England are one of the most intriguing teams going into the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Over the past few years many talents have come through the ranks, earning their place for club and for country. Thus, England manager Gareth Southgate will have a headache picking his 23-man squad for Qatar, with at least 35 players in consideration.
Fans and pundits alike are already pondering who should be on the plane in November. So I thought it would be interesting to pick my squad. My decisions are based on several factors, including current and past performances for club and country and how well they fit into the current England system. Obviously there are several months inbetween now and the World Cup, so I expect some things to change.
Based on Southgate’s preferring the 3-4-3 formation, I am opting for three goalkeepers, nine defenders, six midfielders and five forwards in this 23-man-squad.
Jordan Pickford – Despite Everton’s current crisis in the Premier League, Pickford has been fantastic whenever he represents England. He has been okay at Everton too, although has a mistake in him. Pickford has 43 caps for a reason and he was proven his worth, providing crucial saves constantly while showing true passion whenever he represents his country. Being England’s number one goalkeeper and being experienced in the side, this is a no-brainer.Embed from Getty Images
Aaron Ramsdale – Bernd Leno was not long ago Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper. However, Ramsdale has been massively influential to the Gunners this season! Experiencing two relegations in a row from the Premier League with AFC Bournemouth and Sheffield United respectively have spurrred the young keeper on. He now looks like a mature goalkeeper with plenty of space to still grow. While I doubt he will play (although if Pickford remains at Everton and if they are relegated, there’s a chance), he has to be on the plane to Qatar.
Nick Pope – For several years, Pope has been one of Burnley’s star players. This season is no different, and he could be the difference between survivial and relgation in the Premier League. Granted, its very unlikely he will play a World Cup game, but it is good to have him in the squad in case because he’s an experienced keeper who has helped his club numerous times.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – Not a single person can say he doesn’t deserve a spot here. With Southgate opting for three centre-backs, Alexander-Arnold could have the license to play in a way that takes advantage of his skillset. He can be higher up the pitch in attacking scenarios, delivering killer crosses into the box. In defence, he can sit back as a member of the five-man defensive line. The Liverpool-born player can also defend well, despite certain opinions, so will be an integral asset for Southgate’s side. He is also a great set-piece taker!
Reece James – Alexander-Arnold and James are somewhat similar players in the way they like to stay high and attack when the opportunity arises, creating for team mates. James must go because he will provide healthy competition and rotation for Alexander-Arnold. The Chelsea man started the season fantastically for Chelsea before picking up a hamstring injury. However he is back now and I expect him to return to his best. On the contrary, perhaps James a right-side centre-back could work?
Kyle Walker – Walker has been reliable as a right-sided centre-back under Southgate. His pace and defensive expertise have helped England many times, especially in the recent Euros campaign. He is a highly experienced and versatile player who should have no problem getting into Southgate’s starting 11, let alone squad.Embed from Getty Images
Ben Chilwell – Despite his season-ending ACL injury, Chilwell should travel to Qatar in December. Chilwell was establishing himself as one of Chelsea’s top talents just before his unfortunate injury, so I expect him to pick up where he left off on his return. Just like the other full-backs here, Chilwell would be fantastic and providing service for England’s forwards and can defend when the opposition have possession. As long as he starts next season positively Chilwell should have no problem getting into the squad.
Luke Shaw – While he has not had the best time for Manchester United this season, he still plays well for England and effectively fits into the system. I think having three centre-backs behind him benefits Shaw more than just two, as is the case at Man Utd. He has the freedom to play to his strengths (a very common theme with full backs in England) by pushing high up the pitch and being utilised as a forward when Ehngland have possession.
John Stones – Despite not playing so much this season, Stones has always performed for England and often for Manchester City. Then again, when you have Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte wearing the same shirt, it’s always going to be difficult to get game time. Nonetheless, Stones should go due to his defensive quality, ability to deal with pressure and passing ability from being a ball-playing centre back. He will go and he will probably start most of England’s games.
Fikayo Tomori – This should not even be a conversation; Tomori must go to the World Cup. He is arguably the best centre-back in Serie A currently! In the 27 games he’s played so far, he has kept 13 clean sheets and conceded just 0.63 goals per game. He is becoming a world-class centre back and Southgate must take advantage of his obvious talent.Embed from Getty Images
Ben White – When White has been in the Arsenal side, they have only conceded 33 goals in 31 games. Meanwhile, the Gunners have conceded seven in the two Premier League games he hasn’t played. Says it all, right? Well if it doesn’t, his positioning and determination in tackling and recovering the ball should. Similar to Stones, White is very comfortable with the ball at his feet which is massively important with how England play. He can also play in midfield and in a 23-man squad, versality is vital!
Conor Coady – The Wolverhampton Wanderers captain has been integral for Bruno Lage’s side, who have conceded just 29 goals in their 33 games played; Coady has played in every game. As part of a centre-back trio, Coady can fit into the England system pretty effectively, with little adjustment to his positioning and style of play. So, swapping a leader out for another leading just makes sense.
I already hear some people claiming Harry Maguire should be in the squad. However, his constant poor form this season makes me think otherwise, despite past England performances. However, I would be happy to be proven wrong. Maguire should play against Germany and/or Italy in the Nations League, so Southgate can judge his performances against a top team. If he starts next season positively too under incoming Manchester United manager Erik Tan Hag, then I could jusifty swapping Coady out.
Declan Rice – Rice is absolutely one of the first names on the England team sheet, alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. West Ham United’s reliable defensive midfielder has been nothing short of exceptional this season. Very little gets past him due to his strength, aerial ability and dedication to covering ground on the pitch, making him a valuable asset. He is also a leader and is currently West Ham’s vice-captain, with the soon-to-retire Mark Noble currently their skipper. Rice is multi-faceted, being both a capable ball winner and playmaker in one, so he will be important for England
Jordan Henderson – Despite being overshadowed by Rice recently, few can argue that Henderson doesn’t deserve his place amongst the England squad. He is still playing an important role for one of the best sides in club football, regularly starting. Like many of England’s midfielders, Henderson’s work rate is incredible. In defence and attack, he wants the ball but is intelligent enough to pick his moments to tackle and pass wisely, offering the versatility of playing as a defensive or box-to-box midfielder. Alongside Kyle Walker, Henderson has the most experience out of any current England players so must be on the plane.
Jude Bellingham – At just 18 years old, Bellingham has become integral for Borussia Dortmund and has the potential to be a world-class player. Although I say the word ‘potential’, Bellingham is excellent now. He is quickly becoming the precedent for box-to-box midfielders. This is due to his work rate, dribbling ability, fouls drawn and creativity, which has allowed him to earn assists and the occasional goal. Bellingham could start for England in the World Cup, who would be against that?Embed from Getty Images
James Ward-Prowse – While Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips is popular with England fans – due to his sublime displays at Euro 2020 – Ward-Prowse could offer more to the England setup. He offers attacking threat thanks to being one of the best dead ball specialists in world football and contributing a constant high press, in order to win possession for his side. When England play three centre-backs and a defensive midfielder, having a play such as Ward-Prowse – as an alternative to Bellingham – is much more beneficial than another defensive midfielder.
Mason Mount – England have a few highly-talented attacking midfielders, but Mount is the first in line. He’s a very creative player who can get past players to set himself up or a teammate, which is why his record this season is so good. He is one of the players Southgate often looks to when needing a moment of magic. Versatility also plays a significant part in his inclusion. Mount’s prominent position is at the heart of midfield, but he can play on either side. If that’s the case, he can deliver some great crosses into the box, or showcase his prowess on the ball and weave his way to a shot on goal.
Phil Foden – One of England’s hottest prospects. Any player that Pep Guardiola values highly is worth placing in the England squad. Foden keeps on improving for Manchester City and has scored some crucial goals for them, including the recent goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. His ability with the ball is arguably the best of any current English player, so if he has the ball, he is a pivot for attacking opportunities. Foden has yet to show his best work for England, but the World Cup is the perfect chance to impress us all.
Harry Kane – No one is surprised here, surely? One of the best strikers in world football (when at his best), injury is the only thing that could prevent Kane travelling to Qatar. He struggled at the beginning of the current season for Tottenham Hotspur, but his goals never dried up for England. Now that he is back to his best for the North London club, he is likely the first name on Southgate’s team sheet.
Raheem Sterling – Sterling was integral to the England side during Euro 2020. His goals early on proved integral in what was a pretty successful tournament for the Three Lions. He’s shown he can still score goals for club and country but his ability to draw fouls as well as his pace and creativity benefit any team he plays for. Alongside Kane, I expect him to start most games.
Tammy Abraham – Abraham is exceptional; only Lorenzo Pellegrini could be considered as more important to AS Roma at the moment. Under José Mourinho, Abraham is scoring goals for fun is and showing Southgate why he deserves to play at the World Cup. It’s hard to argue with, especially considering the lack of top strikers (aside from Kane) that England have. Also, Abraham offers something very different to Kane unlike other strikers: Dominic Calvert-Lewin for example is too similar and not of the same quality.Embed from Getty Images
Jarrod Bowen – Yes I’m being serious. Bowen is a fantastic right-winger who is also left-footed. He is happy to cut inside and becomes very difficult to mark, which allows him to contribute goals and assists to a high-flying West Ham. Bowen would be very effective in drawing player out of position, allowed Alexander-Arnold or James more space and time on the right flank. Southgate must give Bowen a chance to prove himself. He could be a more worthwhile pick than the likes of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, both of whom have struggled for club and country (especially more recently).
Bukayo Saka – Much like Bowen, Saka is a tricky left-footed winger who has given plenty of teams trouble this season. At just 20, the Arsenal man is progressing wonderfully and will look to make up for his penalty at the Euros, should he get the chance to. Being capable of playing on both wings makes him versatile too. At this rate, Saka must go.
Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Burnley).
Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Reece James (Chelsea), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (A.C Milan), Ben White (Arsenal), Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea).
Midfielders – Declan Rice (West Ham United), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Manchester City).
Forwards – Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Tammy Abraham (A.S. Roma), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal).
Kieran Tripper – Should any of the five full-backs pick up an injury before the World Cup, Trippier is absolutely someone to consider. He has been important for England before and has the ability to be once again. Unfortunately, there is so much quality at right-back that he does not make it into the squad.
Tyrick Mitchell – While perhaps quite young and inexperienced, Mitchell had proven his worth at Crystal Palace this season. At just 22 years old, he is one for the future, but could he be required even earlier? He still has plenty to learn, but is both a good crosser and tackler.
Tyrone Mings – It may be harsh to leave him out of the squad, but can you say that he is better than any of the above centre-backs? He can be a liability due to amount of fouls he concedes and cards he is shown. However, he if a left-footed centre-back, which may give him an advantage in the pecking order.Embed from Getty Images
Kalvin Phillips – A great defensive and ball-winning asset. However, England need a more attacking-minded midfielder in their side, and you cannot say Henderson or Rice deserve to be dropped for Phillips. Also, he needs to get games under his belt to have a chance of making the squad.
James Maddison – Maddison is having the best season of his career, there is no doubt about that. He has been integral to a Leicester City side in the semi-final of the European Conference League. His 14 goals and 9 assists this season (at the time of writing) establish a bold claim that he deserves to be in the squad. If he keeps performing, he has every chance of making it on the plane. If Mason Mount was to pick up an injury and not make the World Cup, Maddison would absolutely go for me as it stands.
Jack Grealish – The former Astom Villa star has struggled in his first season at Manchster City. At Villa, he was the key player; the main man. However, playing in a team that revolves much less around him has resulted in him struggling to perform. He need to prove himself at City, otherwise he doesn’t dserve to be in there squad over Sterling, Foden or Saka.Embed from Getty Images
Ivan Toney – Is there any striker aside from Kane and Abraham who deserves to be in the England squad? Callum Wilson is injury prone; Dominic Calvert-Lewin has struggled with form and injuries this season; Danny Ings has struggled in his first season at Aston Villa and Ollie Watkins is not quite at that level England require. Ivan Toney is the only other striker that could be considered, but does he score enough goals from open play? Yes he is a great penalty-taker, but nobody can doubt Kane in that area of the game.