England squad: Alexander-Arnold, Maguire and Southgate’s key World Cup questions

England played their last game before the World Cup in November and before Gareth Southgate named their squad in October.

He can and will pick 26 players, although he said: “I don’t think it’s an ideal number.”

And as his decisions in the 1-0 defeat by Italy and 3-3 draw with Germany show, many of them are automatically chosen for him if they are fit.

It leaves other questions for him to answer as he turns a list of perhaps 35 candidates into his final 26.

What is the goaltender pecking order?

Monday might have been a good night for Aaron Ramsdale. Nick Pope had to audition in two games to become Jordan Pickford’s second-in-command, but his unconvincing kicking posed a problem even before a late error by Kai Havertz gave Germany the equalizer. Ramsdale could now be second in line if Pickford returns, while there is speculation Dean Henderson will be the outsider.

Nick Pope made a crucial mistake against Germany


Is he leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold out?

Southgate has ducked decisions by picking all four right-backs in different squads. But when there is a separate debate on whether Liverpool’s chief creator should be the first choice for his country, it becomes increasingly clear that he is fourth in his manager’s thinking. And while Kyle Walker is really one of the central defenders in a 3-4-3 formation, Reece James and Kieran Trippier are both ahead of Alexander-Arnold. Southgate could argue that he’s giving one of the extra spots in his squad to someone who has a greater chance of playing. He increasingly seems unafraid of criticism for sidelined Alexander-Arnold.

Trent Alexander-Arnold remains fourth-choice right-back


Does he take Ben Chilwell?

Because if so, then Trippier will likely play less on the left and Alexander-Arnold, in turn, will need less. The likelihood is Southgate was disappointed Chelsea signed Marc Cucurella, limiting Chilwell’s chances of playing at club level. But the combination of Bukayo Saka’s awkward night at left-back in Milan and Luke Shaw’s fine performance against Germany, which could propel him into the starting XI and then require an equivalent replacement, suggests Chilwell is headed for Qatar.

Jack Grealish and Ben Chilwell during a recent training session

(PA wire)

Who are his backup centre-backs?

All indications are that four names are inked – John Stones (assuming his hamstring injury isn’t too serious), Harry Maguire (whatever his critics may think), a resurgent Eric Dier (who has started both games since his recall) and Walker.

That probably leaves two points. None of Conor Coady, Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori were given a minute during the two September games. Coady – England’s Euro 2020 player without playing according to Steve Holland – has a reputation as a good tourist but Dier’s ability to play in the center and right flank of the three could make him redundant. England have the least convincing decisions on the left, Maguire’s role where Guehi and Tomori could compete for a position in the squad.

Tyrone Mings could return left-footed; James Tarkowski, who excels at left flank for Everton, may be too low down the pecking order. That Ben White would prefer to play center or right might work against him, although he’s in Southgate’s mind.

Gareth Southgate talks to Eric Dier and Harry Maguire at Spurs’ training ground


Should he choose a semi-fit Kalvin Phillips?

Southgate shows loyalty to those who have represented him in the past and a 26-man squad gives him greater opportunity to do so. He was credited for picking Maguire when he was unfit to start Euro 2020, although Jordan Henderson, who wasn’t either, never regained his best form this summer.

Phillips was a beneficiary in a tournament back when he excelled. But he could pose the biggest gamble now: with just 13 minutes of football all season, shoulder surgery and missing friendlies before the World Cup to get him back in shape.

James Ward-Prowse missed the final cut for Euro 2020; Now his chances of avoiding a similar disappointment could depend on Southgate signing five central midfielders. It makes more sense to follow a safety policy in numbers when one of the top four is an injury doubt.

Gareth Southgate could do without Kalvin Phillips at the World Cup


Is Jude Bellingham a starter?

Bellingham was England’s September Player of the Year. Injuries to Phillips and Henderson might have created an opening, but he took advantage of it. And while Southgate prefers to have two central midfielders behind the ball, the Borussia Dortmund teenager adds another dimension. It will probably start in November. There’s an outside chance that could help Conor Gallagher if Southgate then wants another attacking central midfielder to cover Bellingham.

Is Mason Mount a beginner?

Mount’s equalizer against Germany was his first international goal in 18 months. A starter in the final of Euro 2020 and Chelsea’s player of the year in consecutive seasons, he has nonetheless been overtaken by some of England’s other options on the flanks. Favoring 3-4-3 over 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 takes out one of his possible positions, even if it’s a formation Chelsea play often. For now, Mount can be considered an impact replacement.

Jude Bellingham impressed in both games during the last international break


Is it too late for Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho?

The answer could be different for each couple. Southgate said on Monday: “We’d be stupid not to be receptive, especially with players who know us and can fit in comfortably.” If that’s true of both of the Manchester United duo, Rashford may have two advantages: He has more Experience and credit on the bench for Southgate’s England and he can act as both a winger and a third attacking option. All of this could make Jarrod Bowen fallible after his poor start to the season.

As it stands, Southgate will likely take six players who can act as wingers, although some are versatile and each can play more if playing a back four. But Sancho could be seventh or eighth in line for either of those spots.

Who is Harry Kane’s deputy?

Neither Tammy Abraham nor Ivan Toney got a minute against Italy or Germany, which was even more concerning for the uncapped Brentford man. The reality is that no one has secured the role as understudy captain for several years and Southgate said: “There are some really close calls.” Club form could still be crucial. That might give hope to Ollie Watkins or even Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but for now it seems Abraham is the slight favorite.

Harry Kane’s support is unclear just two months before the World Cup

(The FA/Getty)

Gareth Southgate’s possible squad

goalkeeper: Pickford, Ramsdale, Pope

defender: Walker, Stones, Maguire, Dier, Coady, Guehi

full-back: James, Trippier, Shaw, Chilwell

midfield player: Reis, Henderson, Bellingham, Phillips, Ward-Prowse

Attacking midfielder: Sterling, Foden, Grealish, Mount, Saka, Rashford

striker: Kane, Abraham

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/england-world-cup-squad-southgate-maguire-b2176367.html England squad: Alexander-Arnold, Maguire and Southgate’s key World Cup questions

Fry Electronics Team

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