Liverpool confirmed yesterday the unsurprising news that young England defender Joe Gomez will miss the World Cup. Gomez was injured playing for England back in March and has never looked like shaking off the problem so after a season of progress the young central defender can look forward to a long career for club and country but not the Champions League final or the trip to Russia.
Back in March I reported 19 players had booked their place in the England squad but that number has been reduced to 17 following the injuries to Liverpool duo Gomez & Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and now Gareth Southgate needs to make some late calls before confirming his final squad for the finals.
So who’s in?
The 17 pretty much guaranteed a place are:
Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Joe Hart
Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young, Danny Rose
John Stones, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire
Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier
Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard
Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy
So which spots are up for grabs?
At least one more centre-back and either a second centre-back or a right-back depending on if Kyle Walker is considered a permanent member of the back 3.
Then England require 2 central midfielders at least one of whom needs to be more attack minded to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain, 1 attacking midfielder and the next best player available- preferably a winger or striker.
Who’s in the frame?
In defence Southgate is a confirmed fan of Phil Jones but the Manchester United man has been more out than in his club side since the turn of the year raising serious questions about his ability to play a tournament whilst new cap James Tarkowski has seen a tail-off in form through the run-in. Meanwhile Gary Cahill has regained his first team place at Chelsea and started playing himself back into form. If Walker is set to stay on the right of the back 3 picking just one of the aforementioned centre backs becomes more logical with Eric Dier being the 5th option in central defence and England could seek an extra wing-back- with uncapped Trent Alexander-Arnold the front-runner following his breakout season with Liverpool.
In midfield many have speculated that Oxlade-Chamberlain’s absence could open the door for James Milner to come out of international retirement although there’s no indication Southgate intends to bring Milner back. Jack Wilshere‘s good second half of the season with Arsenal looks to have givne him a strong claim but he isn’t a like for like replacement for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ruben Loftus-Cheek looks a good bet to make it after a fine run of form and has already shown promise at international level. Elsewhere Lewis Cook has done OK with Bournemouth but is quite similar in style to Wilshere and Will Hughes has been excellent for Watford but remains uncapped.
If England do opt for only 4 centre backs plus Dier then more depth will be required in the squad at holding midfielder and that could open the door for Fabian Delph who was picked for both the October and November England squads but missed out through injury. And of course there’s Jake Livermore who continues to squeak into squads but lacks international class whilst Harry Winks’ chances look to have been ended by injury and whilst Jonjo Shelvey has plenty of fans Southgate doesn’t appear to be one of them.
For the final place in the squad England should just look for the best attacking player not already included as a wildcard. Adam Lallana has endured a torrid season with injury and looks likely to miss out whilst Demarai Gray has struggled to find form at Leicester. Danny Welbeck offers experience and versatility and seems favourite to go but I’d prefer to see Southgate offer a glimpse of the team’s future and go for Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, yes he’s inexperienced but having an exciting teenage talent on the bench is always a great asset to have and in the absence of any outstanding alternative I’d go with potential.
So who’ll be the final 6 names in the squad?
Alexander-Arnold, Cahill, Delph, Wilshere, Loftus-Cheek, Welbeck