The World Cup is just over a year away, and providing England qualify from a fairly straight forward looking group, it will be interesting to see who gets on the plane to Russia in 2018.
Could this be the tournament England finally show up and go all the way? Probably not, but we can dream! The frustration with England is that the talent is there, but we always fall short. Is it the style of play? The manager? Is it psychological? Who knows!?
Either way, bar a couple of standout players, the talent pool for England is lacking at the moment. Here’s how they could line up in Russia next year…
Goalkeeper: Jack Butland
Take your pick from Joe Hart, Jack Butland or Jordan Pickford. All 3 goalkeepers have a realistic chance of being selected in the starting XI and this one could simply come down to form. Currently, injury permitting, my pick would be Jack Butland.
Right Back: Kyle Walker
Tough choice between Clyne and Walker, but Walker just gets the nod for me. Explosive right back who’s best quality is probably his attacking prowess. Clyne is equally as good, but I feel Walker provides the extra quality in the final third.
Centre Back: Gary Cahill (Captain)
Cahill will be 32 by the time the World Cup rolls around, but that shouldn’t be an issue. Arguably England’s best defender and is currently instrumental in a Chelsea defence romping to the title. Experience needed by the side of the next selection.
Centre Back: John Stones
There’s no denying John Stones’ talent, and in 2018, after another season under Guardiola, he won’t be far from the finished article. Great with the ball at his feet, him and Cahill would complement each other well and on paper it’s England’s best centre back pairing.
Left Back: Luke Shaw
At the moment, you could argue that Danny Rose is the best left back at England’s disposal, but I feel that won’t be the case next Summer. Luke Shaw would have the left back position cemented for United and England if it wasn’t for the horrific leg break. Another full pre-season behind Shaw and I think he’ll be back to his best and will claim that spot in the England XI. Rose isn’t the worst back up, mind!
Defensive Midfield: Eric Dier
I’d love to have Carrick in this role, but the World Cup is simply too far away. There are questions hanging over Eric Dier, but England’s problem is that they aren’t blessed with defensive minded midfielders and he seems, at the moment, the only feasible option. Eric Dier on a good day would be England’s perfect remedy.
Centre Midfield: Dele Alli
Dele Alli, with the form he’s in currently, is simply unplayable. A gifted midfielder that would be shoe-horned into the starting XI if needs be. A role in the heart of the midfield with the freedom to get forward is the ideal spot for Dele. The shackles need to be taken off if you are to get the best out of him.
Centre Midfield: Jordan Henderson
The second central midfield slot is vital. A player with positional discipline is required in order to free Alli, and whilst I’m not Henderson’s biggest fan, I feel he is the only player that could offer that. Not the greatest footballer, but his work rate and determination can’t be questioned. If he does nothing but the dirty work to free Alli, he’s worth his place in the team. Also the reason for Adam Lallana’s exclusion.
Right Wing: Raheem Sterling
When in-form, can win a game on his own. Sterling seems to have matured under Guardiola at City and is one of the first names on the team sheet at the Etihad these days. He has the ability to unlock defences and the potential to be a left-back’s worst nightmare. The worry with Sterling is his taking of chances but hopefully the next man in the XI will soak that up…
Striker: Harry Kane
A complete forward, who has shown for Tottenham this season in particular, he can play up top on his own, and do it better than most in the Premier League. Despite not really performing in an England shirt (who has?), I feel we’re yet to see the best of Kane and that’s frightening. No other striker in the England set up comes close to Kane at the moment, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Left Wing: Marcus Rashford
As with Sterling, the pace and ability to take on players is something that England have lacked in recent years. Whilst he prefers to play through the middle, he’s demonstrated at United he can be equally as effective from the wing. If England are to do anything of note at the World Cup, I feel that an in-form Marcus Rashford could be the key. (See: Wayne Rooney - Euro 2004)
Here's the line-up in full...
Injuries and form permitting, next summer, I think that’s the best XI for England. I think the players included gives us the right balance across the entire team. Out of favour England players, such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barkley, Walcott, Wilshere and even Rooney will need a good season to have a chance of getting into the team, but the opportunity is certainly there. The same goes for players who haven’t quite made the step up, Nathan Redmond and Michael Keane good examples.
Hopefully this is the tournament that England can finally turn some heads. Unfortunately, our optimism might just result in another group exit!
Let me know your XI on Twitter @zefutbolwriter.