England World Cup Squad: Who’s on the plane?

After the recent tranche of international friendlies, RealSport look at who will be heading to Russia for the Three Lions come summer.

by Jon Mackenzie

A win against the Netherlands and an oh-so-close win that became a draw against Italy will have left Gareth Southgate feeling mixed about the recent international break.

Had the VAR not recommended that Deniz Aytekin review the penalty decision that gave the Azzurri the equaliser, then England fans’ euphoria might have reached dangerous levels.

With only two friendlies between Nigeria and Costa Rica remaining before the World Cup kicks off in June, Southgate will now have a fairly good idea of who will be getting on the plane in the summer, who will be still nervously waiting a decision and who is definitely out of the picture.

Here are RealSport’s picks for each section:

Goalkeepers

On the plane

It seems as though the battle for number one is between Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland. Both have performed well for the national team throughout World Cup qualification, with Pickford playing slightly more than Butland due to the Stoke goalkeeper’s on-going injury problems. 

Pickford is the shorter keeper, has the edge in terms of distribution and is better with his feet. However, Butland’s extra five inches of height makes him more assured in the box. 

With so little to decide between them, it will probably come down to whichever Southgate feels fits his system which, given his attempt to get England playing passing football, is probably the Everton goalkeeper. Both of them will be on the plane though.

Nervously waiting

For the final slot, the decision is between the experienced but out-of-form Joe Hart and the inexperienced but in-form Nick Pope. While the mind says Pope should be given the nod ahead of Hart, the third goalkeeper isn’t simply picked on purely game-playing ability and so Southgate might choose Hart as a good influence in the squad.

Out of the picture

With Tom Heaton injured for most of the season, Fraser Forster dropping off a cliff in terms of his form and Angus Gunn only included in previous squads to give him experience of the national set-up, don’t expect to see any of them in the squad come June.

Defenders

On the plane

Given Gareth Southgate looks to be adopting a back three for the World Cup, the lack of centre backs available will be worrying for him. Kyle Walker has been deputising admirably alongside John Stones, it is likely both will be on the plane despite Stones’ shakiness since returning from injury in the second half of the season.

With another centre back essential for the set-up, expect to see Harry Maguire featuring in the squad. He has performed well both internationally and domestically since moving to Leicester from Hull City in the summer.

As for the full back/wing back position, only Kieran Trippier seems to have done enough in recent months to guarantee his place.

Nervously waiting

If Trippier is to play on the right-hand side of the defence and Southgate needing cover in the central defensive areas, Joe Gomez is likely to be favoured given his ability to feature in either position.

On the other side, the question is whether to take Ashley Young over Ryan Bertrand. Although Bertrand was preferred earlier in the qualification period, Young has been brought in to cover him in recent months and has performed admirably. 

If Danny Rose is favourite for the left-sided wing back position, which seems logical, then the question is who will be the better back-up for him. With Ashley Young’s flexibility to be able to play in any position along the right or left, he could be included to Bertrand’s loss.

Including Gomez as a centre back, then England will need one more centre back going into the tournament. In spite of his nervous performance, James Tarkowski will probably get the nod ahead of the other options.

Out of the picture

The old guard seem to be passing. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill have gradually been phased out. Alfie Mawson and Ben Gibson have yet to start, and Michael Keane has disappointed since going to Everton. Nathaniel Clyne has been injured too much in the present season to hope for his inclusion.

Midfielders

 On the plane

In light of the fact that England have few options in the number 6 position, it seems obvious that Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier will both be on the plane. Given Dier’s ability to play in the centre back position, his inclusion will give greater depth in that position.

Alongside these two, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seems the obvious inclusion. He has been an important figure in the current international break and has acquitted himself well as a number 8.

As for number 10s, England are lucky to have a couple of promising candidates in Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard. With Lingard being in form, he has been preferred in recent months but, Alli will offer a good option off the bench.

Waiting nervously

Backing up Oxlade-Chamberlain, the decision is between Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Cook and Jake Livermore

With Loftus-Cheek returning from injury, he will be the favoured back-up. Cook only made his debut against Italy on Tuesday so you would expect him to be at the bottom of the list. However, Livermore has repeatedly failed to impress in the number 8 position so it could go either way.

Coming in behind Alli and Lingard, Adam Lallana is hard to call. He does offer a level of creativity that the other two perhaps lack. The other option – although it is increasingly looking like a pipedream – Jack Wilshere will remain in the frame until he is definitely declared unavailable.

Out of the picture

Although he performed well when he was covering for Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele in the Spurs midfield, Harry Winks has looked shaky and struggled for inclusion domestically since both have returned. Fabian Delph, important for Manchester City, has been playing as a full back and so it will be unlikely to see him appear in the squad on that basis. Neiher Jack Cork nor Nathaniel Chalobah have had enough time to justify their inclusion.

Strikers

On the plane

This is probably the easiest area to talk about with any certainty. Harry Kane is an obvious inclusion and he will be be backed up by Jamie Vardy who showed on Tuesday why he is an important piece in the England puzzle.

In the wide forward areas, both Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are dead certs, leaving the only question: who will take up the final fifth spot? 

Nervously waiting

The options are sparse: Danny Welbeck, Tammy Abraham and Daniel Sturridge. Given the fact that Sturridge is a liability when it comes to injuries, Welbeck is the obvious candidate, being the highest scorer at international level in the squad. Abraham is still young and raw and so, unfortunately for him, it probably going to be left at home.

Out of the picture

Jermain Defoe has dropped out of favour and Dominic Solanke is doing well in the U21 set-up, so neither will be included in the World Cup squad.

Projected squad

GK: Butland, Hart, Pickford

DF: Bertrand, Gomez, Maguire, Stones, Tarkowski, Trippier, Walker, Young

MF: Alli, Dier, Henderson, Lingard, Loftus-Cheek, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana

FWD: Kane, Rashford, Sterling, Vardy, Welbeck

Agree with our selections? Let us know by commenting below.



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Jon Mackenzie

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