I’m going to run through the entire England squad selected for this year’s World Cup along with a digestible breakdown of those who should start and how far England might just go in Russia.
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jones, Ashley Young (both Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier (both Tottenham Hotspur), John Stones, Kyle Walker (both Manchester City).
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Eric Dier (both Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).
Standby: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jake Livermore (West Brom), James Tarkowski (Burnley).
The World Cup, the tournament equivalent of “I’m never drinking again”. Whilst we say every 4 years that we’re not bothered as England fans because we’re ‘rubbish’ it doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to do it all again the next time an International Tournament comes round.
Just like that, I’m not drinking stage we all go through before the next wild Saturday night a week later.
I, myself am the type of fan that will say I’m not interested, I won’t watch it, “blah blah blah” and then I’ll be watching Japan take on Nigeria at silly O’clock in the morning.
Back on topic – We all now know the 23 players representing England along with Gareth Southgate and this year’s World Cup. What we don’t know is what his starting line up will likely be.
Things will become clearer in the coming weeks with the friendly matches, however, I imagine Southgate almost knows his XI so I don’t expect much change in the squad throughout the WC. especially in the knock out stages.
The chances are that Pope has gone to fill the numbers in Russia and as such we are more likely to see Butland or Pickford. The move towards a Guardiola-esque mentality will probably force Pope even further out as Distribution certainly isn’t his strong suit.
Butland is without a doubt the best with the ball. His ability to use both feet is incredible and he’ll even take a man on if he’s feeling brave enough. In terms of shot-stopping, he is miles ahead of Pickford. That said, Butland’s injuries do concern me an awful lot.
For a young gun, Jordan Pickford is brilliantly composed under pressure but he’s also got an occasional tendancy to play a pass Paul Scholes would be proud of before hitting several balls reminiscent of Renato Sanches passing to the advertising boards all year.
Pickford also relies on his left foot an also lot which I expect teams at the highest level to try and take advantage of.
Verdict: Butland – Although he’s yet to be the GK we all expected him to be, he’s certainly the most suited to the Southgate way.
England Central Defenders:
Playing out from the back isn’t something that will come very easy to a team that offers zero composure on bringing the ball out with Jones and Cahill. In fact none of England’s defenders can pass a ball under pressure.
Stones get’s noticed the most as a ball playing CB, but there’s a big difference between looking like you can pass and the reality of actually passing. There’s a reason City have dropped him.
In my opinion the best way to deal with that is to use the 3rd man in the back 3 as an avenue to bring the ball out, almost reminiscent of Busquets’ role at Barcelona (the centre-halves split allowing Busquets to drop back and receive the ball, the ideology is that a passing lane is always open as he either goes sideways or brings the ball into the midfield creating an overload with the 2 fullbacks also coming inside to flood the midfield).
As Joe Gomez has also been ruled out, I imagine the back 3 would pick itself. The only wildcard here would be Walker potentially coming in to play CB.
Our middle central defender will most likely be Stones, but that doesn’t mean it should be. I’d like to see Dier there for his awareness as a former midfielder. He’s far less likely to make a mistake in comparison to Stones.
The left-sided role is the one I imagine already belongs to Maguire. Passing aside, Maguire is the best central defender in this squad.
Verdict: Walker, Stones, Maguire / Walker, Dier, Maguire – It’s not a group that fills me with confidence, although the unknown factor in playing such an inexperienced backline together could result in some fearless, dominant displays.
There isn’t too much difference between a modern day fullback and a wingback. It’s now expected that your fullbacks go forward and attack as much as any winger can. Luckily for us, all 4 of our wingbacks going to Russia are much better going forward than they are at defending.
Looking onto the right-hand side first. The likely choices are Trippier or Arnold with another possible option being Walker if need be.
On current form Arnold has to be the man, he’s going to be playing in the Champions League final and he’s also had a superb break-out season. It’ll be a case of going off of pure talent over experience, however.
The left-hand-side offers up a lot more experience. Rose vs Young for the starting berth. I’m quite surprised that Bertrand isn’t going.
If he’s fit and match fit I fully expect Rose to start, but that’s a big if. Ashley Young has had another solid season under Mourinho and although he’s a player a lot of fans dislike he’s certainly fit the bill or getting forward.
Ashley Young has lined up for England at LW, CM, ST & CAM since his debut in 2007. .
Verdict: Trippier & Young – Southgate needs experience in his line up. There aren’t many more experienced at winning things than Ashley Young and Trippier has enjoyed a fantastic few years at Tottenham.
The England midfield will always look void and starved of quality after seeing Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes lining up for England in the not so distant past. Unlike most, I believe our midfield does have a quality to it.
Jordan Henderson has been a fantastic midfielder for years now. He’s not Stevie G but he’s certainly brilliant at covering ground, putting a shift in and playing some tidy football. In a way, he reminds me of Marchisio at Juventus.
This team hasn’t been set-up to defend, that’s why it has 3 central defenders – so it can cope when the team are being caught on a counter.
I’d imagine we see Lingard join that midfield 3, his ability to run in behind the midfield and opposition defence opens up an unbelievable amount of scoring opportunities. I said when Mourinho arrived that Lingard is the most important player at United – an opinion that hasn’t changed.
The third midfield role I would give to Alli, I really like RLC but I’m not sure he’s ready to be playing on the biggest stage of them all just yet. Being around the squad should provide him with the experience to play in the future.
Lingard should definitely keep his place in this system because he has been a revelation this season for club and country. In fact I, am backing him to star in anything good England may do this summer.
Verdict: Alli, Henderson & Lingard – I’m so confident that Lingard will finish the World Cup as England’s best player. Henderson gets more stick than he’s ever deserved whilst Alli is a machine when it comes to attacking play.
If we’re all being honest we are all expecting Vardy and Kane to be the partnership up top. And whilst I think it COULD be fruitful behind the right supporting cast I’m not in favour of seeing them play together this year.
It needs to Vardy or Kane. – On paper Vardy is a better player, he converts over twice as many chances playing for a bottom feeder of a club. However, Harry Kane’s name is now so famous in the footballing world that his presence alone should be enough to put off opposing defenders and make them question their ability. Especially if they’re from less competitive leagues.
Welbeck has displayed some nice form since the injury and I expect he’ll be used in a workhorse like capacity. However, at a World Cup tournament, I’m not sure that workhorse is enough. I’m hoping Welbeck has gone as our 5th choice forward.
The final 2 players to consider are Rashford and Sterling. One one hand Rashford plays without fear, is very direct but he’s had an offseason. Sterling, on the other hand, isn’t as fearless, or as direct but he’s had a very good season.
However, Sterling misses a lot more easy chances than he should. perhaps getting to double figures for Manchester City isn’t a huge achievement right now?
I don’t think there’s much in either option but I’d go with Rashford simply because he can put the ball in the net more often with fewer chances.
Verdict: Rashford Kane
I imagine we’ll stick to our 3-5-2 shape with an unchanged way of play. We’ll be looking to move the ball forward constantly whilst also retaining a good amount of possession. The wingbacks and keeping positions (along with 1 of the striking positions) could still be open for players to stake a claim for.
In regards to the England Captain or the 2018 World Cup. My head says Henderson and Kane are the obvious answers and I’d expect it to be one of those two. However, part of me thinks that Southgate will look at Walker and Cahill for experience as a leader.
England World Cup Prediction:
I’m backing England to do well this year. Admittedly I always start to build hope this time of year. I was in the minority of supporting Gareth Southgate when he was first appointed, I still think he is the right man for the England Job.
I think with this World Cup squad, England will make it out of the group and potentially into the quarter-final or semi-final draw depending on how well the team manage to gel in Russia.
I do expect something we haven’t associated with England for over a decade and that’s fast intuitive eye-candy football.
Final Prediction: Semi-Final