My thoughts on the latest England squad

September 16th, 2022 | Football

Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad has dropped. It’s the last squad before the World Cup and it’s caused some real discussion amongst both England and football fans.

So here I’m going to share my thoughts on the squad overall, who I’m surprised got called up and certain opinions I have that seem to be controversial.

Firstly, I feel I need to reiterate what I’ve said in previous articles about both England and Gareth Southgate. Southgate likes to keep a level of consistency in his England squads. He knows players he likes and more importantly knows the players he can trust.

Players like Maguire, Shaw, Mount, Grealish, Saka and Philips have all struggled for one reason or another this season. Maguire, Shaw, Mount, Saka and Grealish have struggled for both minutes and form, whilst Philips has had injury problems and has struggled to get any real minutes.

However, all the players I’ve just mentioned have performed for England under Gareth Southgate. They know Southgate’s tactical approach. Southgate likes flexibility in his tactics, often changing his formation and style of play dependent of the opposition. But whatever variation Southgate goes with, his teams always play as a team. The players understand their role regardless of the tactical approach in the game as they’ve been coached by Southgate and his coaches for a sustained period, with both coaches and players knowing how the other works.

I don’t mind too many of the selections in this squad. All I would say is the personnel selected gives Southgate the option to play a back-three. In the 2018 World Cup we saw Southgate play a 3-5-2 in all the games, but in the EUROs we saw a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and variations of a back-three. It will be really interesting to see if Southgate chooses a settled formation for these games and the World Cup, like he did in 2018, or whether he goes for a more game by game basis and changes based on the opposition, which we saw in 2021.

But as I say, this squad looks like one geared to play a back-three. It includes six centre-backs, with Kyle Walker also able to operate in a back-three which would make it seven. It includes some very attack minded full-backs in Alexander-Arnold, James, Trippier, Chilwell and Shaw, who I would say all prefer a wing-back role. The limited amount of central midfielders suggests a midfield two could be seen, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see a three with a more offensive no.8 like Mount or Grealish. But where I think we could also see a possible tweak to a two striker system is the decision to call-up Ivan Toney alongside Tammy Abraham and Harry Kane. All three are out and out centre-forwards. This could be to see the difference in Abraham and Toney in training and games (with Harry Kane almost a certainty to go to the World Cup). Perhaps this is Southgate deciding which of Abraham or Toney is a better back-up striker for the World Cup. But a return to a front two can’t be ruled out either and it’s worth keeping in mind.

I believe all the wingers he’s selected in Foden, Grealish, Saka, Bowen and Sterling are very comfortable operating more as inside forwards, which again may suit a back-three. I like the profile of wingers Southgate has gone for and agree with it for the most part.

So what about those who have missed out? I believe Rashford would’ve been called up if it wasn’t for injury and can see him getting on that plane to Qatar. Rashford has performed for Southgate and can operate anywhere across the front-three, whilst offering a threat in behind that not many in Europa can rival or stop.

Sancho can feel disappointed to have been snubbed on this occasion. I personally would’ve liked to have seen him in the squad as he can play comfortably on either flank, suits an inside forward role and has probably been the best English performing player in his position. I would like to have seen Sancho called up, perhaps instead of Bowen.

There are another two players I’m slightly disappointed to see miss out. One is Mitchell of Crystal Palace. I feel he’s shown a level of constancy, which is impressive considering his age, and has proven himself to be a good Premier League defender. I also believe he better suits a back-four than the likes of Ben Chilwell and maybe even Luke Shaw or whoever else you’d play at left-back. Connor Gallagher is another player I personally rate, but I understand his performances for Chelsea may not warrant a place in the squad. However I believe his energy, quality and sheer pressing ability is something that could prove very useful off the bench for England. If he plays a bit more for Chelsea and performs well, I could see him perhaps getting back into contention.

I’m delighted to see Ward-Prowse receive a call-up as I feel he offers a level of ability that our other central midfielders simply don’t. I also feel his free-kicks and set-piece delivery is up there with the best in the world and can see it being a real threat, especially with the likes of Maguire, Stones, Kane, and perhaps another aerial threat if England go with a back-three and choose another traditional centre-back.

Overall I understand fans’ frustrations at certain selections of players based on form and game time. But I think it’s important to remember this is the last international break before the World Cup and Southgate has to pick players he both trusts and knows can perform for England. I can see the likes of Rashford and Sancho getting into this squad for Qatar and perhaps the likes of Gallagher and Mitchell can force their way in as well.

I’m looking forwards to seeing what system Southgate implements in the upcoming matches and am already thinking about who he may take to Qatar.

By Jack Dixon


Jack writes these articles for work experience. He is currently studying Sports Journalism at UA92 in Manchester.