- Jack Butland
Butland should go to the World Cup as Southgate’s number one. Joe Hart who was, for a long time, sitting on the bench at West Ham has probably ruined his chances of getting the number one spot and might not even make the squad. Butland has shown promising signs of being the future England number one but he isn’t alone. Both Pickford and Pope are exciting prospects and it will be a tight call between Butland and Pickford for the number one spot.
- Jordan Pickford
The ex-Sunderland man was quickly swooped up in the summer by Everton and for good reason too. Despite Everton’s average season, he has shown encouraging signs of being an England keeper. Pickford and Butland both have their spots all but guaranteed and will battle it out for the number one spot. It will surely be a matter of who has a better run in in the last few games of the season to determine the number one spot.
- Joe Hart
Although Nick Pope has been a stand out performer at Burnley this season, Southgate is unlikely to take 3 inexperienced internationals to the most important competition of his England managerial career, Joe Hart will provide a sense of leadership for the two younger keepers. His experience will be key and the third keeper of any World Cup squad almost never gets a minute so Southgate may as well take a leader like Hart who can also offer coaching.
Left Wing Backs:
- Ryan Bertrand
The left back spot is definitely up for contention but Bertrand is one of the strongest contenders. He is perfect for Southgate’s preferred 5 at the back formation and his attacking capabilities will make him a strong candidate to start in the left wing back role.
- Ryan Sessegnon
England have a vast amount of left backs to choose from; Danny Rose, Ashley Young, Leighton Baines and Aaron Cresswell are all good candidates for the job but I’ve gone for probably a controversial but in my opinion, a smart pick for the squad. Sessegnon has been outstanding this season and winning the Championship Player of the Year and being nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year alongside the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane shows his quality. He’s a player that perfectly suits the left wing back role but can be versatile as well either more offensively or defensively.
- John Stones
Despite not playing recently for Manchester City, John Stones had a terrific opening half to the Premier League season and is almost certainly guaranteed his spot on the plane to Russia. He is a player comfortable on the ball and will be a good player to have in England’s back line for many years to come.
- Gary Cahill
Cahill has been criticized this season very frequently but when he has played for Chelsea he has been a leader and an immense defender. His quality in the air, as well as terrific tackling, will surely persuade Southgate to put him in his starting XI. His leadership will also be noted as a candidate for the armband.
- Kyle Walker
Walker will be one of the first names on Southgate’s team sheet but where to play him will be the issue. While he is a terrific player in his natural right back position, his development as a ball playing defender under Pep has allowed Southgate to play him at centre back in recent matches and with Trippier and Clyne already offering width at right fullback, it would be a smart move to have these 3 starting for England.
- Harry Maguire
I think Maguire will get the nod ahead of the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. His impressive form for Leicester this season and his passing capabilities will be important for the team. While he might not start, any injury in the defensive line and he’s likely to be the primary replacement.
- Joe Gomez
The Liverpool defender has faced an unfortunate string of injuries in the past and after having a terrific couple of months up until around February, injury struck again. However, with the defender coming back to full fitness, he’s likely to make it as Southgate’s last central defender pick. He is confident on the ball as a centre back but has had to fill in at right back this season. When playing for England, he’s been played in a back three and will likely do the same if he goes to Russia.
Right Wing Backs:
- Kieran Trippier
The Ex-Burnley full back has enjoyed time at right back this season ahead of new signing Aurier for all the right reasons. With Walker’s summer departure, it was important for Spurs to find the right replacement and Trippier has shown consistent quality all season. He’s likely to be the starting right back if Walker plays in the middle but should be on the plane regardless.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold
Undoubtedly this is the standout pick from my suggested squad but it has a good reason behind it. While Clyne would be the obvious option, he has had one appearance for Liverpool this season and will struggle to earn his place back even after a full return from injury which looks unlikely before the summer. Alexander-Arnold has been brilliant for Liverpool this season, his crossing ability has been important for Liverpool this season and for a young inexperienced full back he has done considerably well in important games against the likes of Leroy Sane in the Champions League. If he is to go to Russia, which may be unlikely, he won’t be a starter but having already been invited to join in the senior team training sessions recently, Southgate might just fancy him.
- Jordan Henderson
If Southgate has to get it right anywhere, it’s here. Playing this 343 formation is incredibly risky and without the right midfielders with the right discipline, England will crumble. Henderson has proven to be a very important player for Liverpool this season and if anything, his low goal and assist tallies are a good sign for Southgate. He doesn’t seem interested in attacking and his discipline as a holding midfielder and leadership as a potential England captain has made his place in the England lineup almost certain.
2. Eric Dier
Dier will be vital for England, his ability to play as a holding midfielder or centre back allows Southgate to not have to allocate too many of his 23-man list to the defence. Walker and Sessegnon offer similar benefits. Dier has been inconsistent for Spurs this season but at his best he can be terrific and another free kick like he did at the Euros wouldn’t be too bad this time around.
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
After spending many years at Arsenal not being given the freedom that he enjoys in midfielder, Chamberlain is now revelling with the opportunity under Klopp. He plays as a box to box midfielder at Liverpool and his recent spike in form has come at the perfect time just a few months before the World Cup kicks off. The midfielder will offer even more versatility to this squad and his work rate will be key to any possible England success. However, he will have to fight it out with Dier for the second spot in a 2 man central midfield, unless of course he is played higher up the pitch.
4. Adam Lallana
Liverpool have no shortage of English midfielders and if he remains injury free, Adam Lallana should get his ticket to Russia. He has become more of a box to box midfielder since his attacking times at Southampton and under Rodgers at Liverpool but his stamina means this role suits him perfectly. He is unlikely to hit his maximum peak in time for Russia in terms of form but good players do it when it counts, and this may be Lallana’s last World Cup to prove his English worth.
5. Jonjo Shelvey
The Newcastle man will split opinions, his performances this season have not gone unnoticed and a World Cup spot is, of course, debatable but perhaps deserved. Many fans would be wanting more in attack with just the 3 offensive midfielders and 3 forwards but if you consider Lallana and Chamberlain as alternatives up there then adding an extra man in midfield is appropriate. Shelvey has a good range of passing and has proven to be excellent at turning over possession this season. Although he wouldn’t play, he does deserve the opportunity.
- Raheem Sterling – Despite the media absolutely blasting Sterling for no good reason recently, he has been terrific this season scoring loads of goals and looking comfortable as a young member of a world class City side. His pace and drive will be key to England’s attacking but he may have to adjust to a more central role this summer from his more natural right wing position under Pep.
- Dele Alli – The Spurs midfielder has been heavily criticized this season for not showing the same flair that he did last year yet his goal and assist counts have still been rather impressive. He has a spot guaranteed in this England squad but will need to start firing for Spurs to get into the rhythm by June. Alli will be expected to start for Southgate but don’t be too surprised if the lineup is shuffled around.
- Jesse Lingard – It is probably very rare that so few Manchester United players are selected for an England World Cup but Lingard and Rashford may well be the only two. Lingard has had his best season yet for United and will hope that his performances and recent goal against the Netherlands have bought him a ticket to Russia. He might not be one of the star names but aside from all his dancing antics, he is a quality footballer that England are lucky to have.
- Harry Kane
A player who speaks for themselves really, despite his recent nonsense with claiming a goal that he didn’t even score, he remains England’s best striker and probably their best player. He may be the player England have been missing yet that was also said prior to the Euros where he somewhat disappointed. He must lead England’s goalscoring at this campaign and while he may be appointed as captain, I think Cahill or Henderson are more appropriate choices.
- Jamie Vardy
Since his Premier League winning season, Vardy has slipped slightly under the radar yet his goal-scoring prowess has continued. He’s a sharp finisher and while he’s unlikely to start many games, off the bench he could be vital for England as he was against Wales at the Euros.
- Marcus Rashford
Rashford will be eagerly anticipating his debut World Cup and while recent performances against Liverpool will have impressed Southgate, Kane will not be overthrown. Luckily for him, his versatility as a part-time left winger/midfielder may allow Southgate to play him behind Kane alongside Alli or Sterling.
Starting Lineup (3-4-3):
Walker, Stones, Cahill;
Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson (C), Eric Dier, Ryan Bertrand;
Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Last Minute Calls:
- Danny Rose/Ashley Young vs Ryan Bertrand/Ryan Sessegnon
- Jack Wilshere/Ruben Loftus-Cheek vs Jonjo Shelvey/Adam Lallana
- Phil Jones vs Joe Gomez
- Nathaniel Clyne vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
Manchester City: 4* (*Joe Hart will have returned from loan)
Manchester United: 2
Leicester City: 2
Stoke City: 1
featured image credit The Sportsman