Well done, you’ve survived the last Saturday without top-flight football until March. As if to poetically draw a line under the glut of International fixtures we have suffered through since the season started, I’ve decided to name England’s 23 for next summer. I tried to do a team of the weekend but bloody hell, talk about a lack of incident.
My squad is based on the theory that everybody is available – I don’t doubt we’ll lose some key players to injuries in the months leading in, but that’s life. The FA clearly have a plan now where players are promoted from within, as see by the ridiculous call-ups this week for Dom Solanke, Lewis Cook, and Angus Gunn. They’ve played less than 20 Premier League games between them, but it’s just a friendly. Against Brazil. Apparently, Jack Cork falls outside of that remit, so if we can make an exception for Jack Cork…
I don’t think there’s too much doubt that Joe Hart and Jack Butland will be on the plane. Hart’s form has been rocky at best whereas everytime Butland looks like he’s going to take the shirt he gets injured, as was the case in this international break. You’d have to say Jordan Pickford is in the driving seat for the third spot after his performance at Wembley on Friday. I happen to think Pickford has been overhyped, and whilst there’s no doubt he’s very good for his age he doesn’t really command his box yet but is a very good shot stopper. It’s harsh on Tom Heaton, who probably would have this place sewn up if it wasn’t for the injury that has cost him 3 months of this season so far. Fraser Forster meanwhile has slid out of the reckoning, having lost all form but also not being the best with his feet in the first place.
I don’t think there’s any doubt about the places of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Phil Jones and Ryan Bertrand. You can add Danny Rose to that too, given he has waltzed back into the squad after completing one Premier League game this season. Kieran Trippier will also go as the replacement right back, which leaves centre-halves to fill up. I’d hope Southagte is looking to stick with three centre-halves, and despite an indifferent run of form I’m fairly sure Gary Cahill will go. I thought Harry Maguire ran Loftus-Cheek close for Man of the Match on Friday which puts him in pole position for a squad place, though it seems Chris Smalling has fallen out of favour due to not being comfortable enough on the ball. I think there’ll be one more, in addition to the versatile Eric Dier, and if he can rediscover his Burnley form I’m picking Michael Keane to get the nod.
As mentioned there will definitely be a spot for Eric Dier, whilst Jordan Henderson is a contender for the armband (sadly). Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli are two more certainties, but central midfield is a problem position for England. It is a mystery to us all that Jake Livermore is a squad regular but that’s where we are now, and if it’s between him and Jack Cork I suspect the WBA man will get the nod. Harry Winks has also played himself into contention by showing a composure that defies his years, and the fact that he won’t just pass the ball sideways is tremendously useful. Provided Adam Lallana makes a full recovery his spot in the squad is essential, not just because he is genuinely creative but he’s a much better option than Jesse Lingard. Jack Wilshere can’t get a game for Arsenal and Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a fantastic debut, but I wouldn’t say it was enough to guarantee a World Cup place. Not yet anyway.
Harry Kane is an obvious choice, he is another contender for the captain’s armband. Marcus Rashford is a similarly easy pick, one of the better England prospects at the moment and getting regular game time both on the wing and up front. Jamie Vardy is another safe bet, so there is really only one place to fill. Daniel Sturridge seems to have been forgotten about, whilst Jermain Defoe worked so hard to get back into the squad but now can’t nail down a place in the Bournemouth team. Let’s not even get started on Theo Walcott. Tammy Abraham has the shirt at the moment so I guess it is his to lose, with Sturridge the most likely to depose him. I would advocate taking a target man as an extra option, but it seems extremely unlikely that we’ll do that.
There’s always at least four reserves, one for each position, which at a guess will be Tom Heaton, Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard and Tammy Abraham.
That’s my logical 23 as it stands, but there’s definitely some room for changes. For example, I think we might have a defender too many in there so I’d sacrifice Michael Keane for another attacking option, maybe even Ashley Young who is still England’s best crosser of a football and seems to be playing as a wingback/full back at the moment. I guess if you included Young you could make an argument for not taking Bertrand or Trippier, but Bertrand in particular has experience playing as a centre half which could be useful and another reason to leave out Keane. There’s no doubt Loftus-Cheek was impressive on his debut on Friday, but we need to see a lot more from him in a Crystal Palace shirt. It seems these days the squad is picked on how they performed when an Under 21 (or other age group level) rather than their club form. Danny Drinkwater is a name we haven’t mentioned so far, if he can hold down a regular place in the Chelsea team he can replace Jake Livermore, but that’s easier said than done and I think that ship has probably sailed. There’s no doubt that any English striker who scores goals between now and May should be considered, I’d say there is one spot up for grabs and I can’t make a convincing argument why anybody should get it right now. Loftus-Cheek has played as a striker on occasion so I guess Southgate could make it very easy for himself and select him on that proviso.
That’s what I think anway, but what do you think? Get in contact with us.
Back next week with a proper team. Toodles.