England’s new riddle in the middle. Regardless of formation England need to improve in central midfield, England need a holding player (Dier) and a more attack minded partner. The problem is the lack of outstanding options, back in 2006 England had Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, Hargreaves & Jenas, any of whom would now be first name on the team. Now we have promising youngsters not quite ready, veterans in their twilight and injury prone players who should be in there prime, time are tough.
- (1) Eric Dier– Still not in his best form and needs a more forward thinking partner in England’s midfield. But the one player on this list nailed on for Russia.
- (8) Harry Winks- It’s damming with faint praise to say he’s the biggest winner from England’s last 2 games. But Winks provides the more attacking option that England otherwise lack. Level headed and hard working and playing for the best developer of young talent in the league, the only issue with Winks is his inexperience and he faces tough competition for a start at Tottenham.
- (2) Jordan Henderson– Awful for England since the start of the season, I suspect Henderson isn’t the shoe-in many think, unless his Liverpool form improves. The problem with Henderson is he lacks the positional discipline to be a holding midfielder or the passing range to be a deep lying playmaker he’s a jack of all trades and master of none, if others get their form and fitness together I think Henderson will miss the boat (or more specifically plane.)
- (12) Fabian Delph- Having got back in The City team and Pep’s good books for his ‘kindness’ an England recall became inevitable as was him going down injured. But if he retains his club form he will get his 10th cap next month. Delph won’t solve England’s creative void but he might provide an alternative to Dier screening the defence.
- (3) Jack Wilshere- Hasn’t started a Premier League game this season and widely linked with a recall- a sentence that perfectly sums up Wilshere’s career. He has at least put his worst injury problems behind him (touch wood) and his Europa League form is a reminder of his undoubted talent, but he needs games to get back in the England set up, his flat performances at Euro 2016 were a reminder of the risks of taking an undercooked Wilshere even when he isn’t injured.
- (6) Nathaniel Chalobah– Would have got his debut last week were it not for a badly timed injury that will keep him out until New Year. That means Chalobah will only have the 2 spring internationals to make his case for the World Cup. A favourite of Southgate from the under 21s Chalobah remains in contention for the plan b holding midfielder for when Dier picks up the inevitable suspension.
- (4) Jake Livermore- ‘We can consider this season a failure for young English midfielders if Livermore is still 4th on this list in May’ I said in August, an by the reckoning things are improving. Livermore has struggled to find his best form at West Brom and didn’t play a minute last week in a squad with only 4 central midfielders, still has 5 caps to tell his grandchildren about.
- (13) Danny Drinkwater- If Wilshere can’t get a run at Arsenal Drinkwater will be the passing midfielder England will need to look at. Drinkwater’s skill set is a good fit for Chelsea, the problem is he needs to displace at least one of Kante, Bakayoko or Fabregas. I suspect Drinkwater will get his chance once the schedule starts to bite so I doubt he’ll be in England contention in November, March however…
- (5) James Ward-Prowse- A neat and tidy player who could upgrade England’s options at set pieces, lost his place at Southampton to Mario Lemina, he needs to force his way back in at Southampton to rekindle his England chances.
- (7) Tom Davies– Had a great breakout season last term, now in the maelstrom of chaos that is Everton’s midfield. He’s playing far better than Morgan Schniederlin but we’ll need to see where the pieces fall when the chopping and changing finishes at Goodison. For now he’s a regular in a fine Under 21 side.
- (11) Ruben Loftus-Cheek- The tallest hobbit in the Shire of Crystal Palace. Loftus-Cheek is getting plenty of game time in a rotten side and will likely stay with the Under 21s until after the World Cup.
- (NE) Jonjo Shelvey– Chris Waddle thinks he should be, there again he also thought a mullet looked good for almost a decade. He does have a fine passing range but discipline is a major issue. Needs a great season and no more red cards- the later half of that looks the bigger challenge.
- (10) Lewis Cook- A World Cup winning captain but not yet a regular for Bournemouth. A huge talent and if he gets a regular game a contender for the midfield linkman role. His time will come but not yet.
- (14) Michael Carrick- He’s 36 but is ‘guaranteed to get a mention every time England or Man Utd fail to pass the ball well’ was my opinion in August, but he needs to get back in the Manchester United team first to remind his many fans in the press of his merits.
- (NE) Tom Carroll– a tidy player playing well but under the radar at Swansea. Good but not necessarily better than Henderson.
Dropping off the chart: Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes