The Best Team for England’s World Cup 2018 Campaign
This international break is another chance for England to prepare for the upcoming World Cup. England face tough opponents in Germany and Brazil, yet have a weakened squad with key players missing. But if Southgate did have his entire squad fit and available to choose from, which players should be selected?
A 4-3-3 formation could be a successful one for England. Crucially, it is an offensive formation, seeking to eliminate any kind of pedestrian football that Southgate’s team might play with a more defensive formation. With three attackers, this places the priority on getting bodies forward and occupying defenders. Furthermore, fullbacks are able to push forward and overlap if necessary, looking to turn over possession and attack where possible. However, this is a formation that can become more defensive, with the two wide attackers tracking back, and with the potential for two defensive midfielders.
Southgate must trust in younger players, and so he should select Jordan Pickford. Even though he, like fellow English goalkeepers Joe Hart and Jack Butland, has not had the greatest of seasons so far domestically. There is a lot of merit in choosing Pickford whose strength lies in strong shot-stopping abilities. However, he has conceded 22 goals in the Premier League. A goalkeeper can be judged on his goals conceded and his clean sheets, but often it is the defence he works with that helps underpin these statistics. Everton are having a rather torrid time and it is not surprising that Pickford has not shone as he might do.
Kyle Walker should start at right-back, with the pace to bomb forward and recover if needed. His attacking intent is important in the England side, providing an outlet out wide. Similarly, with Danny Rose at left-back, these two could be deployed as wingbacks, able to keep opposing defences pinned back. In addition, they are both competent defenders when called upon, able to mark and defend against some of the best players in the game.
England have struggled to find a decent centre-back pairing. A combination of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones is the best fit, providing strength and simplicity. Neither centre-back is fantastic on the ball, yet they are both capable defenders, able to play to a simple game. So long as they perform their limited roles when they receive the ball, they will be enough to hold up the defence.
The midfield three may vary depending on the needs of the match. A balanced three would include Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli. The crucial player would be Dier, able to pivot back into defence when the fullbacks flood forward, anchoring the defence when necessary. On his day, he is able to patrol the midfield, winning back possession and distribute the ball. He even has a decent freekick in his locker, notably scoring in a friendly against Germany.
Jordan Henderson is another capable midfielder. He is a hard-working player, able to carry out any defensive duties, but also able to distribute the ball well. He could supplement Dele well, covering him when he is attacking. Dele is a player that is better when free to roam, making runs beyond the striker. Thus, having Henderson further back, able to find his team-mate with well weighted passes could be a successful combination.
Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford would form a formidable front three. Overall, there is pace on the wings, strength in the middle, and goals throughout. There is no debate who should start centrally, with Kane easily the best English striker available. His goals have been flooding in over the past three seasons despite injuries. Even for England, he has taken his tally to 12 goals in 23 matches. But, he is assisted with the goalscoring, with Sterling contributing with seven for Manchester City’s cause.
Rashford’s record of three goals, three assists is perhaps less inspiring, but he excuses himself through his youthful energy that will be vital to England. Often, he is the spark that ignites England into creating chances, willing to take on defenders. Starting him will give him much needed minutes to develop his game, to gain the confidence to shoulder the burden of scoring goals for club and country.
This starting eleven could well feature at some point for England, either in the international breaks or during the World Cup. However, their selection depends on the extent of the injuries to the likes of Harry Kane, but also the form of certain players. As a collective group of players, the team is a strong enough one to compete against the best teams. However, the exciting attacking front three will have to make up for the potentially shaky defence. In the midfield, there are quite a few options, but keeping a good balance and utilising Dier as an anchor could help to steady the defence, whilst link with the attackers.