kept his composure and has showed a lot of resilience over the last 18 months and he’ll come through that.”
Stones’ centre-back partner Maguire was also impressed with the way he responded to the set-back and feels he has now shed his reputation for regularly making high-profile mistakes.
“He has had a great season and is playing with confidence,” said Maguire. “He has been brilliant in this camp, in training and in every game he has played.
“One little mistake and he got punished. But we are defenders, we are not perfect. We play for big clubs so every mistake you make and goal that goes in feels really big, you get scrutinised. That is the pressure that we play with.
“He could have gone down, he could have gone under, but he was loud on the pitch, his head didn’t go down and he organised and got a vital part in the winner.
“It is a big reaction from him. He organised the defence for the last 30 minutes, was loud and didn’t give the ball away after that. Credit to him. You say about John Stones and mistakes but he hasn’t made mistakes for years now.”