Selection dilemma for Southgate: Who goes to Qatar and who should be dropped?

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With Batou Saidy & Kalipha Jabbi

As the countdown to Qatar 2022 continues, football writers and analysts, Kalipha Jabbi and Batou Saidy weigh the options available for England coach Gareth Southgate amidst selection headache. With England expected to commence their winter adventure in Qatar against Iran at the famous Khalifa International Stadium, the Three Lions’ head coach has some nerve-racking decisions to make, but who makes duo’s 23 man squad for World Cup 2022?

Goalkeepers

Batou: The Three Lions aren’t studded with goalkeepers, so Gareth Southgate might not have that selection headache in the goalkeeping department compared to in-field positions. Jordan Pickford usually starts for them. The Toffee has been featuring for them since Russia 2018. Aaron Ramsdale who has rejuvenated his career with the Gunners and Nick Pope who’s making amendments with the Magpies are both available for call up provided they stay fit, as well as Dean Henderson who starred with Sheffield United two seasons ago, and now with Nottingham Forrest.

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Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope

Karl: Jordan Pickford still remains the undisputed starter for England provided he is able to shake off his injury woes. He is one of the consistent performers in a struggling Everton side and knows his position in the squad is under no threats. Dean Henderson left Manchester United to claim his chances for Qatar but I am not seeing him usurp either Nick Pope or Aaron Ramsdale anytime soon.

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope.

Defenders

Batou: Gareth Southgate has a handful of defenders to pick from, both in the EPL and abroad. Although he has his regulars that he still somewhat shows loyalty to, there are also some others that have proven themselves to break into his team. Fikayo Tomori has won the Scudetto with AC Milan last term and he’s a regular starter for the Italian Champions. Chris Smalling is reviving his career with Roma where he won a European silverware with Jose Mourinho last season. Benjamin White has also been a pivotal player for Arsenal so far, and there’s a dogged Marc Guehi who plays for Crystal Palace. So considering every other English defender that worths their salt, Southgate has the option to comfortably pick the best from the rest without probably observing any form of loyalty or so.

Defenders: John Stones, Chris Smalling, Fikayo Tomori, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Karl: Southgate has been known for deploying three at the back in crucial games for England and that has brought lots of successes for him at both 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020. The trio of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Harry Maguire were very instrumental in both tournaments and I will fancy all of them to keep their places in the starting lineups despite the current abysmal performance of Maguire at the club level. Stones is currently nursing an injury he sustained during the international break and I am quite sure if he will make in time for the tournament in two months. Conor Coady has been a reliable Premier League defender and leader for Wolves and now Everton. Having him in the team will bring so much leadership qualities in a rather young England squad. Because of his versatility, Trippier will certainly make my squad. Smalling is having a great season but I will choose Palace’s Marc Guehi ahead of him and there will be no Ben Chilwell.

Defenders: Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luke Shaw, Benjamin White and Marc Guehi.

Midfielders

Batou: Not to make too fine a point, generally, the Three Lions don’t have a lot of quality in midfield right now. However, they’ve been doing well in the last two major tournaments they played. The gaffer still has some of the players he took to Russia 2018 and there are new faces he can strengthen the team with. There’ll be no Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard this time around, the duo that played alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield in that tournament. But there are options like Jude Bellingham, James Madison, and James Ward-Prowse, the best dead ball specialist in the EPL right now, all of which can play beside Rice in midfield. The team seems to fall short of some creativity and cutting edge in transition, and Mason Mount has probably not proven himself to be entrusted with their creativity task – playing just behind the two-man forward – given the fact that James Madison is also available – the man who has more goal contributions than any other English player since the beginning of last season apart from Harry Kane.

Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, James Ward-Prowse, James Madison

Karl: England has not been blessed with so much midfield talents since the days of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Carrick and Owen Hagreaves. It’s an area that will give so much on the plate for the coaches to decide. During last summer’s Euro championship, the combination of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice was superb for the Three Lions but with Philips struggling for game time after his summer move to Manchester City, I am not seeing him maintain his position in the starting lineup. Jude Bellingham is already making a reputation for himself as one of the best box to box midfielders around and I won’t be surprised seeing him start alongside Rice. James Ward-Prowse is another one to claim a starting lineup as well as Chelsea’s Mason Mount. Jordan Henderson will bring experience in the team as well. With too many forward players, I will select Foden as part of the midfielders. There’s no player who is dominant in the attacking force than James Maddison and he has done a lot to be in Qatar.

Midfielders: Declan Rice, Mason Mount, James Ward-Prowse, James Maddison, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips.

Strikers

Batou: The strength of the Three Lions is in forward. They have lot of lethal attacking weapons that can destroy any defence on their good day. Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling have been very reliable for them. This will be the third World Cup for the latter and he’s been very reliable on national duties. Dominic Calvert-Lewin might not make this tournament. Tammy Abraham and Marcus Rashford can join Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling upfront, whereas Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden can complete the rest of the attack.

Forwards: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Tammy Abraham

Karl: Bar a last minute injury, Harry Kane will start upfront with Raheem Sterling and it’s a matter of who joins them from the bench. Bukayo Saka is the best young player in the league on current form and he will be joined by Jack Grealish who brings so much flair in the attack. For his pace and the ability to play anywhere across the forward line, Marcus Rashford has to go. Bowen hasn’t done enough to keep his place in the team likewise Toney of Brentford. Danny Welbeck is one of the most underrated players in the league and has been very consistent for Brighton but his England days seem to be over.

Strikers: Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, and Raheem Sterling.