Gareth Southgate has announced his squad for this summer’s FIFA World Cup with Jack Butland, Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard amongst those included.
There is a mix of youth and experience throughout the squad so has Southgate selected the right squad to take us deep into the World Cup?
Here, I reflect on the squad selection and ponder where Southgate could of fared better in terms of selection.
Although inexperienced with only nine caps between them compared to Joe Hart’s 75, this is a great selection of goalkeepers.
Jack Butland made the most saves in the Premier League this season so it wouldn’t be justifiable to not take him to Russia.
Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope both deserve their places on the plan alongside Butland because they are exceptional shot stoppers, even if Pickford made less saves in the league this season compared to last.
Pope meanwhile might seem a surprise pick to many people due to no international experience, but he has been brilliant in knocking ex England international – Tom Heaton off his no.1 perch at Burnley.
Add in the fact that he made just one less save than Manchester United’s David de Gea, totalling 114 and Hart couldn’t even muster up half of that number makes it clear why the former Charlton player has earned his place in Russia.
I have to admit that Hart’s absence is slightly worrying given his superior experience but if there are any Englishmen capable of stepping up and replacing him, its these three.
Southgate has clearly gone for a solid defence but the most surprising inclusion has to be Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The 19 year-old has never played for the senior team before so is a huge risk, despite having already faced the likes of AS Roma and Manchester City this season and coping brilliantly with the pressure.
I am however concerned about the decision to take only two left-backs, compared to three on the right.
Danny Rose has barely played this season after various injuries and Ashley Young is approaching his twilight years, but will bring valuable experience with him.
In order to balance the defensive areas, I would drop Jones because to me, he doesn’t seem like a strong defender and bring in Ryan Sessegnon as extra cover for the left-back role.
At just 19 years-old, Sessegnon has impressed for Fulham with his energy and creativity down the left, creating seven chances and scoring ten for the Cottagers this season.
Another bonus is that Sessegnon is capable of fulfilling any role down that left flank, most often deployed as a forward left or left-back.
Other than that, the central defence selection is a decent mix of experience so should hopefully help us to at least two clean sheets during the tournament.
This midfield is a decent bunch but where is the creativity going to come from?
Should Southgate go for a 4-3-3 formation, I can’t see any real chances coming from down the flanks, which is where Sessegnon would be particularly useful, if the ex Middlesbrough manager had the bottle to take a risk.
Sterling and Lingard can probably be utilised higher up the flank but that would leave one holding midfielder to start creating the chances, whilst holding the ball in middle of the pitch.
I am personally struggling to see why he has taken four central midfielders, of which three are pretty much defensive (Delph, Dier and Loftus Cheek) when could easily of taken Marc Albrighton, who has made the second most assists of all English players in Premier League this season.
Having Albrighton available would also of allowed Alli and Lingard to play in central attack.
In summary, a good selection but creativity is my biggest worry because can’t see much creativity coming from central midfield – apart from Henderson.
This forward line-up is vastly different to that of four years ago with Danny Welbeck the only survivor from that selection.
In terms of age, we have a decent lineup with Jamie Vardy bringing the experience whilst Harry Kane and Danny Welbeck are reaching their peak years as Marcus Rashford continues his rise.
Kane definitely will be a strong threat when on the attack, having improved every season, and is prepared to play assistant to benefit the team whenever necessary rather than chase the goals.
Vardy and Rashford are strong substitutes who will provide great cover, should Kane get injured.
Another bonus is that the pair are also capable of playing on the flanks alongside Kane if needed to push for the win.
Danny Welbeck, despite being injury prone has been in decent form lately so just about justifies his place, although I don’t see him getting much game time unless any of the others pick up a knock.
Strong squad but questions remain
This is definitely a great squad with a nice mix of experience and youth but some questions remain.
Midfield is a bit baffling for me because aside from Alli, Henderson, Lingard and Sterling, I don’t really where the creativity is going to come from.
I am actually starting to wonder if not selecting Ryan Sessegnon will be their undoing when it comes to energy and creativity, particularly down the left flank.
Overall, we should at least get out of the group but depending on our last 16 opponents, the Quarter-Finals would be our best bet before exiting.