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Assessing Gareth Southgate's World Cup options

Monday 9th October 2017
Gareth Southgate has some big decisions to make regarding England's squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Who should be aboard the plane?

Is it too early to answer? Probably. But is it too early to be considering? Most definitely not. The World Cup is only eight months away with expectations lower than ever before. Gareth Southgate's England is a dysfunctional side who limped to eight wins and two draws in a group containing relative minnows. They ought to be happy to reach the knockout stages of the upcoming tournament; this is how low the prospects are for this team.
There's a mediocre generation who should've already been shifted, including Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Theo Walcott. These players have seldom been influential. In the case of Cahill, he's the best English centre-back in an average bunch, yet has won six major trophies in the last five years. Clearly, the former Bolton man is doing something right.

No "big players" no chance?

Well, going back through the last fifteen years, sides aplenty have proven to be more successful than England without "big players". So for me, Southgate's comments lack credence. Greece won the European Championships without any squad members playing in the knockout stages in Europe's premier competition (the Champions League) in the previous two seasons. Additionally, eight members of their squad were based outside of Greece; with no prolific or world-renowned stars. South Korea finished 4th in their home World Cup with a side where all but two plied their trade in Asia. Most recently, Iceland knocked out England at the European Championships in 2016. This solidifies my opinion that there is more heartbreak on the horizon.

The big calls

Which keepers should go to Russia? I would take Jack Butland, he's the best all-round Englishman in between the sticks. The 24-year-old hasn't bought into his own hype which keeps his feet firmly on the ground. From his time at Celtic, Fraser Forster showed that he is the best out-and-out shot-stopper England has produced in years. If Southgate takes a third keeper, Tom Heaton should get the nod. The Burnley man is a solid #1 for an improving side. Jordan Pickford has only been playing first-choice football for fifteen months in defensively inept sides, his inexperience may cost England if given the chance. But for Euro 2020, he could be going toe-to-toe with Butland for the #1 jersey.
Who's the best back pairing? Not a single person can tell you because we've not seen any combination function well for 90 minutes. John Stones isn't ready to be a regular starter - he barely plays from the off for his club. But also, his style of play does not suit an England side who are as technically deficient as he is. In every game this campaign, the former Everton man has played too many sloppy passes. Try that against a top-tier side and England will be punished. Personally, I'd opt for Gary Cahill and Phil Jones as the partnership. Both are no-nonsense defenders who are physically imposing. The former Blackburn man has had a renaissance. I thought he was heading into an abyss of obscurity, but, he's established himself as the partner in crime alongside Eric Bailly in Jose Mourinho's Manchester United side.

The formation

The infatuation with the 3-4-3 is farcical, very much because England's players lack the technical capability and discipline to triumph against a good side. To be fair, with a 4-man defence they weren't much better. Whatever formation is deployed, without discipline, the Three Lions will go out in the group stages once more.
Tyrone Chambers

I know most people either love them or hate them but I a massive fan of Manchester United. I'm not afraid to speak the truth. Writing it as it is, bold enough to say it in the way no manager or player could say in public. I write about all things football but I love music as well, both listening and playing, keen drummer.

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