Ben Chilwell will miss the World Cup with a hamstring injury; Gareth Southgate set to name World Cup squad in fortnight before World Cup kicks off; Dan Burn, Tyrick Mitchell, Rico Henry among potential candidates to replace Chilwell
Monday 14 November 2022 10:37, UK
As soon as Ben Chilwell pulled up injured during Chelsea's 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Wednesday night, he knew something was not right.
The left-back was taken off clutching his left hamstring in the final moments at Stamford Bridge and was later pictured leaving the stadium on crutches. With less than three weeks until the World Cup, the tears in his eyes said all that needed to be said.
Asked if the tournament in Qatar was now a concern for Chilwell, Chelsea boss Graham Potter said: "I think you'd have to say so.
"Obviously I don't want to say any more than that but when a player pulls up like he did, and he felt it, so it's never positive.
"It's a blow for us, on an otherwise positive evening. To see him pull up like that is not a great sight, fingers crossed when we get it scanned it won't be as severe. But clearly we're disappointed."
Chilwell confirmed on Saturday the injury means playing at the World Cup "will not be possible".
With just days until Gareth Southgate names his squad, there is plenty of conversation taking place over who should replace Chilwell in the squad.
Here, we take a look at the potential options Southgate has at his disposal.
Trippier looks nailed on to win a place in the England squad for his third major tournament anyway and his versatility across the backline likely puts him at the forefront of Southgate's mind to challenge Luke Shaw for the starting spot on the left.
The 32-year-old has played exclusively in his favoured right-back position at Newcastle this term, but he is no stranger to taking up the left-back role on the international stage and started there during England's Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
Justifying his decision following the 1-0 win, Southgate said: "We felt that his talking across the backline and his ability to get out and stop crosses quickly and his experience on a day like today - alongside Tyrone Mings, who is relatively early in his international career - would be a good stabilising element."
The England boss is fond of multi-faceted players and Trippier could provide a strong, creative and experienced presence on either side of the defence.
That said, with right-backs Kyle Walker and Reece James in a race against time to be fit for the tournament, he may well be required elsewhere.
The second of three Newcastle options is Dan Burn. At 6ft 6, he does not fit the traditional mould of a left-back, yet he has, in fact, played there for extended spells throughout his career and is playing a starring role on the left of Newcastle's defence this term.
He does not necessarily provide the creative spark that perhaps some of the other candidates offer, but he has restricted natural left-back Matt Targett to just four Premier League starts and helped Eddie Howe's side to keep six clean sheets so far this season.
A centre-back by trade, 30-year-old Burn again offers adaptability, experience and also excellent leadership skills.
Speaking on Sky Sports News, former Premier League goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer talked up Burn's chances of going to Qatar: "I think he would have to be thinking that maybe, just maybe, now there's an option.
"I think Burn has been fantastic since he has gone to Newcastle. He did a great job at Brighton, but he's gone up another level altogether at Newcastle and I'd be very surprised if Gareth hasn't thought of him."
When James Justin made his England debut against Hungary earlier this year, it marked a rise from League One to the Premier League and the international stage in just three years.
Though the year-long recovery from an ACL injury he picked up last year thwarted his development somewhat, the 24-year-old has developed rapidly at the King Power, so much so that he arrived as a right-back and has since successfully transformed into a left-back.
He is able to play at left wing-back too, which should stand him in good stead in the event of a change of system during the tournament.
With 49 caps at youth level for England, it seems it will only be a matter of time before Ryan Sessegnon - still only 22 - makes the step up to Southgate's senior squad.
You would imagine he would consider himself even more of an eligible candidate for selection, given that he is currently in the midst of his most fruitful campaign since he joined Tottenham from Fulham in the summer of 2019.
He has scored twice from left wing-back this season, though he has not regularly played that little bit further back since a loan spell in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim in 2020/21. With youth on his side, he could well be one of Southgate's primary options.
Crystal Palace's Tyrick Mitchell is the youngest potential replacement for Chilwell and one of just a handful to have already earned caps for England.
The 23-year-old - who spent four years at Brentford's academy before joining Palace in 2016 - made his senior debut against Switzerland in March. His level of experience, having missed just two Premier League games last term - saw him fast-tracked into the senior picture, without having ever featured at youth level.
He continues to be Patrick Vieira's first-choice left-back and has made 11 starts this term, registering two assists along the way.
It has been more than five years since Aaron Cresswell collected his last England cap during a 1-0 win over Lithuania in October 2017, but he continues to play a key role for West Ham and has been one of the most consistent performers this term.
The 32-year-old has primarily been deployed in his favoured left-back role by David Moyes this season, though he has played in the centre of defence twice in the Premier League and twice in the Europa Conference League. He has helped the Hammers to four clean sheets in his 15 appearances in all competitions.
Cresswell's age, you imagine, could either go for or against him. He could be seen to be less mobile than a younger replacement, but, then again, his experience at the highest level - and in the international fold could tempt Southgate into a recall.
Many were surprised when Rico Henry did not even make the 55-man longlist for the tournament, but Chilwell's injury could see him come into contention at the last minute - and arguably deservedly so.
He has been one of Brentford's most consistent performers over the past four seasons and has stepped up from the Championship to the Premier League with consummate ease. He is equally adept at both left-back and left wing-back to cope with Thomas Frank's changes between three and four at the back, too.
Henry loves to burst forward and track back at pace, but what perhaps lets him down, to an extent, is the lack of goal involvement his talent suggests he is capable of. For context, he has scored five goals and assisted nine in over 160 appearances for the club.
"He's in a really good place," Frank said of the 25-year-old's development last December. "He's developing every single day and I'm pretty sure Gareth Southgate is very aware of Rico Henry."
The odds are not in the former England U19 and U20 international's favour, particularly given the fact he has not been part of a single senior squad, but his performances for the Bees certainly deserve credit.
It has been just a matter of weeks since Matt Targett's international allegiance came into question, with the Newcastle defender eligible to represent both England and Scotland.
"I don't want to close the door on either, really. I am open," he said. "My first choice would be England and that's something I am looking forward to, it's something I believe I can reach, that level. At the moment that is the target."
It appears it would be fair to say he is a fair way down the pecking order in terms of a World Cup place, though. The 27-year-old has started just four games since his loan from Aston Villa was made permanent in the summer, with the aforementioned Dan Burn impressing in his place.
During that time, Targett has played just 44 minutes in the Premier League, suggesting he does not have the required level of match fitness to play a part in Qatar.
Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett:
"First of all, this is heartbreaking for Chilwell himself. Remember, he didn't play a single minute of football for England at the Euros, largely because he had to self-isolate after chatting to club team-mate Billy Gilmour in the Wembley tunnel after the draw with Scotland.
"But it's really troubling for Southgate too who, with injuries to Reece James, Kyle Walker and Kyle Walker-Peters, has seen his full-back options decimated.
"It means Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier will be inked even more heavily into the squad of 26, and Chilwell's woe will be matched by Trent Alexander-Arnold's optimism, with the Liverpool man - the subject of much debate around selection - now much more likely to be included as a specialist full-back, even though he operates on the opposite wing.
"In fact, those three - Shaw, Trippier and Alexander-Arnold - are currently the only fully fit options for Southgate from his regular full-back list.
"He will want to take at least one more wide defender, you suspect, even if Walker can prove sufficient fitness to be included in the World Cup squad. (I'm hearing positive noises from people around Walker on his rehab).
"The key question is whether Southgate prioritises versatility over specialist full-backs.
"The leading 'specialist' left-back contenders are Tyrick Mitchell and Ryan Sessegnon - who are playing regularly for Palace and Spurs respectively.
"Though Leicester's James Justin will push both of those hard for a place, with the added bonus that he's just as comfortable on either flank.
"When it comes to versatility, Southgate already has options within the bulk of his squad.
"Though it's now clear that Bukayo Saka is best used in a wide attacking position, he can - and has - played left-back for club and country. Though it should be noted that when he was picked in a back four against Italy, he looked uncomfortable.
"Again, in the versatility stakes, Crystal Palace's Marc Guehi scores heavily. He has played left back in his career too, and Chilwell's absence may well boost his chances of a place on the plane to Qatar.
"Similarly, Ben White has been playing at right-back for Arsenal for much of this season, and so he offers good cover along the back line."