We are two weekends into the season and people are already worried about England’s stars with less than 100 days until the World Cup.
John Stones has not played a minute of Premier League football. Kalvin Phillips and Conor Gallagher barely had a kick. Phillips got hit, so didn’t play yesterday. Ben White plays out of position. Harry Maguire’s place in the Manchester United defense is under pressure.
If I’m Gareth Southgate, all this wouldn’t freak me out. I would still have faith in my players and take up the challenge. I would be excited to see how Raheem Sterling fares at Chelsea now that he plays every week. I look forward to seeing Harry Kane take charge of Tottenham, who could have his best season in years under one of the best managers out there in Antonio Conte.
Gareth Southgate does not have to worry about his World Cup selection in Qatar for the time being
For me there are only three players in the squad who are irreplaceable. Two are Kane and Sterling. The other is Declan Rice. Rice has the fate. His athleticism and sense of danger. He covers, he fills holes, he intercepts. He has a lot more to offer on offense now than he did two years ago.
He has added an amazing ability to move the ball forward and run past players. He would probably like to add more goals to his game, but that will come when he plays for a team that dominates the ball more than West Ham. He has the potential to become a complete number 8. For England you won’t realize how good he is until he’s not there.
Out of all the others I don’t think there is a player you could take out and their potential replacement would make the team significantly weaker.
As we get closer to the World Cup and there are still some big names that have barely played, Gareth will have to make some big decisions. In the past, we’ve chosen players based on reputation and favoritism to our disadvantage. He wants players who perform regularly.
West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice is one of England’s three irreplaceable players
Our deep strength means I’m not worried. We have a huge competition for places.
We may not have two Kyle Walkers, but we have the best attacking right-back in the world in Trent Alexander-Arnold. And we have Reece James. Kieran Trippier also impresses for Newcastle.
Luke Shaw had nailed the left-back spot in the European Championship, but Trippier has played there ever since. Ben Chilwell looks fit and sharp again as Ryan Sessegnon flies on Spurs. He looked great last weekend: strong, direct and scored his first goal.
There is always someone who shows up, someone ready to intervene. We are blessed with a wealth of talent. If Maguire plays regularly for United, he is on Gareth’s team. He had a great euro. He is also a player so resilient that he never lets his international performance be influenced by what happens at his club.
I am also confident that Stones will get a good run on the City side. But if the worst-case scenario comes and they don’t play regularly, we still have power in depth. Eric Dier is now thriving under Conte in their back three. He’s been playing good football for a while. Fikayo Tomori is a protagonist at AC Milan.
John Stones hasn’t played a minute, but the Three Lions have other good options
Conor Coady will play every week now that he moves to Everton. Tyrone Mings seems to be back in the fold under Steven Gerrard.
In midfield it looks like Gallagher will be loaned out again and start playing regular football.
The question is whether Phillips will get into Pep Guardiola’s best XI? The answer is probably no. But you tend to see in Pep that he gives new signings a good chance in the team.
What I know about Gareth is that he and Steve Holland will know about everything. They leave no stone unturned. He won’t be too stressed. And these are problems that top executives want. Competition for places forces top players to perform.
There is still time, if not much, for those from the outside looking in. Someone like James Maddison, an amazing talent. Since the start of the year, only Kane has had more goals and assists – and he scored again against Arsenal this weekend. If he continues, Gareth can’t avoid it.
England have excellent attacking talent but would struggle if they lost Harry Kane
Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham, Maddison, Kane. We have so much attacking talent. Two in each position.
Gareth’s squad has just nine days between their last Premier League game and their opening game at the World Cup. I know there are concerns about fixture congestion and the short time to adjust to the heat, but I see the rapid turnaround as a positive.
The players will already have rhythm and momentum. Usually before a World Cup, managers need almost a mini pre-season to get them up to speed.
Another advantage for England is that Gareth has been in service for a long time. The players know his philosophy. They know what he expects, they know their role, give or take the odd tweak in form or system. Some other managers don’t have that luxury. The stars of England will be ready to play.