England's defenders: Who should Gareth Southgate take to the World Cup?
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 14/03/18 1:08pm
Before Gareth Southgate naming his England squad on Thursday, we will be examining his options across the pitch.
Who has booked their place on the plane to the World Cup? Who is in form and pushing for a call? And who still needs to impress?
Today we take a look at the defenders in contention...
Who was in the last squad?
Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Michael Keane, Joe Gomez, John Stones, Ryan Bertrand, Fabian Delph, Harry Maguire, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Ashley Young, Kieran Trippier
Southgate called up no fewer than 12 defenders for England's games with Germany and Brazil in November. It was a new-look squad, with Manchester United's Chris Smalling the most high-profile omission.
Southgate said Smalling was not good enough on the ball for the style of play he intended to implement and gave Gomez his first call-up instead. The Liverpool man has been used at right-back by his club, but Southgate insisted he primarily sees him as a centre-back.
Gomez impressed in both games, with Maguire, Stones, Jones, Rose, Trippier, Bertrand and Walker also getting starting opportunities. Keane did not make it off the bench in either game, while Delph pulled out with an injury.
How is their form right now?
Stones played every minute of England's friendlies in November but has struggled to recapture his early-season form since returning from a thigh injury in January, making a number of defensive errors for Manchester City and losing his place in Pep Guardiola's team.
Maguire, who partnered Stones against Germany and Brazil, has continued to feature prominently at Leicester. He struggled in their 5-1 thrashing by Manchester City in February but overall his performances have been impressive.
Cahill and Keane have both had spells out of the team having struggled for form at Chelsea and Everton respectively, while Jones has been hampered by injury problems. Gomez, meanwhile, has only started one of Liverpool's last seven games in all competitions having lost his place in Jurgen Klopp's line-up.
Southgate used both Trippier and Walker at right-back in November, with both players continuing to impress for their clubs in the second half of the season, but their left-back counterparts have not fared so well.
Rose has been a peripheral figure for Tottenham, starting just four games since January, while Bertrand has endured a difficult campaign with struggling Southampton. Delph has struggled with injury in the second half of the season, so could Young be Southgate's best option? He has impressed for Manchester United this season and shone at left-back against Liverpool on Saturday.
What are the other options?
Smalling will hope to force his way back into contention having featured regularly for Manchester United lately, but he is not the only centre-back in the frame.
Reports suggest Southgate could call on James Tarkowski. The 25-year-old has helped Burnley keep one of the best defensive records in the Premier League this season. According to the Sky Sports Power Rankings, he is the second-best performing English defender in the division after Walker.
Sky Sports Power Rankings: Top-performing English defenders 2017/18
|K Walker||Man City||35,684|
|C Smalling||Man Utd||32,043|
|P Jones||Man Utd||24,780|
His Burnley team-mate Ben Mee, Brighton's Lewis Dunk and Newcastle's Jamaal Lascelles also feature highly in those rankings.
Trippier and Walker appear to have the right-back spots sewn up, with Nathaniel Clyne enduring an injury-hit season, but Southgate does have other options at left-back - most notably Luke Shaw, who will be eager to force his way back into the Manchester United team before the end of the season.
Another man who some have tipped for a shock call-up is Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon. The 17-year-old, who can play at left-back, has been outstanding in the Championship this season. Could he be England's World Cup wildcard?
Who is Southgate expected to go for?
According to Sky Bet, the centre-backs most likely to get called up are Stones (1/8), Cahill (1/5), Maguire (5/9) and Jones (8/13). Smalling's chances are rated at 10/11, with Keane at 15/8, Tarkowski at 7/2 and Lascelles at 9/1.
Walker (1/12) and Trippier (4/11) are the overwhelming favourites at right-back, with Joe Gomez at 5/2, well ahead of his Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold (8/1) and Nathaniel Clyne (10/1).
Bertrand (1/5) and Rose (4/7) are the favourites at left-back having featured prominently under Southgate so far, with Young (1/1) deemed more likely than his United team-mate Shaw (3/1). Sessegnon is seen as a 5/1 shot.
Who should England select?
Choose your 23-man England squad, using our squad selector below. You can share your squad with your friends on social media.