So following on from Paul’s final 23, here are my picks to go to the 2018 world cup finals in Russia next month, Gareth Southgate finalises his squad tomorrow and i’m fairly sure it will look a fair bit different to mine!
So first up the keepers;
Not a position we are exactly blessed in right now, but the three I have selected below are all capable of doing a good job for England in next month’s showpiece.
Jordan Pickford – He would be my choice to start in the first game against Tunisia, had a decent season with Everton culminating with him winning their player of the season award, good with his feet, and a decent shotstopper.
Jack Butland – A decent goalkeeper who despite having a difficult season with relegated Stoke City, should have done himself enough to earn a place in the squad, most likely as second choice behind the aforementioned Pickford.
Nick Pope – Had an absolutely brilliant season with Burnley, and in terms of stats, has been the best English keeper by some distance, have picked him ahead of the more experienced Joe Hart, as is in much better form, and this trumps experience for me, you need to send 23 players in at least some sort of form.
Now on to the defenders;
Just as with every position in the England squad, a rather alarming lack of depth is our Achilles heel, particularly in the centre of defence, so often in the past a position of strength, now really having to make do with promising youngsters and decent if not top class Premier League operators.
Kieran Trippier – Had a solid if unspectacular season with Spurs, an excellent crosser of the ball who is always willing to get forward, and does offer England real threat with this crossing delivery, weakness would be that he tends to be defensively massively exposed when coming up against real pace and quality, as Leroy Sane has shown twice this season for Man City.
Trent Alexander Arnold – A real breakout season with Liverpool, been a regular for his club side particularly in the latter part of the season, and like Tripper above, will be a real threat for the three lions going froward, alas also like Tripper his weakness is on the defensive side of his game, really struggles in the second leg of the champions league semi-final against Roma.
Kyle Walker – One of the first names on the team sheet, the only decision to make will be whether he lines up at right back or right centre back, which is where Southgate played him in the friendly against The Netherlands recently. Has been consistently excellent for Man City this season, as well as the previous few seasons with Spurs that preceded it. A pacey powerhouse, good going forward and defensively, with the only real weakness the odd lapse in concentration, which he has markedly improved on in the last couple of years.
Danny Rose – An injury hit season has left his world cup dream in some doubt, however his searing pace and his generally decent defending would see him on that plane in my opinion. Has played enough football to mean he should be match fit, and could maybe come into this tournament feeling fresh.
Ryan Bertrand – Solid if unspectacular choice, but a player who will never let England down, and has a decent season despite playing for a club fighting relegation. Adept going forward, with a good delivery on his crosses, only suffering a little on the defensive side like most of the players mentioned above!
Phil Jones – An Injury ravaged player, but he has managed to play fairly consistently under Jose Mourinho this past season, and has given pretty assured performances when picked. Big, strong, good on the ball and a natural born leader, these are qualities Southgate needs in Russia, and if Jones can manage to stay fit.
Harry Maguire – Coming off the back of A great season with his club Leicester City, Maguire deserves to be in this squad, and quite possibly to start the first game against Tunisia. A real unit, very good in the air, and also capable on the ball, just a worry about his lack of pace against the really top teams.
John Stones – Started the season off so well for the champions, unfortunately injury and a slight drop in form meant that after the turn of the year, Stones has found it difficult to force his way into Pep Guardiola’s plans. Still a classy operator who is probably one of the best ball playing centre backs anywhere in Europe, however a penchant for making silly errors is something he has yet to eradicate from his game.
Next up then, we move onto the midfield;
To be honest this is probably the weakest area we have in terms of real quality, especially in lacking that real start quality in terms of a ball playing central midfielder, a real shame in that Spurs Harry Winks has had the second half of his season totally ruined by an ankle problem, meaning he will almost certainly miss the World Cup.
Eric Dier – Still yet to find his best position, been rotated between centre back and centre midfield for both club and country in the last few years, I would say he looks at his best within a 3 man central defence, or as a destroyer in the centre of the park. Dier possesses a decent range of passing, and is strong in the tackle, however can be ponderous in possession at times and his positional sense needs work when operating at the back.
Ryan Sessegnon – My wildcard pick for the tournament, had an unbelievable season in the championship with Fulham, and looks like he could be the next Gareth Bale in terms of pace and power, and a knack of scoring brilliant goals. only 17, but can play anywhere on the left hand side, and with lack of options in that position for England, might be worth a punt.
Jack Wilshere – At the time of writing it looks like Wilshere will not be going to this summer’s showpiece, with early reports suggesting he has already been told of his omission. I believe this to be an incorrect decision (and this coming from a Spurs fan!) Despite his well documented injury problems, he has the ability in that midfield area, that few others eligible to play for England possess, i.e picking a pass from that deeper lying central midfield position, a loss of form in the second part of the season llook to have curtailed his hopes, but I would have picked him in my 23, if not necessarily starting.
Jesse Lingard – Had a great season with Manchester Utd, scoring important goals, and always looking like a threat in and around the opposition penalty area. Has come on leaps and bounds this season, and could well find himself in the starting lineup come June 18th.
Dele Alli – Has been I think unfairly criticised far too much this season, a lot of this stems from the quality he has shown in the preceding two seasons, however he has still returned an impressive goals and assists tally in all competitions, and if he and Kane can link up for country as they do for club so well, this could be a potent weapon for England in the tournament.
Ruben Loftus Cheek – A brilliant man of the match display for England in a friendly with world champions Germany at the end of 2017 really laid down a marker, despite suffering a substantial period out due to injury, he has come back with a bang and been an integral part of Crystal Palace’s massive upturn in form in the latter part of the season.
Jordan Henderson – A possibility to be captain this summer, fighting it out with Kane, Henderson has had a very good season with Liverpool, and is likely to be one of the first names on Southgate’s teamsheet. A real leader with a unheralded decent range of passing, he will likely be an integral part should England manage to go far.
Jonjo Shelvey – A player very unlikely to be picked, as has not been considered by Gareth Southgate in any of his previous squads, however he is the real in form player in that central midfield right now, not just out of England qualified players but in all of the Premier League. A great range of long and short passing, and a decent engine, with a questionable disciplinary record and lack of positional sense likely to count against him, I however think that an in form player like this would be perfect against Tunisia and Panama, in terms of unlocking tightly packed defenses.
And finally the forwards;
We actually get to a part of the team where England are actually pretty well stocked with top quality talent! It’s unbelievable stuff here Jeff;
Raheem Sterling – This player has had a quite frankly brilliant season for the champions Manchester City, scoring 18 premier league goals, by far his best return, and also registering a decent number of assists. Good to see a player finally fulfilling his undoubted potential, and could form part of a high quality England attack.
Marcus Rashford – A player who can find himself a little hard done by throughout the course of the season, a great young talent with a knack for scoring important goals, like the two he registered against Liverpool, has the misfortune of playing under the perennial ‘young player killer’ in old Jose. Could still be a very important cog in this England team.
Jamie Vardy – Another player coming off the back of a very good season with his club, where he registered an impressive 20 premier league goals. Could be a real potent weapon coming off the bench, with that explosive pace and quality finishing.
Harry Kane – The undisputed leader of the England attack, and for me, the number one choice for the captains armband. Has had another remarkable season in front of goal, registering 40 in all competitions, this put’s him in the exulted company of Messi and Ronaldo, if England are to do well, Kane will need to fire, and if this happens, he could be adding a World Cup golden boot to his ever growing list of personal achievements.
So there we go, my squad in all it’s spirit of 66 glory; my England prediction is to get to the quarter finals, and probably lose on penalties, although after the shambles of the last two major tournaments, I think that would be a good result!